SYRACUSE – Home sweet homecoming.
Pride, passion and pageantry were all on display at Wawasee High School for the grand finale of Homecoming Week 2013. After a week full of fundraising, competition and celebration, Wawasee students were hoping to see their football team end the week on an even higher note and the Warriors did not disappoint.
Wawasee used 404 yards of total offense to take down Northern Lakes Conference foe Elkhart Memorial 28-20 in the 2013 home finale on Friday night in Syracuse.
The night could not have started on a much higher note as the crowd was brought to its feet before kickoff as 2012 Homecoming king and queen Chad Eppley and Jenna Coy hand delivered the game ball after arriving via helicopter to the game. The Warrior offense kept spirits high on the game’s opening drive that was capped off by a 13-yard scoring rumble from Warrior senior Braxton O’Haver to give Wawasee an early 7-0 lead. O’Haver rushed for 22 yards on just three carries and had an interception on defense for the Warriors.
After the defense made a stop, the offense went right back to work as junior quarterback Gage Reinhard found Jordan Elliott for a 15-yard scoring strike. Before the Warriors could pull too far away, Memorial tightened things up with a 61-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Troutman to David Doyle in the closing minutes of the first quarter and the score would stay that way as both teams headed to the locker room.
Memorial closed the gap even further in the third quarter when Troutman broke off a 34-yard touchdown run but special teams became extra special for the Warriors when Tristin Young’s extra point attempt was blocked by Wawasee keeping the score in favor of the home team, 14-13.
Wawasee was able two score 14 unanswered points after Memorial’s second score. The first of which came from Brandin McCulloch on a two-yard rush. McCulloch was a workhorse for the Warriors on Friday night, and that is putting it lightly.
McCulloch ran the ball 38 times for 225 yards, by far a career best for the senior. While he had just the one score, his big play ability kept the Charger defense on its heels most of the night allowing for Wawasee to control the game on offense. The Warriors finished with 275 rushing yards as a team.
Wawasee head coach Josh Ekovich attributed the success on the ground to an all-around team effort but acknowledged his heavy hitters up front, “I told our offensive linemen before the game that the team is going to win depending on what they do the rest of this season. They answered the call tonight and I am proud of them for that.”
Wawasee added one more score in the third quarter when Reinhard again found Elliott. This time it was a 36-yard scoring toss to give Wawasee a 28-13 lead. Memorial would add the game’s final score in the fourth quarter. Reinhard finished the night throwing for 129 yards and two scores. Elliott made just the two scoring receptions for a total of 51 yards.
Two of Memorial’s three touchdowns came off of Wawasee turnovers. The untimely turnovers coupled with the seemingly countless number of holding calls certainly had the Warriors looking anything but crisp out on the field. But as sloppy as Wawasee was at times, the Warriors still won the game and the turnover battle by forcing four Memorial turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles.
While the game plan may not have been executed as planned, Ekovich made it known that he will enjoy the victory just the same.
“It wasn’t pretty, but I’ll take it. It is frustrating to play sloppy like we did tonight but I am never upset about getting a win. We just made some bad mistakes out there but we still managed to run the ball very well, probably the best we have all season. We passed when we needed to but stuck to running the ball and that worked well for us. We still have improvement to make but a win is a win and I’ll take it every time,” stated Ekovich.
Wawasee (4-4, 3-3) closes out the regular season next Friday at Goshen (0-8, 0-6) as both teams will battle for the Wooden Indian Trophy. Wawasee has taken the past three match ups. A Warrior win would give the team its fourth consecutive winning season. A feat that has only been accomplished two other times in program history, 1973-76, 2003-06. Kickoff is set for 7:30 at Goshen High School.