WATERLOO – “This is a good feeling. To be able to wake up in the morning and still be in the playoffs, it’s just a great feeling,” the sentiment from Wawasee head coach Tom Wogomon said it all Friday night.
Wogomon’s Warriors downed the host DeKalb Barons 27-14 in a Class 4-A Sectional 11 first-round contest. The win was Wawasee’s fourth straight and a milestone for Wogomon. This being his first playoff win in five seasons as the Warriors’ head coach.
“The truth is, half the teams are turning their gear in on Monday and we’ve been doing it the past five years and finally we get another week of football.”
The victory was the first sectional win for the Warriors since 2006.
Wawasee found itself in a hole early after DeKalb’s Evan Cochran found Dylan Cagle for a 12-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter. It was clear that the Barons had an upset on their minds.
Wawasee responded to the Barons touchdown pass with one of its own. Sophomore quarterback Gage Reinhard connected with fellow sophomore Clayton Cook for a 33-yard scoring strike. The pass would knot things up 7-7 and that would be the score heading into the locker room at halftime.
After halftime, the cream started to rise to the top as Wawasee took control of the game. Junior running back Gabe Rhodes went to work and carried his team down the field which set up Wawasee’s second score. The Warriors broke the tie when Reinhard found Cook one more time, this time for a 22-yard touchdown reception giving Wawasee a 14-7 lead. Reinhard finished the night 5-13 for 84 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
The defense has been the heart and soul of this Warrior team the past three weeks and Friday night was no exception. Wawasee held DeKalb to just 193 total yards on offense, forced two turnovers, and scored a touchdown for the second week in a row.
The game-changing score happened after Warrior punter Derrick Sorensen pinned DeKalb on its own 4 yard line with just less than eight minutes to play. DeKalb was looking to string together a game-tying drive but instead gave Wawasee just what it needed. Cochran was forced out of the pocket on a pass attempt by pressure from Wawasee’s Brayton Bartman. Cochran dropped the ball in the end zone and Bartman pounced on the ball, giving the Warriors all they would need to claim victory. The extra point attempt was missed, leaving Wawasee with a 20-7 lead.
After the game Bartman, better known as ‘Larry’ by teammates and coaches, was humbled by his first career touchdown, “It was just part of a team effort. Everybody had to be a part of this. It was just fate that I got to fall on the ball.”Rhodes went back to work late in the fourth quarter and led Wawasee to another scoring drive. This time it was Sorensen that would punch it in. The insurance score gave Wawasee a 27-7 lead. Rhodes finished his night with 145 yards on the ground on 21 carries and led Wawasee’s rushing attack that totaled 213 yards for the game.
The Barons would put one more touchdown on the board when Cochran found Logan Schilling for a 9-yard score. Wawasee would recover on onside kick to seal the 27-14 victory.
Following his team’s loss, DeKalb head coach Mike Cochran chose to focus on the future, “This is a good group and we are growing. We feel we have improved from a few years ago and we will continue that. We’re not quite there yet but we will be.” Cochran and the Barons finish their season with a 2-8 record.
For Wawasee, they could not have been happier with the effort. A jubilant Wogomon continued the praise of his team’s effort during this four game win streak, “Give credit to this team with the three whoopings we took. For us to respond like we have really says something.”
After hearing about his team’s rushing totals Wogomon gave some love to his big guys up front, “Man, there were some hard working linemen tonight. Last week was humbling having just over 100 yards total offense; this was just a different team running the ball tonight.”
Wawaseee improves to 6-4 on the season and advances to host a sectional semifinal game next Friday night versus a familiar foe in Northern Lakes Conference rival NorthWood. The Panthers advanced after beating Plymouth 17-13 in first round action Friday night in Nappanee.
NorthWood (5-5) beat Wawasee 35-21 in Syracuse on September 14. NorthWood also holds bragging rights from last year’s sectional when the Panthers toppled Wawasee 14-10 in Nappanee. Wawasee will look to avenge both losses when they face off with their NLC rivals next Friday night with kickoff set for 7 p.m. in Syracuse.