History is not in Wawasee’s favor this Friday night.
Going back to when this season’s senior class entered kindergarten in 2000, Wawasee has beaten Concord on the football field just twice in 16 tries, and not once since that magical 2004 season when the Warriors defeated Concord in the sectional on its way to its last state championship game appearance.
While the odds are certainly stacked heavily against Wawasee, just a couple days before Wawasee upset Concord in ’04, the Boston Red Sox were down three games to nothing against the mighty New York Yankees. A Dave Roberts stolen base helped the Red Sox light a fire. Four wins later, the Red Sox would defeat Goliath and eventually win its first World Series in 86 years.
Can Wawasee find someone to start that fire Friday night against a Concord team that were taking kneel-downs to lessen the margin of victory of a 54-7 romp in early September?
“This is a monster challenge,” said Wawasee head coach Tom Wogomon. “We haven’t been to a sectional final since 2004, they have been to four in a row. If we want to even have a chance, we have to take the mindset that this is just week 12 and we are playing against a championship caliber program.
“I’ll state the obvious, we have really struggled against them. The way we have to approach this thing is play the game like any other team in the Northern Lakes Conference. Forget about the colors. It comes down to who is more physical, who doesn’t turn the ball over. We just have to do a better job of that against Concord.”
The Warriors have not been in this position, playing for a sectional championship, since that 2004 season. Ironically, the only other sectional championship Wawasee has won was in 1985, when the Warriors again went to the state finals. Concord, on the other hand, has played in each of the last four sectional championship games, winning in 2010 to give the program six sectional crowns.
In fact, Wawasee has won just two sectional games since Wogomon took over in 2007. Two weeks ago against DeKalb, and last week against NorthWood. The win against the visiting Panthers in the sectional was the first time in school history Wawasee beat NorthWood in the state tournament.
To Wawasee’s credit, the win against NorthWood was a game Wogomon states is one of his bigger wins as a head coach and should have his boys heading in the right direction. And certainly at the right time. Wawasee (7-4) have won five straight games and are flourishing with a new offensive scheme led by quarterback-receiver combo of Gage Reinhard and Clayton Cook and the rushing combo of Derrick Sorensen and Gabe Rhodes.
Sorensen rushed for 111 yards and Rhodes 71 yards for the Warriors Friday, which amassed 222 yards on the ground against the Panthers. Reinhard threw for 186 yards, 120 of those going to Cook.
“The attitude of our kids made the difference last week,” stated Wogomon, having a sense during that week of practice his kids were turning a corner. “We hadn’t been behind an opponent since we went on this winning streak, and when NorthWood jumped on us early, we responded. It was no accident that we knocked NorthWood out of the tournament, we came ready to play.”
Concord (9-2) have won four straight heading into Friday night and also have reworked some of its look, notably from the quarterback position. Trevor Wilmore has taken over duties as signal caller for the Minutemen, and had 128 yards of total offense and rushing touchdowns of 11 and 43 yards against Northridge, all in the first half.
Beating the 11 Minutemen on the field, according to Wogomon, is fundamental. Beating the mindset, the mystique and the color of the uniform is another challenge for his team all in its own.
“Our kids have really grown in the past month,” cited Wogomon. “The kids made up their mind that they wanted to play physical, smart football. They were going to lay it on the line. If we want to beat Concord, we are going to have to see two things. One, believe in each other. Two, we don’t have that many seniors, so we have to be all in. We need leaders and that attitude that we can win.
“Concord is going to remind us who they are, we already know that. We just have to come to work like we have done now for the past five weeks and be more physical than them.”
Wawasee and Concord are part of a route to Indianapolis and the state finals that does not have a clear cut favorite from the north. The northern sectional finals include Sectional 9 Highland (3-8) at Hammond Morton (6-5); Sectional 10 Mishawaka (8-3) at South Bend Washington (3-8); and Sectional 12 Fort Wayne Dwenger (5-6) at Norwell (2-9). None of those teams, including Wawasee and Concord, are ranked in the final AP 4A state poll.
If Concord wins Friday night, they travel to the Dwenger-Norwell winner. If Wawasee and Dwenger win, the Warriors go to Fort Wayne. If Wawasee and Norwell both pull off upsets, Wawasee hosts Norwell.