SYRACUSE – There wasn’t a rain cloud in sight Friday night, but Jon Reutebuch was drenched.
The first-year head coach for Wawasee got a bath in his end zone after his Warriors knocked off Lakeland, 28-14, in week one of the high school football season.
“Feels good!” stated the saturated Reutebuch, who had the Gatorade bucket dumped on him during the team postgame. “It feels good knowing these guys played their hearts out and played together as a team. This is a great team win.”
Wawasee was off and running right from the opening kick. Kam Salazar opened the game with a long return, putting Wawasee on its 41. After a Gabe Moore catch on fourth down kept the drive alive, Jesse Landeros broke off a run to the Lakeland six. From there, Ethan Garza punched in the final six yards up the Laker gut for a stunning 7-0 lead.
That score held through the first quarter, and despite having a Landeros touchdown wiped off the board on a holding penalty, the Warriors continued on. Moore added another catch in the red zone, and Parker Young called his own number and carried the ball to the Laker one. Young then finished off the drive with a touchdown plunge, and despite a missed extra point, optimism at Warrior Field was as high as its been in years.
“We’ve talked about a ‘Warrior Grit’ mentality,” Reutebuch said. “When you’re stacked against it, you have to find a way. We’ve had a lot of injuries, specifically defensive injuries. Guys stepped up tonight and did what they had to do. This certainly wasn’t clean, we had a lot of penalties and left some points on the field tonight. But, they say, the biggest improvement is between the first and second game, and we have to improve.”
Lakeland would take advantage of some poor Wawasee execution just before the half. After Moore had a wide open touchdown catch called back for a holding penalty, Lakeland forced a punt. A roughing the passer penalty on Wawasee kept Lakeland on the move as the half was winding down, allowing Camryn Holbrook would rattle off runs of 45 and eight to get Lakeland on the board. A Holbrook two-pointer had the Lakers all of a sudden down just five at the break.
A stuff on fourth down allowed Wawasee to take over near midfield in the third quarter, and Garza made it stand up with a 22-yard touchdown run. Young would punch in the two-pointer to put Wawasee up 21-8.
After Holbrook scored on a run with 9:26 left in the fourth, Young showed a maturing command of the offense with a long drive, capped by his own 12-yard touchdown run.
“Parker had a few butterflies early and then settled in and really showed his leadership down the stretch,” Reutebuch said of Young, starting his first-ever varsity game at quarterback. “He picked up some big first downs, ran down the clock late in the game. That’s why he is one of our captains. I can’t say enough about him. He’s a great kid and puts in the work. You love to see him get rewarded for that work by helping us win the football game.”
Wawasee, which struggled to move the ball for a good part of last season, amassed 319 yards against the Lakers. Young had 106 yards passing and 102 yards rushing, and Landeros added 49 yards on the ground. The Warriors kept Lakeland’s rushing offense largely in check, bending to allow just 234 yards on the ground and nothing through the air. Wawasee stopped Lakeland on fourth down three separate times in the second half.
Wawasee (1-0) is 8-2 in its last 10 season openers, and will look to start 2-0 for the first time since 2016 when it visits West Noble. Lakeland (0-1) hosts Churubusco next week.
One note for Wawasee from earlier in the day, its freshman game with Lakeland for next Thursday has been changed. Lakeland does not have a freshman team, so New Haven will visit Warrior Field Thursday for a 6 p.m. start.