Newton football downs PCM in Jasper County showdown

Sep. 5—MONROE — PCM head football coach Greg Bonnett told his offensive staff before the Mustangs' home opener against Newton he hoped they would be able to score points because the veteran coach was not sure his defense could slow down Newton junior Cody Klein.

Klein is a returning all-district player who is off to a faster start than last season and his efforts on Friday led the Cardinals to another win over the Mustangs.

Klein carried the ball 29 times for 140 yards and added 96 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches during Newton's 27-13 triumph.

"Just watching him on film, I saw a special player," Bonnett said. "He's a tough runner, he's fast and he's just the right size for what they do on offense."

The 2022 victory for Newton (2-0) was more convincing than last year and it came against a PCM squad expected to be stronger than the 5-5 it went in 2021.

The Cardinals, who are 2-0 for the second straight season, led 14-7 at halftime and outscored PCM 13-6 in the fourth to pull away.

Klein's 35-yard TD catch and run from Brody Bauer put Newton in front 20-7 early in the fourth and Bauer iced the victory late with a short TD run.

Klein got behind the defense on a wheel route down the home sideline.

"We had a wheel and I saw they had the safety and the corner both walk down so I just told Brody to throw it to me because I was going to beat them outside," Klein said. "And that's what happened."

Swedenhjelm wants to spread the ball around in the passing game, but when the game is on the line, having Klein to go to is a pretty good plan, too.

"He was a monster. We liked how their linebackers run with the running backs so we thought we had some matchups out there we liked," Swedenhjelm said. "I'm a big believer that you let your players make plays and he's a heckuva player. So we let him make some plays."

Klein made an instant impact on the game. On the team's first drive, Bauer connected with the junior tailback for 45 yards on third and six to extend the drive. The Cardinals scored one play later when Bauer hooked up with Christian Ergenbright on a 6-yard TD not even two minutes into the game.

Bauer finished 11-of-13 for 215 yards and set a new career-high with three touchdown passes. He also rushed 13 times for 25 yards and the late score.

Newton forced PCM into a three and out on its first possession, but the Cardinals lost a fumble on their next possession.

The Mustangs (1-1) took advantage of the turnover and scored five players later. August Stock found Gavin Fenton on an out pattern for an 11-yard TD that tied the game.

Newton turned the ball over on downs on its next possession, but PCM's drive stalled after picking up two first downs.

On third and 20, Alex Thomason picked off Stock near the end zone to give the ball back to the Newton offense.

The Cardinals' ensuing drive covered 17 plays but it ended in another fumble. The defense though forced PCM into a three and out.

That set up Newton's next touchdown.

Bauer opened the drive with an 8-yard run and then found Ergenbright on a short pass that he turned into a 43-yard touchdown. He made one guy miss and then sprinted past the PCM defense down the home sideline.

Neither team scored in the third, but Newton opened the fourth with the Klein TD catch. It capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive that included a 12-yard run by Ergenbright and 25 rushing yards from Klein.

Cardinal center Blake Schilling, who played both ways, said the offense had a lot of success with inside runs and sweep plays to the outside.

"We had good blocking and (Cody) follows us through the holes," Schilling said. "As long as we block for him, I don't think we can give him the ball too much. He will run all day."

PCM answered back with a 14-play, 65-yard TD drive of its own. Stock picked up a first down with a 16-yard run on third and six. He scored a 5-yard TD on fourth and four with 7:07 to play in the game.

Leading 20-13, Newton put the game away with a seven-play, 55-yard drive. The Cardinals got behind the sticks with a holding penalty, but Bauer hooked up with Turner Williams for 37 yards on third and eight to extend the drive and Bauer scored from 2 yards out four plays later.

"Our guys have chemistry and they are able to feel things out," Swedenhjelm said. "Turner had a flat route, but our guys know the scramble drill. He took off vertically and got behind everybody and Brody trusted him and made the play."

Williams finished with 65 yards on four catches. Ergenbright gained 14 yards on two carries and hauled in three catches for 54 yards and two scores.

The difference according to Bonnett was Newton tackled better in space. The Cardinals limited PCM to 62 passing yards.

"Even if we caught the ball, there DBs were right there to bring us down," Bonnett said. "They were manning us up and they got some players. They made some incredible plays and tackled well.

"If you miss tackles against Klein, he will make you pay."

Newton's secondary includes two returning all-district players in Thomason and Nate Lampe.

"I think we are pretty fortunate to have some really strong defensive backs," Swedenhjelm said. "Having Alex Thomason back was huge, Jake Ingle has been rock solid since he decided to come back out and Nate Lampe gives us another all-district guy back there. Jackson Nichols has done a great job, too. They have all done some really nice things for us so far."

Caleb Mattes and Nathan Milburn led the Cardinal defense with 10.5 tackles each, which sets new career-highs for both players. Jackson Nichols added a career-high seven tackles, Hunter Teague chipped in five tackles and Jake Ingle tallied four tackles.

Thomason registered 3.5 tackles and one interception in his season debut and Wyatt Weter had one sack.

"Our corners were locking the receivers down and the line was getting pressure. They couldn't do much about it," Schilling said. "It feels amazing, but we need to keep it going."

Stock finished with 62 passing yards, one TD and one interception and rushed 14 times for 81 yards and another score.

Adrien Robbins gained 64 yards on 16 carries before leaving the game with an injury. Kaleb DeVries added 29 yards on nine carries and Griffin Olson caught three passes for 27 yards.

Will Vanderpool led the PCM defense with 10.5 tackles and two tackles for loss, Trenner Van Dyke added 7.5 tackles, Fenton chipped in six tackles and a fumble recovery and Gabe Hobbs collected four tackles and recovered a fumble. Donovan Nickelson had four tackles.

"They are not going to quit," Bonnett said about his team. "They are going to continue to get better. We are a lot better than where we were at this time last year."

Notes: Jacob Nichols, who was an all-state offensive lineman last year, did not start the season with the Cardinals but has since joined the roster. He made his season debut on Friday, played both ways and had 3.5 tackles on defense. ... Christian Lawson joined the Cardinals as a kicker and a punter early last week. He had one punt for 53 yards and four of his five kickoffs went for touchbacks. ... Bonnett does not expect Robbins' exit from the game to be something that forces him to miss time. Nickelson also left the game with an injury in the first half but returned to action in the second half. ... Klein said he runs on adrenaline Friday but feels a 29-carry night the next day. It's all worth it to beat a team he thinks will be pretty good. "We just made a statement that we can beat a team like this by double-digits," Klein said. "It feels good." ... Both student sections wore orange in honor of Gannon Vande Wall, a 6-year-old in the PCM school district who was recently diagnosed with Leukemia. Bonnett gave Gannon a signed football before the game and Klein handed him a card signed by the entire Cardinal team that included a gift card to Jersey Freeze.