EVERETT - The Everett defense drew first blood with an interception return for a touchdown in a home contest against neighboring school district Northern Bedford in high school football action on Friday night.
Both the Black Panthers' response and their defense from that point on were overwhelming.
NBC, now 3-0, reeled off 21 unanswered points, and despite giving the Warriors (0-3) a plethora of chances with good starting field position when their offense went south, the Panther defense only got stronger in a 21-8 victory at Everett Warrior Stadium.
"The key is to take what people give you," Northern Bedford coach Jeff Batzel said. "They [Everett] were really prepared for our passing game, so we did what we had to do. It's a chess match - they take away one with, we come back with something else where we can get the advantage."
Following two punts by Everett and one by Northern Bedford to open the game, the Warriors' Colton Mearkle picked off NBC quarterback Blake Over and returned it 53-yards to the house to start the scoring at the 6:35 mark of the first quarter. Everett elected to go for the two-point conversion, and QB Spencer McInroy kept the ball himself and scampered in to make the score 8-0.
Over wasted little time driving his squad downfield, mixing up the run with the pass before getting a gift deflection as his intended target, Zach Pressel, had the ball zip through his hands and into the arms of a waiting Jourdan Miller for the 18-yard scoring strike. Over then found Kyler Diehl for the conversion to knot the game at the 2:48 point.
Caleb Ebersole, who tallied just 29 rushing yards in the first half, reached the end zone on a 5-yard run at 4;49 of the second quarter to give NBC the lead for good. Jonas Bequeath tacked on the extra point to make it 15-8.
"We had them on the ropes early but we don't have that killer instinct that we need. The killer instinct to get after people," Everett coach Mark Kirk said. "You have to learn how to win. I just had them make a pledge to me that they got to do things differently. So, we'll see."
With its offense failing, them, Northern Bedford handed great field position on its own side on three occasions to the Warriors after halftime.
However, the Panthers defense rose to the challenge each time the Warriors got even a glimmer of hope of moving the ball.
"Our backs were to the wall with field position,'' Batzel said, "but when we had to get something done and make a big play, we seemed to come up with it."
Ebersole intercepted a McInroy pass on the first possession after the break and returned it 71 yards for a score, only to have it called back on a holding penalty. But Ebersole plowed into the end zone six plays later from 5 yards out to set the final at the 5:15 mark.
Everett's Hunter Valentine recovered an Over fumble at the NBC 34, but on the ensuing possession, McInroy was once again intercepted - this time by Diehl at the 24.
"I thought our defense played well the entire game," Ebersole said. "We really stepped it up and kept the momentum with us when we were able to stand our ground."
"We've talked about the keys to being successful," Kirk said. "One is, you can't turn the ball over."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Northern Bedford8 7 6 0 - 21
Everett0 0 0 0 - 8
E-Mearkle 53 interception return (McInroy run), 6:35.
NB-Miller 18 pass from Over (Diehl pass from Over), 2:48
NB-Ebersole 5 run (Bequeath kick), 4:49.
NB-Ebersole 10 run (kick failed), 5:15.
RUSHING: Northern Bedford-Ebersole 21-116, Diehl 4-27, Kagarise 5-12, Z. Pressel 3-4, Over 4-(-33), TEAM 1-(-1). Everett-Jays 3-10, Rhoat 14-39, McInroy 11-25, Karns 3-27, Sheaffer 1-(-3), Mearkle 1-2.
PASSING: Northern Bedford-Over 10-17-2-134. Everett-McInroy 5-12-2-15.
RECEIVING: Northern Bedford-Diehl 1-5, Miller 2-19, Z. Pressel 5-53, T. Pressel 2-57. Everett-Mearkle 1-5, Droz 2-7, Ritchey 1-(-4), Sheaffer 1-7.
INTERCEPTIONS: Northern Bedford-Ebersole, Diehl. Everett-Mearkle, Ritchey.