MIDDLEBURY – High school football brings the best and worst out of boys all around the country every autumn. It can give a young man the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Friday night lights can provide the unmistakeable feeling of butterflies in the belly or leave the unforgiving feeling of a knotted stomach when the lights go out.
When the lights went out on the field Friday night, the Warriors were undoubtedly left with an unsettling feeling both inside and out. Wawasee fell to its former coach, Tom Wogomon, and his Northridge Raiders 31-14 in the Northern Lakes Conference opener in Middlebury.
All of the chips seemed to fall in Wawasee’s favor in the first half of play but it was in the second half where the tide turned on the Warriors for good.
Late in the third quarter with a 14-10 lead, carried over from the first half, quarterback Gage Reinhard and Wawasee were successfully driving down the field. The Warriors were in the red zone with hopes of breaking the game open. Northridge’s Cam Ridenour had other plans. The junior linebacker made a great play on a pass thrown by Reinhard and added a 76-yard return to set the Raider offense up deep in Warrior territory.
Northridge took advantage of the turnover by finishing off its drive with a 1-yard sneak by Raider quarterback Tanner Love. The Raiders took a slim 17-14 lead but the momentum shift was too much for the Warriors to overcome. Love would prove to be a heart breaker for the Warrior defense all night as the senior tallied 88 yards and two scores through the air in addition to his one rushing score.
Wawasee head coach Josh Ekovich viewed the turnover as the key moment in the game, “The turnover killed us. We were driving and really moving the ball around and then there is that quick change with the turnover and it killed us. But, that’s football.”
Northridge rode the momentum swing for two more scores in the fourth quarter. Reinhard and the Warrior offense
failed to successfully move the ball after the interception by Ridenour. Reinhard finished the night completing 19 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns one of which went to Sam Clark which capped off a 98-yard scoring drive conducted flawlessly by the junior quarterback.
While Friday night’s game was certainly tough for both sides, it may have been the toughest game that Wogomon has had to coach, “It’s hard to go against those guys. I have a lot of respect for them.” Wogoman led the Warrior program for six seasons before leaving for Northridge this past spring.
“I talked to Austin Lutz and Braxton O’Haver and I know they’re hurting over there. I coached them for the last three years and I know it hurts. I’m happy for our kids but I’ll be real honest, I’m glad this week is over,” concluded Wogomon.
Northridge (3-0, 1-0) snaps a dreadful 14-game conference losing streak and travels to Plymouth (2-1, 0-1) next Friday.
When looking ahead for Wawasee, Ekovich just wants to focus on getting his team back on track, “This was a big game for our guys, and they’re going to take it pretty hard. But the biggest thing is that we still have seven guaranteed games, we can’t just go home because we didn’t beat Northridge. Life goes on and we try to learn from things like this.”
Wawasee will play host to Concord (3-0, 2-0) next Friday with hopes of snapping an 11-game losing skid to the Minutemen. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Warrior Field.