SYRACUSE — Despite all of the Warriors’ preparation over the summer, there were times when they still looked a little lost in their opener at Lakeland last Friday night. Which makes them about like any other team in the state — that is to say, the game feels a lot different playing under the Friday night lights than it does during any summer games or scrimmages.
Wawasee’s 28-7 loss to the Lakers might have been a missed opportunity, but if his team can learn from it going forward, head coach Mike Eshbach might be OK with it.
“We dropped some passes, some that were really, really important. There were a couple missed protections on some pass plays, just mistakes that I thought going through the summer, going through the scrimmage, that those were kind of behind us,” explained the second-year head coach. “You score seven points, and you think, wow, that’s a disappointing night. The reality is we had opportunities where we left at least a couple touchdowns on the field. For us to be where we want to be, we really have to maximize every possession that we have.
“I hope our kids learn from that, and if they do, moving forward in the season that could’ve been maybe the best learning opportunity all year. But on the flip side of that we felt like we let one slip away there that we should’ve just played better. We’ve got to get momentum, we’ve got to make sure that we are competing every week, and that’s kind of the focus going forward this week.”
The Warriors are hoping to bounce back in their home-opener this Friday, when West Noble — a 14-12 winner of Central Noble last week — comes to town. A turnaround in Week 2 will require Wawasee to finish drives and to be more physical up front on the offensive line as well as throughout its defense. Much of it boils down to consistency from snap to snap.
“For us, it is just consistency all the way across the board,” Eshbach said. “Just being gap sound on defense, knowing where we’re at on the field and aligning correctly with our secondary, coming downhill with our linebackers, those types of things. On offense, it’s the same thing. We have to be consistent with our receivers, we’ve got to line up the right way, O line has to be physical, more consistent, and running backs have got to hit the right holes. All of those things that you’re going to see from Week 1 to Week 2 that everybody is talking about, are going to be really, really important for us. And we have to just minimize mental errors. I think that’s the key for us.”
The Warriors’ run defense looked particularly porous last week, as they gave up 370 rushing yards to the Lakers, and a pair of rushing threats this week in junior Brandon Pruitt and Josh Gross — a two-way threat who finished with 115 receiving yards last week for West Noble — as well as a veteran Chargers offensive line could be causes for concern. The good news, however, is that Wawasee likely won’t encounter as potent a run game as it did last week against Lakeland the rest of the year.
“We won’t face another offense like that the rest of the year. I certainly wish our linebackers and our D line would’ve been a little bit more physical, but the reality is, they outweigh us on the offensive line about 35 pounds per person,” explained Eshbach.
“Yeah, we’d like for our guys to be more physical and things like that, but when you get a guy who weighs 50 pounds more laying on you, we’ve just got to do a little better job of shedding a block and getting off of that and getting extension. But, like I said, I think they may be the biggest team we see all year. I don’t know, but they were big.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
WARSAW VS EAST NOBLE
Like Wawasee, the Tigers are looking to defend their home turf as they host East Noble Friday. The Knights are coming off a convincing 16-6 win over Plymouth last Friday, while Warsaw is coming off its own win after surviving a 10-8 affair at Columbia City last week.
There are things head coach Bart Curtis felt good about in that win — Harrison Mevis’ kicking game and his players’ general investment into the game and the program. But he wasn’t overly pleased with his team’s ball security (the Tigers surrendered a pair of turnovers in muddy conditions in Week 1) or with their overall offensive execution (they recorded just 187 total offensive yards), and tackling could have been better, too.
There wasn’t one culprit behind the lackluster offensive showing. Part of it boiled down to the ball security, but there were other things that needed correcting in practice this week as well.
“(There were) too many reasons to mention them all, however our mesh paths were off, and quarterback steps need to be perfect,” said Curtis.
Penalties also stymied the Tigers’ offensive rhythm last week. All told, Warsaw was whistled for nine infractions totaling 90 lost yards at City. Curtis is prepared to correct those mistakes any way necessary.
“Reinforcing poor performance with negative consequences only goes so far,” he explained. “At some point a personnel change is necessary to move forward. Nothing motivates the brain into action like standing on the sidelines next to your coach.”
Cleaning up some of those mistakes is going to be a key this week, too, since Curtis says this East Noble team is one that punishes mistakes.
“The match-up is a good one,” he said said. “They are a fine program. East Noble doesn’t make many mistakes, and they capitalize off any their opponents make.
“(We need to) play each play like it is your last and execute in all phases to the best of our ability.”
Start time is slated for 7 p.m.
TIPPECANOE VALLEY AT CULVER MILITARY ACADEMY
Tippecanoe Valley took one on the chin in its opener with Bremen last week, a lopsided 34-7 loss. But that final score doesn’t tell the whole story, and second-year head coach Steve Moriarty saw some positives from his squad.
“Last week the score did not indicate how close the game was. We never gave up,” he said. “With seven minutes still to go in the game we had a chance to make a run at winning.”
Things won’t get any easier opposite Culver Military this week. The Eagles are coming off a 28-6 win over Marshall County foe LaVille. They are athletic, they’re disciplined, and the Vikings will need to contain their jet sweep while staying disciplined in the secondary. It’s going to be a big challenge up front on both sides of the ball.
“We need to be able to work together and make sure that communicate up front this week,” said Moriarty. “CMA has a very good line on both sides of the ball. We have tried to work in practice this week to establish a new line of scrimmage.”
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
NORTHWOOD AT FAIRFIELD
The Panthers are coming off a pretty dominant, 26-0, win at Jimtown last week and looking to keep rolling on the road at Fairfield in Week 2. The Falcons are coming off a lopsided, 49-0 loss at Goshen, meanwhile, and they’ll be looking to right the ship in their home-opener this week.
NorthWood established its run game early and finished with 254 rushing yards while holding Jimtown to just 145 on the ground. The defense got in on the scoring, too, with a pair of touchdowns off a Ben Mestach fumble recovery and Hayden Snider’s record-breaking 102-yard interception return.
“Overall it was a nice start to the season,” said coach Nate Andrews. “Any time you can come away against a quality opponent on the road it is a good feeling. The offense scored early, and when Jimtown slowed us down, the defense stepped up with some big plays.”
Even better for the Panthers, they established their ground game with multiple backs, as quarterback Bronson Yoder surpassed the century mark, Jaden Miller finished with 77 rushing yards, and Nate Newcomer added 57. That doesn’t appear to bode well for Fairfield, which surrendered 343 rushing yards to the RedHawks last Friday.
Keys to going 2-0 this week are many for NorthWood.
“This week we need to do a much better job of holding onto the football, finishing drives, eliminating big plays, communication overall and effort in the kicking game,” Andrews said.
Start time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
TRITON VS LAVILLE
The last time the Trojans and the Lancers squared off, LaVille came away with a 10-7 Sectional 41 championship victory in a game that many expected Triton to win and thus break a nine-year championship drought. Needless to say, Friday’s game is a big one for Triton.
“That team up north is a great team. They are a great program with a lot of players that I like because of their character on and off the field. It is a game that we want to perform well in. It’s not like I have kept track of the 293 days since we last played them or anything like that,” said Trojans boss Ron Brown.
While other teams continue their non-conference starts, Triton opens Hoosier North Athletic Conference play opposite LaVille Friday. Teams are often still ironing out wrinkles in Week 2 and not always prepared to put their best foot forward, but Brown isn’t concerned with any of that. The Trojans are ready to play whoever is in front of them.
“I feel the HNAC is a great small school conference, and if you are not ready for each week you will get hammered. It really does not matter to me if we are playing conference or non-conference, we are just focused on one week at a time,” he said.
Triton has plenty of reasons to be feeling confident heading into the rematch with their conference and sectional rivals this week.
The Trojans showcased good balance between the run and the pass in last week’s 30-17 win over South Central, with quarterback Bo Snyder passing for 117 yards, and Triton gaining another 186 on the ground led by Snyder’s 67 and Delano Shumpert’s 56 yards. And all that means the O line did its job.
“I am pleased with the way the offense moved the ball for most of the game. However, there is always room for growth and normally the large amount of growth comes between Week 1 and Week 2,” said Brown. “We had a lot of people contribute to the offense’s success last week, and I also think our line did a great job of keeping Bo’s nice, new, white jersey clean. I hope we can continue to do that because my wife hates getting those grass stain out.”
The Trojans and the Lancers go to work at 7 p.m.