By Nick Goralczyk
GOSHEN – Warsaw kicked the doors open in its conference opener against Plymouth, made its statement the next week in taking down Mishawaka and backed up both of those wins by throttling a previously undefeated Northridge team last week. Friday night the Tigers traveled to Foreman Field and continued to fire on all cylinders with a 42-0 manhandling of the RedHawks.
“We want our kids to get better and use any experience to get better,” explained Warsaw head coach Bart Curtis. “A lot of kids got to play tonight. We were efficient on offense. I thought defensively we bent a little bit but then rose up.”
Curtis’ defense was put on its heels to start the game as Goshen’s Quinn Bechtel used two big completions to put the RedHawks deep into Tiger territory on the game’s opening drive, but that was where the highlights stopped for Bechtel and company. Warsaw’s defense, as it has all season, stiffened and forced a turnover on downs. That set up the Tigers first offensive possession of the night and Warsaw’s offensive unity was finely tuned from the first play.
The Tigers opening offensive drive went 78 yards and was capped by an eight-yard scoring run from German Flores-Ortega. It was 7-0 Warsaw and the visitors just kept on rolling from there on out.
Warsaw would rush for 356 yards in the contest, being led by Julius Jones’ 121-yard performance and Flores-Ortega’s 90-yard effort. While Jones was cutting up the Goshen defense like a hot knife though butter, Flores-Ortega was more like a sledgehammer, absolutely annihilating the soft, buttery RedHawk defensive front.
Flores-Ortega barreled over Goshen’s Thomas Castillo at the goal line make it 14-0 Tigers in the second quarter. The junior fullback completed the hat trick before halftime with a seven-yard score to make 21-0 in favor of the visiting squad. The offense was not missing a beat and the defense followed suit with a big stand inside the 10-yard line before half to keep the score 21-0.
Tucker Curtis showed off his arm a little in the second half with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Jones. That was followed up by a touchdown run from the junior signal caller to expand the lead to 35-0. Curtis rushed for 55 yards and was 1-2 through the air, missing on a potential touchdown throw early in the game.
“We’re getting better,” Curtis, the coach, said of Curtis the quarterback. “Our quarterback is finding favorable plays. We’re starting to give Tucker some leeway to get us out of an unfavorable play into a more favorable play. But when we got the home runs, we have to hit them. That’s a couple times this year where we’ve had receivers open and you’ve got to lay it up and let them go get it.”
Warsaw scored every time it had the ball, save for its final possession which ended on kneel downs inside of Goshen’s 10-yard line as the clock ran out. Jayce Sawyer earned the Tigers final score of the night, a 13-yard touchdown run in the final minutes of the third quarter.
The defense carried over the momentum from its first half shutout and finished the job in the final two quarters thanks, in part, to a pair of interceptions from Aiden Binkerd and Morgan Johnson. Friday’s win was the first shutout for Warsaw since a 35-0 win over Goshen in 2018. The Tigers defense has surrendered an average of eight points per game in conference play this season, that stout defensive play will be key as Warsaw enters a difficult stretch of games over the next few weeks.
“It’s the only thing that wins championships,” Curtis explained when asked about defense. “It’s the only thing that gives you a chance to win championships. Yes, you have to move the ball. Yes, you have to score. Yes, you have to be solid in the kicking game. But if you can’t stop people, you can’t get off the field to get the ball to the offense, you have no shot. So, from that aspect, we’re really excited with the mentality that our kids are playing with.
“We’re getting better and we’re going to have to continue to get better.”
The win puts Warsaw at 5-1 overall and tied atop the Northern Lakes Conference with a 4-0 mark along with Concord (5-1, 4-0). The Tigers host Wawasee (1-5, 1-3) for a trophy game next Friday and then welcome in NorthWood (4-2, 3-1) on October 8 before the highly anticipated season finale with Concord at Jake Field in Dunlap.