For the third consecutive week the Warriors brought home a victory in dramatic fashion by downing Northern Lakes Conference rival Goshen 28-14 Friday night at Warrior Field.
Defense, for the third straight week, was again the Warriors’ saving grace. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Goshen started in on what appeared to be a decent drive. That is until senior running back Justin Klabusich was stripped on the third play of the game and Wawasee junior Brandin McCulloch pounced on the loose ball setting up the Warrior offense with great field position. Sophomore signal caller Gage Reinhard needed only two plays before finding fellow sophomore Clayton Cook for a 24-yard scoring strike to put Wawasee up 7-0 barely a minute into the game.
The Warrior defense, later in the quarter, again made a big play. Wawasee defenders Braxton O’Haver and Jake Schwartz disrupted an option play causing another loose ball which was picked up by Wawasee senior Chad Eppley who returned it 69 yards to the Goshen six-yard line. One play later, Wawasee senior Derrick Sorensen punched it in to put Wawasee up 14-0.
“I’m just glad that my play could put our team in a position to score, that’s the most important thing,” said Eppley of his key return.The Warrior defense continued its domination in the second quarter. Sorensen showed great defensive awareness after intercepting a tipped ball. The interception set up another short field for Wawasee which Reinhard used to his advantage. This time the sophomore found junior Austin Lutz for an eight-yard strike. The score gave Wawasee a commanding 21-0 lead. Reinhard would finish the night completing six passes on 17 attempts with two touchdowns and one interception.
Goshen finally got some momentum before half time when Redskin quarterback Derek DeMeyer punched it in on a quarterback sneak from the one-yard line to make the score 21-7 at halftime.
The Redskins would threaten again in the third quarter after recovering a bad snap to set up first and 10 at the Wawasee 14-yard line but the Wawasee defense denied Goshen when Lutz intercepted a DeMeyer pass.
Neither offense would come close to the end zone again until the Redskins were able to put together a late scoring drive that was capped off with a nine-yard touchdown pass from DeMeyer to senior receiver Austin Henke with just two minutes remaining on the clock.
Goshen tried and failed to recover an onside kick but the Redskin defense forced Wawasee to punt which gave the visitors one last chance to tie the game. Goshen drove the ball into Warrior territory but all hopes of a comeback were crushed by McCulloch when the Warrior defensive back returned to the stat sheet with a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown. The interception was McCulloch’s first of his career and the junior could not have been more excited or humble following the game.
“It feels good, but I couldn’t do it on my own. Our line put good pressure to force the throw and helped me out a lot,” stated McCulloch.
McCulloch proved to be a ball hawk on the ensuing Goshen drive when he picked off another DeMeyer pass giving the dominant Warrior defense its eighth takeaway of the night.Wawasee coach Tom Wogomon was ecstatic about his team’s defensive effort for the third week in a row, “I tell you what, this was a great win tonight. The night belonged to the defense.”
When asked about the clutch play from McCulloch, Wogomon did not hesitate to give credit where it was due, “What a great night of football for him.”
The victory over Goshen (2-7, 2-5) allows Wawasee to retain the traveling “Chief” trophy for the third consecutive year and moves the Warriors to 4-3 in Northern Lakes Conference competition. The Warriors finish the regular season with a mark of 5-4 which guarantees Wawasee at least a .500 record for the third consecutive season.
Goshen outgained Wawasee 425-106 in total yards, but could not overcome their eight turnovers (five interceptions and three fumbles). DeMeyer was 22-51 passing for 264 yards for the Redskins. Henke had 14 receptions for 158 yards for Goshen.
Lutz and McCulloch each had two interceptions to lead the Wawasee defense.
The Warriors will start sectional play next Friday when they travel to DeKalb High School to take on the Barons in the first round of the Class 4-A IHSAA Sectional 11. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Goshen hosts South Bend Adams in a Class 5-A sectional opener next Friday night.
In addition to the game, the Wawasee athletic department took part in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the second year in a row by having a pink out with the theme being “Cups for the Cause.” Fans in attendance could buy pink cups for one dollar each with all proceeds going to the Kosciusko County Cancer Care Fund.