NEW PARIS — The smile on Clint Bartlett’s face said it all.
His Twin Valley South football team rushed for over 230 yards and held off a National Trail rally to secure its first win of the season, 45-35, on Friday, Sept. 15, in New Paris.
“It’s a great feeling,” Bartlett said. “Our kids played really, really hard. They battled through some tough situations tonight. I was very, very proud of their resolve. They never backed down even when we were up 17 and National Trail battled right back. I’m super proud of them. It was a great football game. People got their money’s worth tonight.”
The Panthers’ Ryan Johnson had 124 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns, while Isaac Clark rushed for 87 yards and a score.
“We take a lot of pride in running the football,” Bartlett said. “Our running backs run hard, but those big guys up front that’s where it all starts. Our hoggies, they take a lot of pride making sure those running backs get good yards on their carry. I can’t say enough about how our offense played tonight. Our defense is heading in the right direction. It was a good night.”
“They just came out and ran hard and they just beat us,” Trail coach Mark Hoffman said. “Mistakes hurt us. When you start the game off, when you snap one over your (quarterbacks) head, that kind of stuff is hard to recover from.”
South quarterback Cade Cottingim completed all six of his pass attempts for 97 yards and three touchdown passes, two of which went to Chandler Napier and the other to Caleb Cornett.
South took advantage of a Trail turnover less than a minute into the game. On the first play after recovering a fumble, Cottingim connected with Napier for an 11-yard TD pass. The point after made it 7-0 with just 49 seconds into the game.
The Blazers responded with a 63-yard drive on their next possession as Josh Lane scored on a six-yard run. The point after made it 7-7 with 7:28 left in the opening quarter.
South regained the lead with 6:02 left in the half on an 18-yard run by Johnson, for a 14-7 lead.
Trail, though, responded again as Jacob Heck capped of a drive with a 15-yard scoring run with 4:06 left in the half to even the score at 14-14.
Just over two minutes later, South reached the end zone again when Cottingim and Napier hooked up for another touchdown pass, this time from 23 yards. The point after gave the Panthers a 21-14 lead.
South took the first possession of the third quarter 65 yards for a score. The drive was capped off with a 33-yard field goal by Ryan Bassler with 8:09 to play and gave the Panthers a 24-14 lead.
Again, Trail countered. The Blazers went 52 yards in seven plays with Heck scoring again from six-yards out to make it 24-21 after the extra point.
The last minute-plus of the quarter produced 21 points.
The Panthers responded with a 74-yard drive as Cottingim found Cornett for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 1:10 left in the third to make it 31-21.
A Trail turnover gave South a chance to put the game out of reach.
Johnson scored on the next play from 12 yards out to give his team a 38-21 lead with 38 seconds left in the third.
But as the case had been all night, Trail responded.
Heck returned the ensuing kick off 88 yards for a touchdown to make it 38-28 with 24 seconds remaining.
Trail then took advantage of the Panthers’ first turnover of the night early in the fourth. Evynn Short found Peyton Miller for a 15-yard touchdown pass to trim the lead to three at 38-35 with 5:46 to play in the game.
The Panthers sealed the game with a six-yard touchdown run by Clark with 1:08 left in the game.
Angel Garabito rushed for 66 yards for Trail. Heck had 73 yards on the night before being injured. Lane added 57.
Short passed for 186 yards.
“National Trail’s a heck of a football team. Coach Hoffman is a heck of a football coach. They are going to win some games,” Bartlett said.
South (1-3, 1-1 CCC) will host Mississinawa Valley on Friday, Sept. 22.
Trail (1-3, 0-2 CCC) will host Tri-Village.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.