NEWTON — Back-to-back drives down the field spanning the end of the third quarter and into the fourth period powered Newton Senior High’s Cardinals to a 42-28 win in their home opener Friday. They trailed Knoxville High’s Panthers 21-14 at halftime and peered up at a 28-14 deficit following the second-half kickoff.
“We made adjustments at halftime. We knew we had to concentrate on their passing game and No. 6 (Tanner Dunkin) to stop them defensively. We gained that energy we had last week at Norwalk and came out ready to take the game over,” said Levi Michener, senior defensive back.
Michener admitted that allowing Dunkin to return the third-quarter kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown was not a good start. But after that, Michener and the Cardinal defense did the job.
Tanner Dunkin was a one-man wrecking crew for the Panthers. In the first half, he threw a half-back pass for a touchdown, he ran for a touchdown, plus he kicks off and punts for Knoxville along with returning kicks. Dunkin ended up with 293 all-purpose yards. He punted for 112 yards and had 252 yards on kickoffs.
After his long kickoff return for a score, Dunkin was held in check by the Cardinals in the second half. He had four yards on three carries on the Panthers’ first two possessions of the third quarter.
Dunkin punted with 5:37 remaining in the period and went to the ground. Dunkin was attended to by Knoxville trainers and walked off the field. The 5-10, 165-pound junior did not return to the game for the Panthers.
“That shows you what losing a player like that will do to a team. We had it happen to us last week when Deonne (Harris) left with cramping. What I’ve heard is it was because of severe cramping that he didn’t come back in and that’s a good thing to know, that it wasn’t an injury of some sort,” said Ed Ergenbright, Newton head coach, after the game.
On the first play of Knoxville’s drive, Jared McClung threw a pass over the middle and Cardinal senior safety Daquan Allen picked the pass off and returned the football to the Knoxville 16-yard line with 9:15 on the clock.
Newton quarterback Tyler Wood scrambled around in the backfield on a second down play. He broke loose down the far sideline for 21 yards, diving into the end zone for the touchdown. Grant Davidson kicked the extra point to make it 28-21 with 8:18 left.
Knoxville’s next drive was eight plays then a punt, which was when Dunkin left the game. Knoxville would have just one more first down in the game and never threatened to score again.
Newton began its march for the tying touchdown at it’s own 47 with 1:19 left in the third quarter. Runs by Tristan Peters, J.T. Thonvanh, Harris and Wood moved the football down the field. Wood got it started with a nine-yard pass to Nick Easley and finished with with a five-yard touchdown toss to Easley at the 10:06 mark of the fourth period.
The Panthers used the services of sophomore Connor Bailey in the backfield and picked up a first down on their next series. McClung went back to pass and was sacked by Newton’s junior defensive end Jordan Travis. Allen knocked down a pass out in the flat.
McClung punted and Newton took control at its own 15 with 7:04 on the clock.
“That was a big drive for our offense,” Ergenbright said. “I was proud of how our guys settled down on offense and made that drive. We had several drives where we hurt ourselves with penalties and a couple of turnovers.”
Thonvanh had big runs in the drive of seven, 15, five and six yards. Wood and Peters connected for a 17-yard pass play. Peters rushed for a first down so did Harris. Easley’s catch and run to the two-yard line set up Harris’ two-yard run up the middle into the end zone.
“On that drive, the offensive line created some movement up front. J.T. ran hard for us all night. That was a play we put in just before the game. We had success on it, so we’ll probably leave it in our offense,” Ergenbright said with a smile.
With the extra point by Davidson, the Cardinals led 35-28 with 1:51 left in the game. Bailey returned the kickoff to the Knoxville 35-yard line but was injured on the play.
Down by a touchdown and less than two minutes to play, the Panthers went to the air. The first pass fell short. The next one was intercepted by Michener.
“It was a lucky one. Mike (McCormick) tipped it up and I got it just before it hit the turf. I just started running,” Michener said. “This is great. This is a big win for us after last week at Norwalk. We knew we had to play better in the second half tonight.”
Junior Mike McCormick tipped the McClune pass up, Michener lunged forward, caught the football and stayed on his feet. He returned the ball to the Knoxville two-yard line. Harris went in untouched for the touchdown with 1:11 on the clock.
“I told Levi that just this once, I’m glad he didn’t do what we’ve told them to do when they intercepted a pass. They’re supposed to go up the nearest hash to get as much as they can but not to cut across the field. That was a heck of a return by Levi,” Ergenbright said.
Newton took the game’s opening possession right down the field to score. Peters ran for a 30-yard gain then Harris went for 17 yards. Wood completed a seven-yard pass to Easley, then an unsportsmanlike penalty against Knoxville moved the Cardinals to the Panther 10.
Harris ran for four yards. Wood found Peters in the corner of the end zone on a five-yard pass. Davidson’s kick make it 7-0.
A minute later, it was tied 7-7 when Dunkin threw a half-back pass to Ross Shelford for a 71-yard touchdown pass play and Gerritt Davis added the extra point.
Newton broke the tie on a 10-play drive that went 69 yards late in the first quarter. Wood found Peters right at the goal line for a 28-yard pass. Peters was straddling the goal line but his knee hit short. Two plays later Ray Shroeder bulled his way in from two yards out for the Cardinal touchdown at the 2:42 mark.
The teams went through a series of fumbles. The third one was by Newton at the Knoxville 15. The Cardinals used a 51-yard pass play from Wood to Harris to get down the field but Joseph Banfield lost the handle on the ball two plays later.
Dunkin finished the Panthers’ 85-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-two play. The Panthers hit two big pass plays, the second for 35 yards from McClung to Bailey for the touchdown 23.4 seconds before halftime.
Zakk Weatherly and Michener each had five solo tackles and one assisted tackle for the Cardinald defense. Michener had a quarterback sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and an interception. Weatherly had one tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
Will Brock rang up four solo stops and three assisted tackles while Colton Hansen had three solos and four assisted tackles. Allen had an inteception and Nick Glotfelty recovered a fumble.
Newton opens Class 3A, District 4 play this coming Friday at home as Boone (2-0) comes to H.A. Lynn Stadium.
Newton — Peters 5 yd pass from Wood (Davidson kick)
Knoxville — Shelford 71 yd pass from Dunkin (Davis kick)
Newton — Schroder 2 yd run (Davidsion kick)
Knoxville — Dunkin 3 yd run (Davis kick)
Knoxville — Bailey 35 yd pass from McClung (Davis kick)
Knoxville — Dunkin 85 yd kickoff return (Davis kick)
Newton — Wood 21 yd run (Davidson kick)
Newton — Easley 5 yd pass from Wood (Davidson kick)
Newton — Harris 2 yd run (Davidson kick)
Newton — Harris 2 yd run (Davidson kick)
21 First Downs 15
51-240 Rushes-yds 27-98
187 Passing yds 234
427 Total Offense 332
12-14-1 Passing yds 11-27-2
3-2 Fumbles/lost 2-1
7-61 Penalites 6-50
4-36 Punts/Avg. 5-35
Rushing: Newton-Harris 15-79, Thongvanh 10-69, Peters 9-63, Wood 11-46, Banfield 5-14, Schroder 1-2. Knoxville-Dunkin 12-44, Bachman 3-22, Bailey 4-13, McClung 8-19.
Passing: Newton-Wood 12-14-187-1. Knoxville-McClung 10-26-163-2, Dunkin 1-1-71-0.
Receiving: Newton-Harris 5-110, Easley 4-37, Peters 3-40. Knoxville-Bailey 1-35, Dunkin 3-78, Karns 2-11, Lenger 1-7, Sheilford 4-103.
Punting: Newton-Thompson 4-144 (36-yd avg.). Knoxville-Dunkin 3-112 (37-yd avg.), McClung 2-63 (31.5-yd avg.)
Tackles (Solos/Assisted): Weatherly 5/1; Michener 5/1; Brock 4/3; Hansen 3/4: McCormick 3/0; Allen 3/0; Travis 3/0; Fisher 2/0; Stanton 2/0; Glofelty 1/2; Schroder 1/1: Wood 1/0; Tish 1/0; Constant 1/0: Thongvanh 1/0: Thompson 1/0; Bennett 1/0; Easley 1/0.
Quarterback sacks: Weatherly 1; Travis 1.
Fumbles (forced/recovered): Weatherly 1/0; Michener 1/0; Glofelty 0/1.
Interceptions: Michener 1; Allen 1.