By Mike Deak
LAGRANGE – For the entirety of the 2019 football season, Wawasee head coach Jon Reutebuch generalized his rebuild of the program with the moniker of “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
The Romans are beginning to stack the stones, so to speak, in Syracuse.
It was Lagrange, however, where Wawasee did the building Friday night in a 42-0 whitewash of Lakeland in the season opener.
The Warriors were crisp in all three phases.
The offense scored on five of its first six possessions, and even had a punt return for a touchdown by Kam Salazar called back on a penalty. After holding Lakeland to punts on its first two possessions, Wawasee opened the scoring when Parker Young found Salazar for a big gain down the sideline. Young then finished off the drive on fourth and goal with a two-yard plunge.
Young engineered an 80-yard drive on the next series, capping the trip with a seven-yard strike to Jacob Meek. Young and Salazar would again hook up on a 35-yard score, then Young and Meek connected on a fourth down score from 25 yards out.
“Being in his second year as a starter, that also helps him immensely,” said Reutebuch of Young. “Seeing everything, having confidence in what he is looking at. Reading the defense. Reading his keys on when to hand it off and when to keep it. He’s just gotten so much better and confident.”
Young would convert another fourth down for a touchdown, scrambling around enough to locate Adam Beer for a 33-yard touchdown pass in the third, and plowed in from three yards out for his second rushing score of the night.
Young was 12-16 for 207 yards through the air and added 34 yards on the ground. Salazar had 131 yards of total offense and Meek pulled in four balls for 61 yards. Nathan Larson added 15 carries for 75 yards.
A glaring weakness of the offense a season ago, Wawasee’s offensive line was stout against Lakeland. Wawasee ran 33 times for 182 yards. The Warriors were also 3-3 on fourth down tries.
“Offensive line is just so much better than last year as far as depth,” Reutebuch said. “Two guys we lost before the season even started, now they are back in. It provides us with great experience and depth. And all those sophomores that played on the line last year, they are juniors now and playing at a high level.”
Wawasee’s defense also had a big night as a unit. The Warriors blocked a punt that led to Meek’s second touchdown and created five total turnovers.
Lakeland managed just 79 total yards in the game on 38 plays, Deion Marshall accounting for 54 of those running and throwing the ball. Dominic Blair was disruptive all night, recording six tackles – two for loss – and recovered the blocked punt. Lucas Ringler also recovered a fumble and Hayden Dement had an interception.
“Hat’s off to Lakeland, they played hard and with a first-year coach, they are trying to get things going,” added Reutebuch. “They are trying to get organized. Our kids did a good job of playing hard all the way through the game.”
Wawasee (1-0) will host West Noble (0-1) next Friday while Lakeland (0-1) will visit Churubusco (0-1).