By Mike Deak
MISHAWAKA – Apparently quarterback play is pretty important in the game of football.
Mishawaka, getting back their superstar signal caller Justin Fisher from a knee injury, looked like a state contender with its senior back under center. NorthWood, playing for the second week in a row without the services of Kaden Lone, had trouble getting its offense in sync as the Caveman ran away with a 40-20 victory.
“It’s been a long month, man,” said Mishawaka head coach Keith Kinder. “I love the Counting Crows, the song ‘Long December’, but it’s been a long September. Justin obviously gets the attention for being gone, but we’ve gone through a lot of stuff.”
Fisher, regarded in the preseason as one of the top quarterbacks in the state, returned Friday from the injury that sidelined him for a good part of September. Mishawaka’s two losses came without Fisher on the field, but with him against the Panthers, the Cavemen were very effective in moving the ball.
Fisher conducted a 17-play, 98-yard drive for the first score of the game, to which he finished the drive with a two-yard run and converted the two-point try. His first pass of the game went for 45 yards, setting up another touchdown run for the burly quarterback, and the Cavemen, which also had a 40-yard touchdown scamper from Chase Gooden in between, were up a stunning 22-0 at the half.
“He’s a horse. We were hoping he would be rusty,” said NorthWood head coach Nate Andrews of Fisher. “You play for Mishawaka, you prepare for Mishawaka. They are who they are no matter who is under center. He is just extra special.”
Fisher would add another touchdown run in the second half, finishing his return with 151 yards rushing on 21 carries and another 61 yards in the air.
Gooden would add a second touchdown run and stacked up 162 yards on 19 carries.
NorthWood’s quarterback situation was much different, as its starter, Kaden Lone, is still out with a leg injury suffered last week against Northridge. Replacing Lone is Owen Roeder, who torched Northridge for three touchdowns in a blowout win in Middlebury, had NorthWood moving in the first quarter, but the opening drive stalled.
A NorthWood fumble on its second possession set up the long Gooden run, and three Roeder interceptions didn’t help matters for the visitors.
“I thought he grew up a ton tonight,” Andrews said of Roeder. “Last week was a little bit easier of circumstances to get into. There were some things he did really well. The snap was hardly ever clean, so that was tough on him. Playing in these conditions are playoff like. It was a good experience for him. Thought he grew up in a lot of ways and he didn’t play well all the time, but played well at times. It’s part of the process.”
Ethan Evers had a rushing score, and Roeder did find both NiTareon Tuggle and Keegin Stats for touchdown passes, Tuggle’s nicely dropped behind the Caveman coverage for a 76-yard score.
Roeder’s numbers settled at 23-30 for 289 yards and two scores and three interceptions.
Mishawaka (5-2) and NorthWood (4-3) both sit at 3-2 along with Northridge in the Northern Lakes Conference. Warsaw and Concord are both 5-0 with two weeks to go, the Panthers visiting Fisher Field and Warsaw next Friday. Mishawaka travels to Wawasee.