GOSHEN – At a point in the season when most, if not all, teams are thinking about sectional trophies, Wawasee and Goshen had a not-so-little trophy up for grabs in the northwest corner of the endzone Friday night.
The annual battle for the Wooden Chief trophy produced quite a tussle as Wawasee needed a 25-yard field goal from Nate Prescott with 52 seconds left to decide a 17-14 result in favor of the Warriors over the host Redskins at Foreman Field.
The field goal capped a night that wasn’t sharp by any means for the winning side, and represented a bowl game-type atmosphere for Goshen, which is still falling on hard times at 0-9 this season. Interceptions in the fourth quarter, as well as penalties, were the difference between the two clubs. And the miscues were killer for Goshen.
With the game tied at 14 and Wawasee driving in the fourth quarter, Goshen looked to be in business after Sam Byler picked off a deflected pass. But the pick was nullified as Goshen roughed Wawasee quarterback Gage Reinhard during the play. Goshen, however, would pick off Reinhard a few plays later when Colton Potter stepped into a lane.
The Redskins, however, had two false start penalties on its next drive and were forced to punt. The field position gave Wawasee the ball at the Goshen 39, and subsequently drove to the eight, setting up Prescott’s boot.
Goshen would get one last shot, but the first play had Austin Lutz intercept Cameron Kline, sending Wawasee over to collect its mammoth trophy.
“I don’t feel like we struggled, really, and it’s not that Goshen doesn’t have athletes or size, there were just times that (Goshen) killed themselves this season and they had a couple of those moments again tonight,” said Wawasee head coach Josh Ekovich. “I knew coming into a rivalry game, anything can happen. It’s senior night for them, they were 0-8, they had every single motivation to play hard.
“But I told our kids, championship teams find a way to win, and that’s what they did. And if it means drive down the field and kick a field goal, so be it.”
Wawasee got on the board at the 4:44 mark of the first quarter when Reinhard found a streaking Lutz down the right side for a 68-yard pitch and catch. Reinhard also found Clayton Cook for an eight-yard strike in the second quarter.
Goshen answered both of Wawasee’s scores with touchdown passes of its own. On fourth and 16, Kline scrambled around and found Jamie Graves for a 20-yard score and with just 33 seconds left in the first half, an option pass to Chase Goodman had the split end loft an 18-yard pass to the end zone that the undervalued 6’3″ Byler was able to haul in.
Reinhard passed for 225 yards on 15 completions and Lutz finished with 124 yards on seven catches. Brandin McCulloch gained 95 yards on 24 carries. The Wawasee offense as a whole posted 356 total yards.
The win puts Wawasee at 5-4 on the season and 4-3 in the Northern Lakes Conference. The senior class becomes just the third class at Wawasee to secure four seasons at or above .500 in the program’s history.
With an undefeated Leo, a 45-0 winner over Bluffton Friday night, waiting to converge on Syracuse next weekend for the Sectional 19 opener, Ekovich is hoping his senior class can add a landmark win to the record books.
“It’s all about want-to right now, not about how the schematics are,” Ekovich said of next week’s clash. “I think when we play our best football, we are a hard team to stop. Our defense is pretty solid. Our offense is pretty potent. When we put it all together, which we have done this year, we are a good football team. I think we certainly have a shot next week.”