SYRACUSE – A budding conference rivalry between two undefeated teams. New jerseys for the home team, new helmets for the visitors. Bad blood all around. Yes, the mood was set for a gridiron showdown between Northridge and Wawasee on Friday night, and then the lighting struck, literally. After waiting all week for the big game the two Northern Lakes Conference foes would be forced to wait one more day as the game was postponed until Saturday.
The visiting Raiders made their way back to Warrior Field and lighting struck again, but this time only Wawasee would feel the thunder. The Warriors were thrashed for 367 rushing yards as Northridge claimed a statement victory, 55-0.
“There was a fever pitch last night for sure,” stated Northridge head coach Tom Wogomon. “Then the lightning came and we had to go back home. I just told our boys to get some rest, get up, go to breakfast together and meet at the school. When they came in, I could see it in their eyes.
“When you can see that confidence, not cockiness, you know you’re going to play a good football game.”
Wogomon’s team did come in confident and it showed right away. After both teams exchanged punts to start the game, the Raiders broke the 0-0 tie with a 36-yard touchdown rumble by Travis Schlabach. The senior was a wrecking ball for the Raider offense all evening rushing for 151 yards and two scores. Schlabach averaged over 10 yards per carry.
By the end of the first quarter it was 14-0 and the Raiders were dominating the line of scrimmage. By the time the second quarter ended the Raiders had completely opened up the game at 41-0.
As good as the Raider offense was, the defense was even better holding the Warriors to just 61 yards of total offense and forcing four turnovers. Northridge sacked Warrior quarterback Gage Reinhard three times on third down and allowed just two completions all night.
Wawasee manged to force two turnovers of its own with Sam Clark and Stephen Possell both coming up with fumble recoveries, but the domination by the Raiders in the trenches was too much for Wawasee to compete with. The offense never had a sustained drive and the defense was on the field far too much. The Warriors had just four first downs to Northridge’s 19.
The 55-point thrashing is Wawasee’s worst loss since 2008 and one that can certainly throw off a team’s rhythm moving forward, especially in the grueling NLC. How the team will favor the rest of the season is all up to the players, according to Wawasee head coach Josh Ekovich.
“We really need to focus on us right now,” Ekovich began. “It really doesn’t matter what another team does right now, we have to get better as a team and as individuals by focusing on fundamentals. Tackling better, blocking better, that’s what it comes down to.”
The road does not get any easier for Ekovich and Wawasee (2-1, 0-1) as they travel to Dunlap to take on NLC power and IHSAA Class 5A No. 2 Concord (3-0, 2-0). Northridge (3-0, 1-0) will host Plymouth (3-0, 1-0).