Newton — A couple of bad breaks spoiled the Knoxville Panthers' 100th meeting with the Newton Cardinals Friday night, as the boys fell 42-28.
Newton opened the scoring with a touchdown on its first drive with 10:32 left in the first quarter to go up 7-0.
The Panthers answered right back on their first drive. Sophomore Jared McClung got the starting nod for Knoxville at quarterback. Using some trickery, McClung flicked the ball to last week's starter, Junior Tanner Dunkin. Dunkin was able to connect with Sophomore Ross Shelford for a 71-yard touchdown pass. Senior Gerrit Davis added the extra point to tie the game.
Davis, the injured regular starting quarterback, was perfect on extra point attempts. He also played defense while in a cast Friday night, and was in on six tackles, five of them solo.
Newton struck next with 2:42 left in the first quarter to lead 14-7 going into the second. On the Cardinals' first play from scrimmage in the quarter, Junior Ryan Morgan was able to pounce on a fumble to put the ball back into Knoxville's hands.
Knoxville had its own struggles with the ball on the ensuing drive, but after a few plays by the Newton offense, Senior Brandon Iddings picked up a fumble recovery of his own to bring the Panthers back onto the field.
McClung marched his team back down the field. On a fourth and two outside the goal line, Knoxville went for it. Dunkin ran it up the middle to tie the game at 14 all with 3:35 left in the half.
Newton was unable to answer. McClung and Dunkin connected to get the Panthers back into good position.
From the Newton 35, McClung slung the ball to his left to Sophomore Connor Bailey. Bailey ran it up the Panther sideline to put the team back on top 21-14 with 23.4 seconds left in the half.
Shelford collected the Panthers' only interception of the night with .2 seconds left on the clock to keep the momentum for Knoxville going into the break.
Knoxville had every morsel of momentum in the stadium going for it early in the third quarter. Dunkin received the half's opening kick and ran back 91 yards, virtually untouched, to increase the Panthers' lead to 28-14 with 11:47 left in the third.
The offensive highlights for Knoxville became scarce after that return. Newton scored a few minutes after that play on a quarterback keeper to come within a touchdown of the Panthers' lead.
The third quarter also brought with it an injury to Dunkin, who did not play at all in the fourth quarter.
It was all Newton in the fourth, as the Panthers struggled offensively. The Cardinals tied Knoxville with 10:06 left in the game. Knoxville's defense was able to hold Newton until after the two-minute warning. Newton went up, 35-38 with 1:51 left. An interception on the ensuing Panther drive, coupled with a nice return, set up one more touchdown for the Cardinals to give them the game, with a final score of 42-28.
"We played much better than we did last Friday," Head Coach Troy Rider said after the game. He said there were a "couple costly mistakes" that cost Knoxville the game.
"There's things we can work on," Rider said. "We're going to grow again this week and I think we'll be ready to play."
Rider was asked about the impact Dunkin's injury had on the team. In addition to his 71-yard touchdown pass and 91-yard kickoff return, Dunkin also gained 78 receiving yards and 44 on the ground for the Panther offense. He punted three times for 112 yards and had three solo tackles defensively.
"You take a kid that dynamic, it really limits your offense and it showed," Rider said. "We didn't put another point on the board after he left."
Rider went on to say, "We're going to have to find some ways to score when he's not on the field."
Junior Luke Bachman gained 22 yards on the ground on three carries. McClung finished the game with 163 yards in the air on 26 attempts and 19 yards on the ground on eight attempts. Shelford was the leading receiver with 103 yards on four catches.
Defensively, Junior Jac Agan led the Panthers with 13 tackles, six of them solo. Iddings and Karns had 10 solo tackles and finished with 12 and 10 total tackles, respectively. Bachman had nine solo tackles and Sophomore Travis Poffenbarger had the only sack for the Panthers.
Knoxville heads to Winterset next week. Winterset made the playoffs last year and were the co-champions of the district. When they came to Knoxville last year, it was a tough game. The Huskies scored the winning touchdown with 50 seconds left in the game.
"They're a tough team," Rider said. He is expecting a good game. Winterset also lost to ADM Friday night, 14-6.
The Panthers' return to historically scenic Ken Locke Stadium on Sept. 20. They will host Pella.