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SYRACUSE – It may not be the most well-known trophy game in the area but when Goshen and Wawasee met Friday night in the annual Wooden Indian game it certainly felt like a big rivalry was taking place at Warrior Field.
The Redskins entered as underdogs but were selling out to ruin Wawasee’s homecoming festivities and gave the home team all it could handle. In the end Wawasee would hold on for a 17-7 victory to retain the Wooden Indian for a program-best fifth consecutive year.
The Warriors could not have asked for a better start to their homecoming game. Shortly after last year’s king and queen, Samantha DeLaFuente and Adam Doll, arrived via helicopter at midfield, Clayton Cook returned the opening kick from goal line to goal line to give Wawasee an immediate 7-0 lead.
Cook set the return up by making an athletic grab to save the ball from going over his head and into the end zone, then proceeded to sprint by everyone on the field for the score. Cook would strike once more in the opening quarter as he caught a seven-yard scoring pass from Gage Reinhard to put Wawasee up 14-0. The senior receiver had three receptions for 18 yards and ran for another 27 yards while Reinhard completed eight passes for 95 yards and the score.
The game looked as if it was going to get ugly early but the Redskins kept things interesting by controlling the clock with a successful run game. Jeff Stoll ran for 96 yards on 23 carries and quarterback Derek DeMeyer ran for 35 yards to lead the ground game for Goshen. DeMeyer had the lone Redskin score of the evening with a one-yard sneak in the second quarter.
Wawasee led 14-7 at the half after Goshen missed a short field goal late in the second quarter. The rain and wind picked up in the second half, leading to sloppy conditions and slippery play from both teams. Both offenses stuck to the ground game but neither found the end zone in the second half.
Wawasee’s was able to milk more than five minutes off the clock on its final possession of the game which was capped by Lucas Garza’s 25-yard field goal with just 17 seconds remaining in the game. Garza’s kick gave Wawasee a 10-point lead and ultimately the win.
Goshen’s defense struggled early on and Wawasee’s defense gave up the one score but in the second half the defensive effort from both sides was solid, especially by the Warriors. Timely deflections from Kurtis Liston and Sam Clark and great pressure in the backfield by Austin Pearish, Austin Rhodes, Maclain Herr and Stephen Possell, amongst others, helped Wawasee hang on for the win.
“We survived tonight,” said Wawasee head coach Josh Ekovich. “Give credit to Goshen, they played well enough to win but we got some lucky breaks at times and made some big plays, that was huge for us early on.
“Our guys took care of the ball tonight and we were able to move the ball and eat up some clock when we needed it, that’s all a credit to our run game. We just made plays when we needed to and that’s how we came out with a victory.”
Wawasee finishes the season 6-3 overall and 4-3 in Northern Lakes Conference play. Goshen falls to 0-9 and 0-7 in the NLC. The Warriors will host a sectional game next Friday when they welcome in Leo. Coach Ekovich encourages fans to make it out to the game to support the team.