ELKHART – The Warsaw defense set the tone early and often Friday night.
The Tigers, flying to the football with passion and a purpose, then proceeded to pitch a shutout at Elkhart Memorial.
Warsaw’s defensive dominated the host Crimson Chargers and star tailback Tristan McClone tallied three touchdowns in a 28-0 Northern Lakes Conference victory.
It was very workmanlike win for the Tigers one week after rallying for a thrilling 20-19 victory over Plymouth in the NLC opener.
Warsaw’s defense set the tone from the start. After Memorial came up with an interception on the Tigers’ opening drive of the game, the Tigers stood their ground. Warsaw stopped the hosts at the Tiger 20.
“Our defense responded right away there after the interception and set the tone for the whole game,” said Warsaw coach Phil Jensen. “Our defense is very aggressive and not afraid to get after it.
“They are playing with their ears back. Our defense set us up. Part of the short field goes to our kicker (Caleb Klusman) too. He’s kicking it into the end zone on kickoffs and that helps us create short fields.”
Warsaw scored on drives of just 29 and 32 yards in the opening half to lead 14-0 at intermission. McClone, who rushed for 146 yards on 28 carries, scored on an 18-yard run and a four-yard jaunt.
The first Tiger score was set up by a blocked punt by Gabe Furnivall. The senior safety was all over the field all night long for Warsaw. Furnivall, along with Seth Fouts and Kyle Heckaman, led the way for the Tiger defense.
“Gabe just flies to the ball,” Jensen said. “He’s a heck of a hitter.”
Warsaw went 53 yards on its first possession of the third quarter to make it 21-0. Senior fullback Jason Taylor, who turned in a strong performance, bulled in from four yards out. Taylor racked up 53 yards on 10 carries and did his usual impressive blocking job in front of McClone.
“I thought our offensive line took over in the second half,” remarked Jensen. “I challenged them at halftime and we came out and put together a nice long drive for a score.”
The Tigers completed the shutout on a one-yard plunge by McClone early in the fourth quarter.
Warsaw piled up 265 yards rushing on 47 carries in the win. Ross Armey added 59 yards on five carries late in the game for the Tigers.
“We’re working to try and be more balanced, but Memorial took away our short passing game tonight,” said Jensen. “That allowed us to run the ball. If we’re able to do that like we did tonight, I’m all good with it.
“The biggest thing is to take care of us. We have to continue to get better. That’s the most important thing we need to worry about.”
Memorial, which lost 28-0 at Warsaw last season, continues to struggle offensively. The Chargers, who finished 1-9 last year, managed just 127 total yards Friday night and have scored just 20 points through four games.
Memorial quarterback Trevor Trowbridge left the game with an apparent ankle injury.
Kyle Heckaman and Brett Fancill each had an interception for the Tigers. The trio of Furnivall, Fouts and Heckaman topped the Tigers in tackles.
Warsaw improves to 3-1 overall and sits at 2-0 in the NLC. Concord leads the NLC at 3-0 after whipping Wawasee 52-17 Friday night. Memorial drops to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in league play.
Warsaw hosts Northridge next Friday night. The Raiders dropped to 3-1 with a 21-14 NLC loss at Plymouth tonight. Memorial hosts Plymouth next Friday night.