WARSAW – Warsaw football coach Phil Jensen knew the best way to try and negate the speed of Concord Friday night was to keep the Minutemen playmakers on the sidelines by playing keep away.
The formula, which has worked all season long for the Tigers, didn’t come to fruition this time around.
The Minutemen used their speed and athleticism all game long offensively to make big plays and a superb night from its defense in racing past the Tigers 34-9 in the regular-season finale.
Concord, with the Northern Lakes Conference win, earns a share of the league crown. The Minutemen finish at 6-1 in conference play to tie Plymouth for the top spot. The Rockies defeated NorthWood 38-21 Friday night.
The Minutemen, now 7-2 overall, got a huge game from junior quarterback Trevor Wilmore to overcome four first-half turnovers. Wilmore ran for two touchdowns, passed for two more and accounted for 308 yards of total offense as the Minutemen improved to 7-2 overall.
Warsaw drops to 6-3 overall and takes second place in the NLC at 5-2.
The Minutemen, who racked up 402 yards of total offense, win a third straight NLC championship for the first time in program history.
“I’m so proud of our kids for making history tonight,” said Concord coach Tim Dawson. “I’ve been here 24 years and this is the first time we’ve won the NLC three years in a row. That’s something pretty special. We told our kids that they would have to play at a championship level tonight in all three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams, and they did.”Warsaw, which was trying to win its first NLC title since 2001, took a 7-0 lead in the opening period. Tristan McClone tallied his 14th touchdown of the season on a one-yard run for the hosts. The scoring drive covered just 11 yards after a Concord turnover off a bad snap in shotgun formation to Wilmore on its first play from scrimmage. The Minutemen turned the ball over on its first two possessions of the game.
The Concord defense, fast, athletic and big, rose to the occasion in the first half. The Minutemen came up with a huge stop on the first play of the second quarter. Warsaw, leading 7-0, opted to go on a fourth and a foot from its own 29-yard line. McClone was swarmed under for a one-yard loss.
“That was a key play and really turned the momentum,” said Dawson. “Our defense stepped up big tonight when they needed to. They have been big all year for us. To stuff that play trailing 7-0 at the time was huge for us.”
“We have to be able to get a foot on that play,” said Warsaw coach Phil Jensen of the pivotal play. “We need a foot and I’m going to go for it most teams in those situations.”
Concord answered with a drive of just 29 yards to tie it at 7-7 as Wilmore scampered around the right side for a 20-yard touchdown on a fourth and two call. The Minutemen special teams than came into play. Speedy sophomore Jerrell Poindexter broke through on the next Tiger possession and blocked a punt attempt. One play later, Wilmore hit Adam Glanders, who made a gorgeous leaping catch, for a 27-yard touchdown play to make it 14-7.
Poindexter, who also blocked a 39-yard Tiger field goal try in the second period, made a big play to open the final half. His big kickoff return of 39 yards gave the Minutemen the ball at the Warsaw 44. Wilmore then dropped the snap, scooped it up and went 39 yards. One play later, he found Glanders for a five-yard touchdown toss to make it 21-7 just 27 seconds into the final half.The Tigers got a safety late in the third period as senior linebacker Tanner Dickerhoff sacked Wilmore in the end zone to make it 21-9.
Concord capped the scoring with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Wilmore scored from three yards out and Larry Smith galloped 38 yards to pay dirt. Wilmore rushed for a game-high 100 yards on 15 carries and was 13-21 passing for 208 yards.
The marathon game saw the teams combine for six turnovers and a flag-happy officiating crew call more than 20 total penalties. Concord was flagged 11 times for a whopping 106 yards, while Warsaw drew six calls for 52 yards.
Concord’s defense, led by senior Tyrone Olenczuk and 6-5, 240-pound senior star Franko House, did a number on McClone. The star junior, who entered the game among the state leaders with 1,494 yards and an average of 186 yards per game, finished with 64 yards on 26 carries. Warsaw sophomore starting quarterback Jake Mangas was 1-4 passing for 25 yards, before junior Austin Head entered in the second half and went 7-13 for 70 yards. Head, the starter the first seven games of the season, had not played since being injured two weeks ago versus Wawasee.
“It was an ugly game,” said Jensen. “What hurt us was our lack of production on offense. We just couldn’t put anything together consistently. We’d have a missed block, a missed assignment, a penalty. It was always something all night.
“The thing that hurt us the most about Concord’s defense was their speed. We can’t duplicate that kind of quickness in trying to prepare. And the two blocked kicks absolutely hurt us too.”
Glanders, a 6-2 junior, had a huge night with nine catches for 138 yards.
Senior standout receiver Taylor Cone had three receptions for 50 yards, including a 30-yard grab on the first Tiger play from scrimmage, to lead Warsaw. Junior Conner McCammack had four receptions for 37 yards for the Tigers.
Senior Zach Shepler had an interception for Warsaw.
Warsaw has no time to dwell on Friday night’s loss. The Tigers host Class 5-A perennial power Penn next Friday night in a first-round sectional game at 7 p.m. The Kingsmen, state runner-up in 2011, closed out the regular season at 8-1 by downing South Bend Adams 30-13 Friday night to complete another undefeated NIC season.
“We have to lick our wounds and move on and get on with it,” emphasized Jensen, a former tight end for the Kingsmen. “We have to go prepare now for Penn.”
Concord opens Class 4-A sectional play at East Noble next Friday night.