Thunder and lightning sent pouring rain through Newton late Friday afternoon.
By Friday night Newton’s H.A. Lynn Stadium was hit by touchdown strikes as senior quarterback Tyler Wood and senior wide receiver Nick Easley hooked up not once but three times with scoring pass plays. The Cardinals’ passing game duo guided Newton to a 41-7 win over visiting Knoxville.
While the Cardinal offense piled up 452 total yards, the Newton defense limited the Panthers to just 174 yards of offense. Eighty yards of that 174 came on one play for Knoxville’s lone score of the night.
“Stop No. 6,” said senior defensive end Jordan Travis of the Cardinals’ defensive game plan. “We also wanted to put as much pressure on their quarterback to make him throw early. We did that all night.”
Travis, who had two quarterback sacks Friday night, and the Cardinal defense bottled up the Panthers’ senior running back Tanner Dunkin (No. 6). He said the Cardinals did want to allow Dunkin to get to the perimeter. Dunkin got there twice, dashing down the sidelines in the second half, but the Cardinals kept him from scoring. Dunkin finished with 57 yards on seven carries.
“Our defense was really, really rock solid,” said Ed Ergenbright, Cardinal head coach. “We took away their fullback, contained Dunkin, took away a lot of their boot-legs (plays) and put a lot of pressure on their quarterback.”
The game began on back-to-back turnovers. Wood recovered a Knoxville fumble, then his first “completion” of the 2014 season was to the wrong team.
“That was my fault. I threw it behind Nick (Easley). He was open,” Wood said after the game. “But, we just flushed that, got it out of our system and focused on the next play.”
After the interception, Wood went 10-of-19 for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Easley scored all 22 points of the first half for the Cardinals, making three touchdown receptions and kicking one extra point and a 22-yard field goal.
Seven minutes into the game there was no score. Newton had moved into Knoxville territory twice but came up empty. Harris sacked Knoxville senior quarterback Jared McClung to force a punt by the Panthers.
Tristan Peters fielded the punt and returned it. Knoxville was penalized 15 yards for a face mask, which set the Cardinals up at the 50-yard line with 4:24 left in the first quarter.
Overcoming one of 17 penalties they had in the game, the Cardinals reached the end zone for the first time this season on two pass plays. Easley picked up eight yards on a first-and-15 play. Easley went over the middle on the next play where Wood found him with the football. Easley raced past Knoxville defenders for a 47-yard scoring play.
“I’ve known Tyler for a long time and we put in a lot of offseason work together,” Easley said of the special connection the two seniors have on the field. “He puts the ball were he needs to for us to catch. I’m coming off a really good offseason where I gained about 20 pounds of muscle. I felt good going into the game.”
Another thing that felt good for Easley was being able to handle the kicking duties for the Cardinals this season. He missed kicking the football last year because of an ankle injury. Easley kicked the extra point to make it 7-0.
Four plays later, the Cardinals were back at 50 for their next drive of the game. On a quarterback run by Wood, Knoxville was whistled again for a 15-yard face mask penalty. The Cardinals worked on the ground early on this drive with Wood, Peters and Harris carrying the football.
On the second play of the second quarter, Wood hit Easley on a short pass, which turned into a 33-yard touchdown play. Easley, who caught five passes for 120 yards on the night, slipped away from several would-be tacklers and raced down the sideline to score. His extra-point kick was wide of the mark, leaving the score at 13-0.
The Panthers responded in a flash. Starting their drive on their own 20-yard line, it took Knoxville one play and four seconds to score. McClung threw a pass to Connor Bailey and the scoring play covered 80 yards. Luke Bachman kicked the extra point.
Newton sustained a nine-play drive taking about four minutes off the clock to answer the Panthers. Harris, Easley, Wood and Joseph Banfield ran the ball and Banfield picked up seven yards on a pass from Wood.
Wood put up a pass that dropped right into Easley’s hands in the front corner of the end zone. Knoxville’s Skylar Cunningham got turned around on the play but was right on Easley’s hip. The Cardinals went for a two-point conversion but the pass failed.
Senior Michael Barr went steamrolling into the Panther backfield on a second down play. Barr forced McClung to fumble the football, then recovered it at the Knoxville 5-yard line. There was 6:22 left before halftime, but the Panthers stood their ground.
Easley kicked the 22-yard field goal to put the Cardinals up 22-7 with 4:19 on the clock.
Newton’s defense recovered five Panther fumbles on the night. It recorded five quarterback sacks.
Patrick Murphy recovered a fumbled at the Knoxville 36-yard line with 2:22 remaining in the first half. The Cardinals were plagued with penalties on the drive, one which wiped out a touchdown pass from Wood to Easley.
Newton stood on a 22-7 lead at the break.
“Our game plan was to exploit the perimeter with both the pass and run, which we did tonight,” Ergenbright said. “Now, what we have to do is establish the run inside. Once we do that, we’ll be a real difficult team to defend.”
The Cardinals opened the second half with a seven-play touchdown drive. Banfield did much of the work on the ground and turned a pass over the middle from Wood into a 58-yard gain. Banfield capped the drive with a one-yard run over the goal linear the 8:31 mark. Knoxville blocked the extra-point kick.
Knoxville went for a fourth-and-nine at the Newton 49-yard line. Brady Smith and Harris combined to bring down McClung for a loss and giving the ball to the Cardinal offense.
Penalties and punts dominated the rest of the third quarter for both teams.
“The penalties are things we can fix easily,” said senior offensive lineman Mason Bowes. “We should have played sharper, because we had a lot of false starts on the line. We’ve been working so hard over the summer and practices. We’re working like our mantra ‘tough together’ and making the young guys feel they belong.”
Not until there was about six minutes left in the game and the rain returned did the Cardinals score again. Sophomore Reese Rosenquist broke loose for a 48-yard run to score his first varsity touchdown for Newton at the 4:48 mark. Rosenquist scored again on a 12-yard scamper into the end zone with 1:20 left in the game.
“Defensively, our coaches did a great job of game planning for us. We knew what they (Knoxville) was going to do,” Wood said. “Offensively, we had the penalties to clean up. We stay positive and don’t let turnovers or penalties get us down. We’ve got some young offensive linemen like Caden Manning, who played center. He had a great game except for one snap tonight.”
Banfield finished with 77 yards on 12 carries for the Cardinal offense and Wood rushed for 50 yards on 11 carries. Rosenquist had 82 yards on four carries.
Travis and Bryce Tish each had five solo tackles to lead the defense. Travis also had three assisted tackles. Harris and Barr had four solo stops apiece. Barr, Murphy, Duncan Lee, Wood and Smith each recovered a fumble.
Next up is a non-conference game at Marshalltown Friday.
Newton — Easley 47 yd pass from Wood (Easley kick)
Newton — Easley 33 yd pass from Wood (kick failed)
Knoxville — Bailey 80 yd pass from McClung (Bachman kick)
Newton — Easley 29 yd pass from Wood (pass failed)
Newton — Easley 22 yd field goal
Newton — Banfield 1 yd run (kick blocked)
Newton — Rosenquist 48 yd run (Easley kick)
Newton — Rosenquist 12 yd run (kick blocked)
Rushing: Newton-Banfield 12-77, Wood 11-50, Harris 6-16, Peters 3-37, Rosenquist 4-82, Easley 3-32, Norvell 1-5. Knoxville-Dunkin 7-57, Bailey 4-20, Snyder 7-20, Cunningham 1-2, Bachman 2-2, McClung 8-10, T. Davis 2-0.
Passing: Newton-Wood 10-19-206-1. Knoxville-McClung 3-8-124-0.
Receiving: Newton-Easley 5-120, Banfield 2-65, Peters 2-13, Harris 1-8. Knoxville-Bailey 1-80, T. Davis 1-28, A. Davis 1-16.
Punting: Newton-Easley 3-109 (36.3-yd avg.). Knoxville-Dunkin 5-177 (35.4-yd avg.)
Tackles (Solos/Assisted): Travis 5/3; Tish 5/1; Harris 4/1; Barr 4/0; Rosenquist 2/2; Murphy 2/2; Lee 2/1; Stanton 2/0; Wolf 1/1; Wood 1/1; Smith 1/0; Banfield 1/0; Jacobsen 1/0; Bennett 1/0; Bowes 1/0; Peters 0/1; Miller 0/1.
Quarterback sacks: Travis 2, Harris 1, Barr 1, Murphy 1.
Fumbles (forces/recovered): Barr 1/1, Murphy 0/1, Lee 0/1, Wood 0/1, Smith 0/1.
Contact Sports Editor Jocelyn Sheets at (641) 792-3121 Ext. 6535 or email@example.com.