COLUMBIA CITY – It didn’t take Warsaw football coach Phil Jensen long to find out how his team would respond to adversity this season.
It also didn’t take the Tigers long either to turn a forgettable first-half performance into a memorable final-half effort Friday night.
In fact, in a 13-second span to open the final half the Tigers turned the tables on Columbia City.
D’Andre Street lit the fuse for a third-quarter explosion as Warsaw shook off a slow start to manhandle the Eagles 30-7 in the season opener.
Senior speedster Street returned the opening kickoff of the second half 85 yards for a touchdown in the aforementioned 13 second time frame to tie the game and the Tigers never looked back. Warsaw scored 21 points in a span of 6:14 to open the final half en route to scoring the final 30 points of the contest.
Senior Mason Faas also came up huge as he gave the Tigers the lead for good with a five-yard touchdown run during the scoring spree in the third quarter and followed that up with a blocked punt that he scooped up and rambled 17 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7. Faas touchdown run came after the stout and hard-hitting Warsaw defense forced a fumble to give their offense the ball at the Eagle 26-yard line.
Jensen saw his team overcome a 7-0 halftime deficit. The Tigers had a pair of turnovers in the opening half and also missed two field goals.
“We talked to them at halftime about facing adversity,” said coach Jensen. “They’re kids and they are going to make mistakes. We told them that if we respond to that first half that it could be the best thing that happened to us. We challenged them to learn from it.
“They showed a lot of grit and determination. Our defense played really, really well the entire night. We got the kickoff return, a blocked punt for a score and a safety. That’s a lot of defensive points right there.”
The Eagles, who lost 27-3 to Warsaw last year and went on to finish 2-8, took a 7-0 lead on a one-yard plunge by quarterback Brock Snouffer with 8:10 to go in the opening half.
From there, after intermission, it was all Warsaw.
The Tigers capped the game with two scores in the fourth quarter. First, a safety as AJ Villarreal tackled Eagle backup quarterback Jacob Bolt in the end zone after a bad snap and then a nifty 17-yard touchdown scamper by quarterback Michael Jensen.
This one was all about special teams, defense and the Warsaw running game. The Tigers struggled to throw the ball in their spread offense, picking up 61 yards through the air on 5-14 passing. The run game though was outstanding with 225 yards on 44 carries. Junior Will McGarvey was the main man with 19 rushes for 144 yards. Senior Rob Sullivan added 36 yards on nine totes.
“The first thing we put on the board this summer was that we have to run the ball better this year and we did tonight,” noted Jensen.
“We just have to make sure that we are mentally tough all the time.”
The Tigers outgained the Eagles by a 286-139 count in total yardage. City rushed for just 47 yards on the night.
Collin Marshall had an interception and John Svinarich a fumble recovery for the Tigers. Jeremy David, the lone Tiger playing both offense and defense, led the “Orange Crush” defense with seven tackles. The trio of Lane McClone, Dylan Hernandex and Joseph Harness, along with Villarreal and Faas were also among the top tacklers.
Warsaw did get a scare on the final play of the opening half. Quarterback Jensen was hit on his throwing shoulder as he attempted a pass. The senior came back and played the majority of the second half though and was okay according to coach Jensen.
Warsaw hosts East Noble for Senior Night next Friday at 7 p.m. The Knights were blasted at home by perennial power Indianapolis Cathedral 48-0 Friday night. Columbia City plays at Whitko next Friday night at 7 p.m.. The Wildcats defeated Cambridge City Lincoln 32-6 Friday night.