WARSAW – It wouldn’t have been too far outside the box to feel like Warsaw had a chip on its shoulder coming into Friday night’s contest with Elkhart Memorial.
It certainly played like a team looking to make a statement.
Warsaw made the plays at just the right times to survive a hotly contested 14-7 Northern Lakes Conference slugfest at Fisher Field.
The buzz about “was it good or no good” of last Friday was still on the lips of nearly everyone not wearing a helmet. Referring to the field goal in overtime that Plymouth was said to have made to hand Warsaw its first loss of the season, that certainly looked to be a rallying cry for the Tiger defense.
Memorial, coming in having scored 49 points in a whoopin’ of Goshen last week, had trouble moving the ball for much of the night. Warsaw stuffed the Chargers on fourth down on its first possession, then Luke Adamiec picked off a pass inside the Charger red zone on its next possession.
To its credit, Elkhart was doing a similar job on Warsaw’s offense. The Tigers were stopped on three straight fourth down tries, but made hay just before the half. With less than a minute remaining, Josh West hit Blake Marsh with a pass to the Memorial 25. After a five-yard rush, Warsaw went with a gadget play that caught Memorial out of position, long enough for West to find Adamiec wide open for a 20-yard touchdown pass.
At that point, it felt like 7-0 might be enough.
“We lucked out right before halftime, we threw a trick play in there and hit Adamiec on a play action pass,” said Warsaw head coach Bart Curtis. “We caught the corner blitzing, which helped us.”
Marsh would break off the biggest run of the night, finding a gap big enough to run 67 yards for a touchdown, giving Warsaw a 14-0 lead with 8:50 to go.
The defensive tone Warsaw had set in the first half kept Memorial off the scoreboard for 40 minutes. But with an offense that scored 76 points against Goshen and Concord, the Chargers finally broke through.
Following the Marsh scoring play, Memorial sped right down the field, and used a face mask penalty by Warsaw to set up inside the 20. Quarterback Tyler Lehner then went to his big outside target, 6’3″ Javon Forester, for a nice seven-yard touchdown pass.
After each team traded turnovers, Warsaw looked to have iced the game after holding Memorial on downs. But a fumble by Warsaw with 1:18 to go was recovered by Juanyea Hudson, and Memorial needed just 65 yards to tie it.
A long completion to Forester got Memorial to the Warsaw 35, and after Memorial inched within range, Lehner was intercepted by Adamiec in the end zone as time ran out.
“When you win one like that, it gives you a little something,” Curtis said. “We’ve had four weeks in a row where the game was not over until the last minute. Much of that is our part, but a lot of it is the opponents that we are playing are battling in there. It doesn’t matter, the game is never over. We are apparently going to make every game interesting.
“That last fumble there that turned it into defense, that’s my fault. We should have kneed it three times. But, you never know which ball carrier is more secure. We just have to get better.”
Warsaw would eventually total 302 yards rushing on 58 carries, Kane Dawson leading the way for Warsaw with 122 rushing yards. Derrick Woods led Memorial with 92 yards on the ground and Forester had 82 yards on five catches.
Warsaw, which has played to the final possession in all four of its games, sits at 3-1 overall with a game at Northridge next week. Memorial drops to 1-3 and will visit Plymouth.