Nappanee, Ind.– At the northern end of the city lies the high school. You can’t miss it. The parking lot is home to one of the town’s two water towers. The entrance driveway bodes an electronic welcome board, flashing the date, time, temperature and any other news the front office at NorthWood High School deems necessary for the community to know on their way in and out of town.
The the soccer field lies to the north side of the building. To the south, the football is nestled against a wooded area with the scoreboard facing the main road on the far east side of the field. Along the backside of the school is a second gym, the baseball and softball fields. And every weekday, August through June, a little more than a thousand students crowd the halls. NorthWood brings together the two communities of Nappanee and Wakarusa. The school prides itself on having a long-standing tradition of excellence: Excellence in the classroom, excellence in the community and excellence in extracurricular activities.
Like any small town in Indiana, NorthWood is the driving force for unifying the community. It’s a gathering place for those with a love of sports, especially on Friday nights, August through October. In Nappanee, people gather at Andrews Field. To the football team, it’s an iconic field. To the student body, it’s a place to have fun and get rowdy cheering on the boys of fall. To the community, it’s a place to set aside difference and show support for the same cause.
The football field at NorthWood has a history of winning–a tradition of excellence. All of this started with Coach James “Jim” Andrews. Andrews was a four-sport athlete at then- Nappanee High School including MVP in football. He graduated in 1965 and attended Manchester College. After graduating from college, Andrews began his coaching career at Pierre Moran in 1969, before moving to NorthWood the following year. When he finally became head football coach in 1972, his team posted a 4-6 record. That was the only losing season Andrews would have for the next 19 years.
Sadly, Andrews’ legacy came to an end on March 8, 1992, when he was killed in a car accident. His coaching career ended with 150 wins to 67 losses. His teams won five Northern Lakes Conference championships, six sectional titles, three regional titles and twice were state runner-ups. Andrews was a 7-time District 2 Coach of the Year and served on the Indiana North All-Stars coaching staff in 1982 and 1987.
Shortly after his death, NorthWood named the field after him. Nappanee Chamber of Commerce honors an annual recipient with the Jim Andrews “Educator of the Year” Award. Bremen High School established the Coach Jim Andrews Memorial Plaque traveling trophy that is given to the winner of the NorthWood-Bremen football game each year. Andrews was survived by his wife, Sheri and three children, Trevor, Nate and Kelli. Now, nearly 24 years after his father’s death, Nate Andrews has returned to NorthWood as the head football coach.
In 2013, Nate was coaching the football team at Western High School in Russiaville, Ind. Following the team’s last loss of the season, he informed the young men that he was leaving and going back home. NorthWood welcomed him with open arms and he is on his way to having the same success as his father. Currently, the 2016 team is undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the Indiana high school sports poll. With an Andrews’ leadership, Andrews Field may very well see two more successful decades. With Nate Andrews coaching on the very field named after his father, NorthWood can continue the tradition of excellence.