By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – There were no frills, no real surprises. Just a hard-nosed, feisty rivalry game under the guise of ‘throw out the records’ as Wawasee and Warsaw squared off for the 52nd time Friday night at Warrior Field. Warsaw would wear down Wawasee to retain the ‘W’ trophy for the sixth straight year in a 42-17 victory.
“We always tell the kids, if we worry about Warsaw, then Warsaw can do what it needs to do,” said Warsaw head coach Bart Curtis. “I thought, really, we played better defense in the second half. But this took a lot of effort on our part, and a credit to our kids for settling in, in a rivalry game with a lot of emotion, and getting the job done.”
The game itself was just a two-possession scenario in the second half, and even more so, a 10-7 Wawasee lead in the second quarter. But in much of the blueprint that has been the Warsaw 2020 football season, competitive first halves have evolved into runaways in the second half.
Clinging to just a 14-10 lead opening the third quarter, a big turnover on a botched fake Wawasee punt put the Tigers in prime position. The opportunity was not wasted as Warsaw just ground and pounded the 26 yards, ending with a one-yard Juan Jaramillo score and a 21-10 lead. Mason Martz later scored on a 21-yard sprint to cap another Warsaw possession, and what was upset alert at the half was suddenly a 28-10 advantage.
“Once we tried that fake punt, something we worked on all week, that went down the tube and with a short field, they punch it in, now we are in trouble,” said Wawasee head coach Jon Reutebuch. “They get a short field again and punch it in, and now it’s snowballing. That’s something we have to really work on, because we tend to let it snowball. To be honest, it was still a ballgame even with those two scores.”
Julius Jones added a 21-yard score and German Flores-Ortega zipped for a 53-yarder to make it academic for the Tigers, which rushed for a whopping 452 yards on the night.
Jaramillo, who scored Warsaw’s first touchdown of the night, had 25 rushes for 126 yards. Greene accounted for 84 yards on the ground, Flores-Ortega 81, Jones 73 and Martz 66.
After Jaramillo’s first score, Wawasee answered. A pass interference penalty moved the ball to the Warsaw 16, and a fantastic pitch and catch from Parker Young to Adam Beer falling out of bounds in the corner of the end zone tied the score. A Greene fumble early in the second quarter gave Wawasee great field position, to which Caleb Clevenger converted on a 29-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead at the 8:09 mark of the second quarter.
Young would complete 14-28 passes for 128 yards and the two scores. Wawasee, however would continue to struggle running the ball, toting the ball 21 times for just five total yards.
In the old backyard rivalry, the night was filled with emotion, which carried over to penalties. There were a half dozen personal fouls in the game, and the two teams combined for 15 flags and 135 yards of stick moving, which didn’t include a pair of offsetting offenses. Neither coach was thrilled with the discipline issues which hurt both teams in key situations.
“It’s going to happen in a rivalry game, a lot of passion out there,” said Reutebuch, whose club slips to 2-5 overall and 0-5 in the NLC. “Things can get heated, we know that. The ones I saw, that I’m aware of, weren’t kids on our side trying to be cheap. It was kids defending their quarterback who was getting twisted and turned. Larson getting body slammed. Targeting with the helmet. Our kids got caught reacting and that’s where our personal fouls came from. That’s not unusual in a rivalry game, though.”
Added Curtis, “We have to control our emotions. We want to fly to the ball, but here’s the deal, if we have a late hit, it’s because you weren’t fast enough in the first place. We’ve got to do a better job all around. It wasn’t just defense or offense. It was everybody, and it was sloppy.”
Warsaw maintains its lead in the Northern Lakes Conference, sitting at 5-0 in the standings and 6-1 overall. Wins by Northridge and Mishawaka, to which Warsaw has beaten both already, kept the Tigers up one game each on the Raiders and Cavemen with two weeks left in the regular season.