SYRACUSE — Sometimes four quarters is just not enough. That was the case Friday night as Wawasee welcomed in Northridge for the first Northern Lakes Conference of the season for both schools. After a very low-scoring 48 minutes of regulation football, the two teams heated up their offenses in overtime. The Raiders blinked first as the Warriors escaped with a 21-20 victory in double overtime.
To really explain where all the action started, you would have to start at the end.
With 15 seconds left the Warriors held possession inside Northridge’s 15-yard line and just needed a field goal to come out victorious in what was a 7-7 ballgame. But it could not be that easy, it’s never that easy.
With no timeouts left, Wawasee ran a quarterback draw play to the right side and was unable to stop the clock before time expired. A sure-fire opportunity was lost and there was plenty of confusion on the field and in the stands as to what Wawasee was doing. The sequence led to an impressive visor toss from Wawasee head coach Josh Ekovich.
“I tried my best to lose the game right there,” joked Ekovich. “If I had to do it all over again, I would’ve kicked it or at least ran a different play. The biggest thing was that our kicker had not been great in practice from the left hash, so I wanted to get the ball to the middle of the field. I felt we had enough time but it took forever to get the ball set and it just didn’t work.”
So, overtime was the next step.
After exchanging scores in the first overtime, Wawasee took its first lead of the game on a one-yard sneak from Smith, who had just thrown a score to Jacob Hand a few players earlier. Once the Warriors were up 20-14, things became a little strange.
Immediately following the score, medical personnel were called to the field as a Northridge player was down and suffering from a seizure. Meanwhile, a Wawasee student had knocked himself unconscious after falling in the stands, requiring more medical attention in that part of the stadium.
A rowdy crowd had suddenly grown quiet during the game’s biggest tipping point. Both the student and player, Northridge’s Nick Burden, would be taken out in ambulances. Burden did walk off the field under his own power to a loud applause from both fan bases. Wawasee’s Ryan Edington kicked the extra point and the Warriors led 21-14.
The emotion spilled over to the next play as Mason Troyer scored on the first play of Northridge’s possession. A Wawasee player shouted as both special teams unit came on to the field, “If we block this, it’s over.” The Warriors did not block the kick, but a strong rush from the right side forced Northridge’s kicker, Camm Nickell, to swing his leg a little more to the left. The result was a dud of a kick that sailed wide left.
Northridge scored the game’s first points on a three-yard run from Tug Modglin. Wawasee answered the call after taking advantage of a muffed punt as Smith scored on an impressive 30-yard run. Wawasee’s run game looked rough at times but the pass offense came through when needed and the defense was clutch again.
“We took a step back in our running, Northridge did a good job of taking that away tonight,” Ekovich stated. “We didn’t block well and we had too many broken plays. We knew our defense was going to be our strong suit coming into the year, I said it all offseason. They did their job tonight. Sometimes you have to find ways to win and that’s what we did as a team tonight.”
Ekovich also offered some positive thoughts on Smith for his leadership and athletic prowess that kept the Warriors in the game as well as a tip of the cap to Edington for coming through on his attempts all night.
Northridge totaled 301 yards of offense to Wawasee’s 300. Smith had 219 rushing yards and accounted for all three scores. Mason Troyer led the Raiders in rushing with 131 yards and a score while Nick Hooley threw for 79 yards and one score. Wawasee’s defense forced three fumbles in the game.