SYRACUSE – It was a setup that had all the makings of a romantic past. Echoing the words of Bill Dixon and Kaz Szynal, noting the nip in the air and ‘a little frost on the pumpkin’ as week nine has belonged to Wawasee and Goshen in what always seemed to be a crisp, brisk night. The sight of filthy, mud-covered sets of trench diggers either in red or in green, hauling around a 250-plus pound wooden Indian to a rabid pack of wolves. Football between the tackles, just like Wawasee and Goshen wanted it.
But this isn’t granddaddy’s ‘Indian Game’. Friday night’s matchup between the RedHawks and the Warriors was spread offenses, big plays and a little bravado. The cliche of “whoever has the ball last, wins” was just as Goshen laid claim to a 41-34 win over Wawasee.
The two teams put up some whopping numbers, combining for 1,037 yards of offense on 132 plays. In a chess match-like observation, Goshen answered a Wawasee touchdown on three occasions with a score of its own within a minute, the biggest return being a 66-yard touchdown pass from CJ Detweiler to Deven Love with 7:31 to go in the game, which gave Goshen the lead at 41-34.
Love would haul in eight catches for 149 yards, his first catch of the night setting up Goshen’s first touchdown. Rummel Johnson added eight catches for 121 yards and a score, part of a 342-yard passing night for Detweiler, who tossed three touchdowns in all.
Wawasee would jump out to a 20-7 lead early on, only to watch the lead slip away before half. Noah Wadkins got the first score from five yards out, then Paul Mendoza capped a long drive with an eight-yard touchdown catch. Mendoza made a very tough run down to the Goshen one, and got his number called again to finish the job for his second score the contest.
Goshen would respond very quickly, needing just 1:28 to score on a Dylan Back 35-yard run. Less than three minutes later, Jeff Stoll ripped off a 55-yard touchdown run to put Goshen up one at 21-20.
Cole VanLue gave Wawasee the lead back with his only catch of the night, a 45-yard pitch and catch from Tyler Smith, but again, Goshen countered with a quick drive ending with a 16-yard strike from Detweiler to Austin Bontrager.
Smith tied the game at 34 with a 23-yard run, but Goshen needed just 21 seconds to take the lead back on the Love catch.
“This has to be fun to watch from a fan’s standpoint,” said Goshen head coach Kyle Park, whose team is 7-2 overall and tied Concord for second in the NLC standings, Goshen’s highest finish since winning the NLC in 2002. “A lot of offense. But our kids, they just kept playing. This is really the first time this really felt like a team win. We didn’t just have one side dominate, we had both playing well. Both sides had their moments, probably like to go back and fix some things. Just proud of the guys.”
Smith led Wawasee with 322 yards of total offense, 135 through the air and 187 on the ground. Wadkins finished with 103 yards rushing while Mendoza had 25 on the ground and 57 through the air.
Wawasee head coach Josh Ekovich, whose team is just a couple plays away from being 8-1, didn’t have much to say to sum up the game.
“Goshen made plays when they needed to,” Ekovich said, with the loss putting his team at 4-5 overall. “Hats off to Goshen. They have a heckuva team with gazelles on the outside that can run for days, tough inside run game. Their quarterback can throw the ball well. They just made more plays than we did. And that’s what it really came down to.”
With the regular season over, sectional preparations begin. Goshen will have a week off in the Class 5-A tourney before meeting Fort Wayne North (1-8) while Concord (6-3) will take on Fort Wayne Snider (9-0) on the other side of the bracket. Wawasee will head to Northridge (2-7) for a Class 4-A matchup next Friday. The winner will visit either Columbia City (3-6) or NorthWood (9-0) in the sectional semis.