WARSAW — Even Hall of Fame coaches make the wrong call from time to time.
Warsaw head coach Bart Curtis decided to play offensive coordinator during the second period of his team’s opener with Huntington North Friday night, calling a pass play that wound up becoming a pick six and cut the Tigers’ advantage to eight points. The veteran skipper wisely decided to leave well enough alone after that, though, and Warsaw’s offense piled on three scores in the third period to run away from the visiting Vikings, 52-13, in the two programs’ series-opener at Fisher Field.
“We didn’t make any adjustments other than the head football coach quit sticking his nose in with the offense,” said Curtis of his team’s prolific third quarter. “That made our offense a whole lot better.”
The Tigers’ ground and pound offense chewed up 121 yards en route to that trio of third-quarter scores that put the home team firmly out front. The defense had a lot to do with the decisive period, too.
Fullback Juan Jaramillo broke away for a 64-yard ramble to set his team up at the Huntington North 18, and fellow junior Mason Martz ran it the rest of the way on the next play to stake Warsaw to a 31-13 advantage at the 6:27 stop of the clock. After stopping the Vikings for a loss on two straight runs, the Tiger defense forced a fumble to give the Tigers the ball back at the Huntington North 18 at the 5:19 mark, and senior signal caller Wyatt Amiss capped off a quick, three-play scoring drive with a 5-yard keeper into the end zone with 4:32 remaining in the frame. Two plays and only 28 seconds later, the Warsaw defense tallied another takeaway, and the home team capitalized once again with a 21-yard drive culminating in Colton Wampler’s 5-yard scoring run that ballooned its lead out to 45-13.
Warsaw’s defense — which featured six newcomers across its front seven — pitched a shutout while holding the Viking offense to a scant 69 total yards. The visitors’ only two scores were supplied by senior Deven Newcomb — the first a 99-yard kickoff return that briefly knotted the score at 7-7 just a minute and a half into the game on a rare non-touchback kick from vaunted Warsaw kicker Harrison Mevis and the second a 42-yard interception return on one of just four passing attempts by Amiss at the game with 4:27 remaining in the first half.
“Our defense really flew to the ball,” said Curtis. “Our defense had a shutout and our JV. Kickoff coverage was obviously pathetic, and my contribution to the offense took place when they intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown.”
All told, Warsaw’s offense piled up 385 rushing yards on 41 carries.
Jaramillo personally put up 239 rushing yards on just 22 carries, his longest a 71-yard TD run that opened the scoring at the 10:43 stop of the first period. Amiss rushed for 94 yards and went 1-of-4 passing for 15 yards in his debut at the quarterback position after moving over from wide receiver this season.
“They’ve been doing this stuff all summer, and they’re starting to mesh a little bit,” said Curtis of the duo. “We’ve got some weapons, and I don’t feel like we’re really one-dimensional. I feel like we can attack a lot of different ways. We’ve got a lot of different people that can carry the ball. Don’t forget about those boys up front, too, you know.”
Mevis accumulated 180 yards on three kickoffs, punted for another 134 yards on four kicks, converted six successful PATs and booted a 32-yard field goal that gave his team a 24-13 advantage with 7.9 seconds remaining in the first half.
For the Vikings, Newcomb ran for 24 yards in 14 carries, and Aden Dennis finished with 33 yards on seven carries, mostly in the fourth quarter with Warsaw already in control. Quarterback Reid Johnson went 2-for-5 through the air for 8 yards.
Warsaw opens the year at 1-0 and will hit the road for Michigan City next Friday before returning home for its Northern Lakes Conference-opener opposite Plymouth in Week 3.
“Great crowd tonight. We’ve got to keep them coming because they make a difference. A lot of fun having a full house at Fisher Field,” Curtis said.