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COLUMBIA CITY – The Warsaw football team resembled a roller coaster Friday night.
The Tigers had their fair share of ups, but in the end there were more downs in the season opener.
Host Columbia City used a big second-half performance to handle Warsaw 33-21.
The Eagles got three touchdown runs from bruising fullback Braden Myer, who set the physical tone for the hosts with his 250-pound battering frame.
Warsaw, which beat the Eagles 33-14 a year ago, needs to find a more consistent theme going forward according to their coach.
“We played like a roller coaster tonight,” said Warsaw coach Phil Jensen. “We need to find a better level of consistency to play at.”
The Tigers, who return no starters on offense and have changed schemes, fell behind 13-0 in the opening period. Myer tallied two short touchdown runs, the second coming after his defensive mates came up with an interception to give the Eagles the ball at the Warsaw 31.
Warsaw answered the challenge in the second quarter. First, Ethyn Bradley bolted in from two yards out to cut the City lead to 13-7. The Tigers then took the lead at intermission at 14-13 as quarterback Jake Mangas connected with younger brother Kyle on a nifty 18-yard scoring strike with just 15 seconds to play before halftime.
The pivotal drive of the game came on the opening series of the third quarter. The Tigers had a touchdown wiped out by an offensive interference penalty, then had a sack and just missed a 41-yard field goal try.
“You really saw two young football teams tonight,” Jensen stated. “We get down 13-0 early and we respond. We score right before half and get the ball and drive down to start the second. We have a couple of bad things happen to us and they get the momentum. They just took it away from us.
“Credit Columbia City. They are well-coached and are going to win a lot of games. They were much more physical than we are and that took a toll on us. No. 37 (Myer) is a beast.”
The Eagles tallied 20 straight points after the missed opportunity by the Tigers, capped by a 24-yard rumble by Myer.
Warsaw did score with 4:21 to play as Mangas hit Brock Riley with a 38-yard touchdown toss.
Senior quarterback Jake Mangas showed flashes of strong play in the Tigers’ new look offense, which emphasizes a shotgun formation with a controlled passing attack. Mangas hit on 15-29 attempts for 261 yards with the two touchdowns and one interception.
Sophomore Kyle Mangas snared six tosses from his brother for 123 yards and Riley Rhoades had five receptions for 48 yards.
Senior quarterback Trevor Bolt rushed for 101 yards on 18 carries out of shotgun formation for the Eagles, who gave new coach Brett Fox his first win at Columbia City. Myer finished with 99 yards on the ground as the Eagles ran for 285 yards.
Warsaw hosts East Noble (1-0) and Columbia City plays at Whitko (0-1) in non-conference games next Friday night at 7 p.m. East Noble beat Fort Wayne Northrop 38-13 and Whitko lost 34-12 to Wawasee Friday night.