WARSAW – Warsaw played on a short field almost all game long Friday night.
That made it one long evening again for Elkhart Memorial.
The host Tigers got great defense and special teams play in blanking the Crimson Chargers 24-0 in Northern Lakes Conference play at Fisher Field.
Warsaw, facing a must-win contest, bounced back in a big way to blank struggling Memorial for the third straight year. The Tigers were coming off a 41-6 pasting at Plymouth last Friday and Saturday (the game was suspended on Friday night due to weather and completed on Saturday afternoon).
This one was all about the play of the “Orange Crush” defense and the kicking of Caleb Klusman and punter Andrew Mevis for the Tigers.
Warsaw forced three turnovers on the evening against Memorial, which has scored just one offensive touchdown now through the first four games.
“Absolutely we needed tonight because it doesn’t get any easier,” said Warsaw coach Phil Jensen, whose team travels to Northridge next Friday night. “We have to just get better.”
Jensen saw his team begin seven drives in Memorial territory on the night.
“Field position and turnovers makes it easier on your offense,” Jensen said. “Our defense did not give up any big plays, they kept them out of the end zone and came up with three turnovers.
“We really have two pretty nice kickers. Klusman is good and Andrew did a real nice job punting the ball for us tonight.”
Warsaw led just 7-0 at halftime after hurting itself with several key, drive-stalling penalties in the opening half. The Tigers got on the scoreboard with 2:31 to play when Jake Mangas connected with Jeremy David for a 32-yard touchdown pass.
“My goodness in that first half we blew opportunities,” said Jensen. “We had costly penalties that were drive kills. But we stuck through the adversity and got a little better in the second half. Jake had some really good moments tonight and he was rattled some.”
Warsaw made it 10-0 early in the third period of play. Klusman, who had just missed on a 47-yard field goal try in the first half, drilled a 37-yarder.
The Tigers put the game away late in the third quarter. Jensen rolled the dice and opted to go for it on a fourth and four play from the Memorial 12 after first sending the field goal unit out and then calling timeout. Mangas hit younger brother Kyle with a perfect toss to make it 17-0.
“Jake made a perfect read on that play and that gave us a three score lead,” noted Jensen.
Warsaw added a final tally early in the final stanza. Jakub Wood bulled in from seven yards out, appropriately enough after he snagged an interception at the Memorial 15 yard line.
“Jakub pounded it inside with the run tonight and I was happy for him to get that touchdown” stated Jensen.
Ethyn Bradley had an interception and Dylan Childers a fumble recovery for the Tigers.
Warsaw, which did not commit a turnover Friday night, had defeated Memorial 28-0 each of the past two seasons.
Warsaw evens its overall mark at 2-2 and goes to 1-1 in NLC play. Memorial drops to 1-3 overall and 1-2 in league action.
The Tigers play at Northridge (3-1, 1-1) and Memorial travels to Plymouth (4-0, 2-0) in NLC action next Friday night.
Plymouth pasted the Raiders 35-19 Friday night in Middlebury.