By Nick Goralczyk
WARSAW – It was a rivalry renewed but it was not much of a game.
Plymouth made the trip down U.S. Route 30 Friday night to reignite the hate with conference foe Warsaw. The Tigers made quick work of the Rockies on their way to a 43-14 victory at Fisher Field.
After recovering Plymouth’s onside kick on the opening kickoff, Warsaw needed just two plays for its first score as Julius Jones found paydirt with a 46-yard run 45 seconds into the first quarter. It was early but the Tigers were clearly ready to pounce and that’s exactly what they did on defense.
Warsaw held strong and forced a Plymouth punt, the ensuing snap went over the head of punter (and starting quarterback) Lennon Creighbaum and out of the back of the end zone. Not even half way through the opening frame and it was already 9-0 in favor of the orange and black. The snowball only continued to roll against the Rockies from that point forward.
German Flores-Ortega made it 16-0 after a three-yard run following the free kick. The ensuing kickoff return was fumbled by Plymouth and recovered by the Tigers. That set up a 23-yard touchdown run from Tucker Curtis. It was two Tiger touchdowns in a span of 25 seconds. The rout was on at 23-0 and, somehow, just kept getting worse for the visiting Rockies.
It was the special teams coming through again as another snap went over Creighbaum’s head on a punt attempt. But this time the ball was batted into the end zone after Creighbaum and Warsaw’ s Jonny Burritt scrambled and failed to scoop up the loose ball. Kyle Schnackenberg recovered in the end zone to make it 29-0. The entire first quarter was played on Plymouth’s side of the field.
Bryson Brown added an 18-yard scoring run to make it 36-0 in the second quarter, which would hold going into the half.
Throughout the game it was clear that Warsaw was the bigger, better, stronger and deeper team. But there were stretches where the Tigers looked far from crisp. While that can be understood playing an inferior opponent like Warsaw had to do Friday evening, Tiger head coach Bart Curtis was hoping to see some more consistent play across the board. But, he’s not one to scoff at a well-earned victory either.
“It beats the alternative,” stated Curtis. “We were sloppy at times in the first half when our varsity was in there. I thought there were some good things. (Plymouth) was out there fighting, we’re out there fighting. It got out of hand early but we took care of business and did what we needed to do.”
Plymouth finally got on the board with a 44-yard fumble return by in the third quarter by Devante Garcia. Warsaw, making sure its rival did not get to much momentum, promptly blocked the extra point attempt to keep the score 36-6.
Jayce Sawyer was the final Tiger to find the end zone on the night, punching it in from the one-yard line. Plymouth added a score and two-point conversion late in the fourth on Warsaw’s second string defense.
The Tigers finished with 257 rushing yards, led by Flores-Ortega’s 81-yard effort. Flores-Ortega also had the team’s only reception, a 12-yard pass from Curtis, who added 38 yards rushing. Leyton Isbell tallied 59 yards on the ground for the Tigers, getting most of his work in the second half.
Plymouth was led offensively by Creighbaum’s 32 passing yards and 68 rushing yards from Kwintin Heiny.
The Tigers (2-1, 1-0 NLC) next travel to historic Steele Stadium for the first time since the 1984 season in what will be a huge Northern Lakes Conference battle with Mishawaka. The Cavemen and Tigers were co-champions last season with Warsaw winning the head-to-head contest 40-32 at Fisher Field. It will also be a homecoming of sorts for Curtis, who had a legendary run with the Cavemen before taking the Warsaw job in 2018.
“Execution,” Curtis said when asked about what would be the key to victory against Mishawaka next week. “Making sure we’re doing things the right way, playing at our highest level every snap. We’re not doing that very well right now. If we don’t get better, it won’t be good.
“I have all the faith in the world in these kids that they’ll come back ready to work next week.”
Mishawaka is 1-0 in NLC play following Friday’s 36-7 win over Goshen. The Cavemen are currently 3-0 overall for the first time since 2010 when they went 12-1 on their way to both a conference and sectional title under Curtis. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. in the Princess City.