By Mike Deak
LIGONIER – It was about as disastrous a first half as Wawasee could have imagined. Yet, somehow, it was playing for the win late in the fourth quarter Friday night at West Noble.
All told, West Noble made the plays it needed to down the stretch to fend off Wawasee, 19-7, in non-conference football action.
On Wawasee’s six possessions of the first half, it turned the ball over five times and snapped the ball through the end zone on another. Yet, it trailed just 12-0 at the intermission as West Noble couldn’t capitalize on all the golden eggs.
“Probably the team the most happy at halftime is (Wawasee) because they are only down 12,” said West Noble head coach Monte Mawhorter. “When you get a chance at the end of the game to put it away like that, that becomes a moment that you are able to build off of for the rest of the year. We don’t get that if we score two more times in the first half.”
The Chargers would recover a fumble on the first play of the game and settle for a Julio Macias chip shot field goal. Adam Nelson would intercept Wawasee’s next pass, but Macias would miss his next try to keep the lead at three.
Wawasee would snap the ball through the end zone on its first punt attempt for a Charger deuce, then Zach Beers would rumble in from three yards out to move the lead to 12-0.
A turnover on downs and another lost fumble by the Warriors would give West Noble good field position on both changeovers, but Macias would miss another field goal attempt and have another field goal snap fly through the holder’s hands. Macias’ 60-yard field goal try at the half was also blocked as Wawasee found itself still lurking despite the mistake-laden 24 minutes.
The Warriors’ fortunes would turn, however, opening the second half as Nate Larson came up with an interception on a bobbled screen pass, to which Lucas Ringler would find a wide open Collin Roberson down the seam for a 19-yard scoring pass.
West Noble would fumble on its next possession, and all of a sudden, Wawasee was in business. But as the first half was all about turnovers, the second half would find penalties costly in key situations. After Brandon Kelly converted on fourth and four to keep Wawasee moving, a pair of penalties backed up Wawasee out of field goal range forcing a punt.
Wawasee later forced West Noble to punt to open the fourth, but a personal foul penalty on a dead ball backed Wawasee up inside its own 20, and later driving with the score still sitting at 12-7, a procedure penalty on fourth and four forced the Warriors to throw and not connect, turning the ball over on downs with six minutes left.
West Noble would then work over four minutes off the clock before landing the knockout blow, with Drew Yates gaining five yards on fourth and four inside the Wawasee 20, then Peter Bradley pounding in the ball from three yards out with 1:36 to go to close out the scoring.
“This is a moment they will have the rest of their lives, that last drive,” Mawhorter said. “Just the feeling of being able to drive that in. If you would have listened to that last timeout they had, these offensive linemen talking about we gotta put this in the end zone. We are going to put this into the end zone. It’s one of those things that they were able to shove that through, now you gain a lot of confidence.”
West Noble would pile up 195 yards on 50 carries to just 81 yards from the Warriors. The Chargers (1-1), on another sticky and humid night, held the ball for almost twice as long (31:54-16:06) as the Warriors. West Noble also made 17 first downs in the game to just nine for Wawasee.
Beers led the Chargers with 63 yards on the ground while Cam Zimmerman toted the rock 11 times for 41 yards to pace the Warriors (0-2). Kelly added 26 yards on the ground for the Wawasee cause.