DUNLAP — In the end, Concord did what Concord does best.
Unable to completely crack Concord’s code, the Wawasee Warriors gave a valiant effort but came up short in a 24-10 final in the championship game of the IHSAA 4A No. 11 football sectional.
A pair of tremendous defensive stands by the Minutemen, followed up each time with scores of its own, proved too much for an improving Warrior team to withstand.
Wawasee fell to 1-5 all-time against Concord in sectional games, but at times looked like the fortunes would reverse. Trailing just 14-0 at the half, Wawasee moved as though it would finally find the endzone midway through the third quarter.
Driving inside the Concord 20 after Gabe Rhodes ripped off an 11-yard run, Concord dug in and forced Wawasee to convert a 30-yard field goal by Jordan Acton to move the score to 14-3. Less than two minutes later, Concord drove deep into Wawasee territory and pushed the lead up to 18 when quarterback Trevor Wilmore hit Tim Yoder on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
As the third quarter came to an end, Wawasee had again pushed into the Concord red zone. A clever call on third and two had Warrior quarterback Gage Reinhard option to Derrick Sorensen for 26 yards to the Concord four. After the home side stuffed three straight Wawasee attempts inside the four, Dallas Maynard made undoubtedly the play of the game by bringing down Sorensen inches from the goal line on fourth and goal. The momentum swing likely put Concord over the edge to its seventh sectional title.
“Moving the ball tonight wasn’t the problem,” stated Wawasee head coach Tom Wogomon. “It was there were three opportunities to punch the ball in. That is the sign of a good defense that can bend a little bit and make the stand when they needed to. And that’s exactly what they did.”
Concord head coach Tim Dawson also felt his defense, particularly Maynard, stood tall. “Maynard made that stick on the goal line. He has been our team captain. He was kind of a back-up when we put him in the first Wawasee game, he became a starter and has been our defensive leader ever since. I’m proud of him.”
Wawasee, which finishes its season 7-5, were able to roll up 279 yards of offense on a normally stout Concord defense. Sorensen rushed 24 times for a relatively quiet 114 yards and Rhodes had 12 carries for 45 yards. Reinhard completed 13 of 28 passes for 118 yards with one interception and one touchdown, a five-yard toss, to Jordan Elliott late in the fourth quarter.
“This was a game of big plays,” Wogomon said. “The way we were able to move the ball well, we just couldn’t finish things off. The kids battled. What they had to face, this team just battled. They showed some grit. We said this isn’t the same team that was here seven weeks ago, and it isn’t.”
Concord barnstormed Wawasee 54-7 on Sept. 7 in a game that was over by halftime.
The Minutemen racked up 353 yards of offense Friday night, 160 through the air from Wilmore and 193 on the ground.
Wilmore found Adam Glanders on a 25-yard toss in the second quarter and running back DuWhan Alford opened the scoring with a powerful 68-yard run that had the bruising back run over three would-be tacklers along the way. Alford rushed for 111 yards on just six carries before leaving the game in the second quarter after reaggravating a left knee injury. Glanders led Concord with six catches for 107 yards.
Concord (10-2) will move on to face Fort Wayne Dwenger (6-6), a 14-7 winner against a very confident Norwell side that won its only two games of the season in sectional play.
The Minutemen on paper look to be the favorite from the 4A northern teams despite having to travel to Fort Wayne to face Dwenger next week. In the other northern 4A regional game, Hammond Morton (7-5) will travel to Mishawaka (9-3) to take on a Caveman team that needed overtime to escape South Bend Washington, 36-34.
Dawson is just happy to be playing another week.
“We have a chance to improve and play again next week, rather than next year,” Dawson said. “I’m happy about that. I think this is only our (seventh title). It’s not like we have won a ton of these things, our kids need to enjoy it. This is a tough trophy to win.”
Wawasee will go back to Syracuse proud of a season that had the Warriors win five of its last six games, but unable to beat Concord for the ninth consecutive time, dating back to the sectional win at Concord in 2004 on the run to the state finals. That 2004 season was the last time Wawasee has also won a sectional title, 1985 being the only other title in the trophy case, which was the other time Wawasee appeared in a state finals. Wawasee are just 12-35 all-time against Concord, including the loss Friday night.
“There will be a day when we wake up and just look at what that group of seniors has led as far as us turning it around playing competitive football,” Wogomon said.