By Nick Goralczyk
WARSAW – Sometimes in sports a loss is just a loss. There is not always an obvious turning point or questionable call to be discussed. Not every game grabs the headlines and hooks the reader in with a gripping opening line. Sometimes it just is what it is. Friday night’s 41-21 loss at the hands of Michigan City was just that for the Warsaw football team, a loss.
The game showed exactly what the Tigers are capable of on both sides of the ball this season. Warsaw (1-1) showed flashes on offense with long, physical drives and a few big plays along the way while on defense it had several big stops and big hits to boot. But Fisher Field was also littered with those early season mistakes that can be crucial in a competitive game. Fumbles on offense and missed tackles on defense would prove to be the main ingredients in letting the visiting Wolves pull away for victory.
Michigan City (2-0) broke a scoreless tie in the first quarter with a 56-yard touchdown pass from Giovani Laurent to Esau Haynes. The Wolves extended their lead to 14-0 in the second quarter with 66-yard touchdown scamper by Omarian Hatch. Falling behind two scores was enough for the Tigers as they responded on the following drive with a touchdown from Colton Wampler. Warsaw then recovered the ensuing kickoff and found the end zone a few plays later as Aaron Greene connected with Patrick Zollinger for an electrifying score down the home sideline to tie things up 14-14.
The quick comeback swung momentum back towards the Orange and Black and was proof of just how much effort and energy the Tigers had for Friday night’s game. That was the takeaway that head coach Bart Curtis wanted to shed light on.
“Here’s the deal, a week ago we won 42-35 and I feel a whole lot worse about last Friday night than I do about tonight. Much worse,” explained Curtis. “It’s about effort, consistency and playing the way we need to play. We did a little bit of that tonight. We looked like we were interested. Last week we did not. I didn’t want them to worry about the scoreboard, I wanted them to play every play like it was their last play.”
The Tigers answered their coach’s call, but sometimes that is just not enough. Michigan City’s big play ability went on display once more in the first half as Kaydarious Jones sprinted away from Warsaw’s defense for a 64-yard score to put the Wolves up 21-14. The visiting team led 28-14 at the break thanks to another Laurent to Haynes passing score in the final minute of the second quarter.
The ball control and tackling issues became backbreakers for the Tigers after the break. Warsaw’s first four drives of the second half went: fumble, fumble, touchdown, fumble. The score, Warsaw’s only of the second half, came from Julius Jones who put his speed on display for a 77-yard score to cut Michigan City’s lead to 28-21.
But the fumbles kept Warsaw from keeping up with the Wolves on the scoreboard and few missed tackles here and there allowed Michigan City to extended drives. Hatch found pay dirt again in the fourth quarter and would finish the night leading the visitors with 83 yards on the ground.
Laurent threw his fourth touchdown of the night to Treylen Simmons to cap the scoring on the night. Laurent finished with 202 yard through the air while Haynes led the team with 73 receiving yards.
Warsaw was led offensively by Jones who tallied 129 yards on the ground while Greene rushed for 99 and threw for 34 yards in his one completion to Zollinger.
The fundamentals lacked at a few key moments Friday night for Warsaw and that made all the difference, much to the dismay of Curtis.
“We never leave the basics so that way we don’t have to go back to them,” Curtis said earnestly. “But, obviously what we’re doing is not being instilled in the kids with ball security. The ball was all over the place.”
Despite that, Curtis is not going to let himself or his team derail its season in week two.
“We’re going to be a pretty good team by the end of the season. I believe that,” said the coach. “I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t believe it. It’s going to be hard, but right now we’re just not playing as one. We’re a bunch of pieces that are still coming together. But tonight we looked like we took a step in the right direction.”
The road only gets more difficult for Warsaw as it opens up conference play next Friday at Plymouth. The Rockies are still winless on the season at 0-2, losing respective road contests to East Noble and Kokomo, but have won six straight games in its rivalry with Warsaw, the longest standing rivalry in Indiana prep football. The Tigers last win against came at Fisher Field in 2013, a 20-19 decision.