Concord, on the other hand, has to feel like they let a victory slip away.
The pair of state-ranked squads, feelings aside, each walked off the pitch at WCHS with a tie to add to their season records.
The battle of top 20 teams ended in that tie thanks to the late-game heroics of Stephen Kolbe.
The Warsaw junior, who is best known for his high-jumping prowess during track season, soared on this night to save the hosts. Kolbe blasted home a gorgeous goal with just 1:02 left in the contest to earn his team a 1-1 deadlock. His laser into the lower left of the net came after a ball was not cleared by Concord.
The No. 16 Minutemen controlled the Northern Lakes Conference showdown versus the No. 2 Tigers, who have dominated the league the last several seasons, most of the night with exceptional effort and smart play.
Warsaw, which beat Concord 2-1 (4-3 PK) in the regional semifinal in 2011, is now 5-0-1 overall and 1-0-1 in the NLC. The Minutemen stand at 6-0-1 overall and 2-0-1 in league play.
Frank Courtois, the acting coach for the Tigers with head coach Scott Bauer still serving a suspension, knew his team had dodged a loss.
“We’re very fortunate tonight the position we’re in with a tie,” said Courtois of the Tigers, who had won its first five games by a 20-1 scoring margin. “We were not prepared mentally. Mentally, we were not in the game.
“Concord outplayed us. They came to play and to take us out. We had a couple of opportunities, but we did not play Warsaw soccer. We did not put passes together. You can’t just play kick and run like we did tonight.”
Concord, which graduated nine starters from its 2011 team that finished 16-3 overall and 6-1 in the NLC, wasted no time setting the tone. The Minutemen were aggressive from the start and just missed a couple of great scoring chances in the first four minutes of the contest as one shot hit the crossbar and another sailed just over the goal.
Warsaw, which was outshot 10-5 on the night, almost took the lead with just over 31 minutes to play after a scoreless opening half. Nathan Kolbe made a great run with the ball, but was challenged by Concord keeper Sergio Ortiz, who deflected the ball.
The Minutemen took a 1-0 lead in the 58th minute as senior JJ Milnamow scored during a scramble in front of the goal. Senior Jadon Chupp assisted on the play.
The Tigers, who have won the NLC title the last three years, finally played with a sense of urgency in the final 15 minutes. The hosts nearly tied the game with just over 15 minutes left, but Logan Miller saved a goal by heading a Warsaw shot headed home to an unattended goal. The shot from Ernesto Cuellar came after Ortiz collided head-on with Zack Tucker and both went down shaken up as play continued.
“I’m proud of how my boys played tonight,” said Concord coach Shawn McCuen. “We talked about how Warsaw knocked us out of the regional and the NLC last year. We know if we want respect, this is a team we have to beat.
“It was a physical, hard-fought game. I’ll share with my team that the game of soccer is a fickle game. It’s why you play 80 minutes. In the last 15 tonight, we played not to lose instead of to win. Hopefully, we learned something from that tonight that will come back to help us down the road.
“Their redhead (Kolbe) made a hell of a shot.”
Concord outshot the Tigers 10-5 and had a 5-3 edge in corner kicks.
Both keepers turned in strong efforts for their teams. Senior Michael Yantz had nine saves for the Tigers. Senior Ortiz had four saves for Concord.
Warsaw won the JV contest 3-1.
Warsaw (5-0-1, 1-0-1) plays in the Carroll Tourney Friday and Saturday. Concord (5-0-1, 2-0-1) hosts Elkhart Central Saturday at 3 p.m.