The Tigers, one week after being hammered by heavyweight Homestead, dusted themselves off and decked Plymouth in the Northern Lakes Conference opener for both squads.
Warsaw, dominant on both sides of the football, ripped the Rockies 26-7 to bounce back in a big, big way after a tough 63-7 home loss to the Spartans.
Tristan McClone ran for 246 yards and two touchdowns behind a superb effort from his offensive line and the Warsaw defense manhandled the Rockies.
Warsaw, which improves to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in league play, out gained the hosts 391-127 in total yards and simply took the game right to the Rockies from the opening whistle.
Plymouth, which had won eight of the last nine versus the Tigers including a 29-13 decision in 2011, falls to 1-2 and 0-1.Warsaw coach Phil Jensen was wondering how his team would bounce back after last week’s whipping.
He found out in a hurry Friday night as the Tigers stepped up to the challenge in a dominating display and a complete team effort.
“They answered the call,” said a sweat-drenched, but fired-up Jensen about his team. “We saw some great signs tonight. It all goes back to what they did in the offseason. Their hard work and commitment breeds confidence.
“To do this after getting waxed last week is even better. The important thing is the mentality and the effort we had tonight. This is the first win versus Plymouth since I’ve been back at Warsaw.
“It was a great team effort. Our defense stepped up and played fantastic. Gabe Furnivall had a heck of a second half after I got after him. Our whole group on offense just got after them. The offensive line, our fullbacks, everyone just did a great job. It was everyone doing their job tonight.”
The night didn’t start out great for the Tigers. Warsaw fumbled on its fourth play from scrimmage to give the Rockies the ball at the Tiger 42. The defense, though, stepped up as Plymouth gave the ball right back four plays later when quarterback/punter Kyle Lacefield tried a long pass on fourth and 13 at the Tiger 44 out of punting formation that fell incomplete.
Warsaw took complete control from there. McClone, who had 295 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opening win at Columbia City, raced in from 19 yards out through a huge hole up the middle to make it 7-0 with 4:14 to play. After a three and out by the Rockies, McClone busted off a 75-yard touchdown jaunt with just 1:00 left in the opening period for a 14-0 lead.
McClone, who gained just 44 yards in the loss to powerhouse Homestead, had 11 carries for 148 yards in the first quarter Friday night.
“The big thing is that we start the game with the fumble and our defense steps up and stops them right away,” said Jensen. “Then our offense goes right down the field and scores and it’s full steam ahead from there.”The Warsaw defense rose up to the challenge in the second quarter. After the Rockies drove to the Tiger nine yard line, Cameron Shepherd came up with a big stop on Lacefield for a three-yard loss. Furnivall then decked Lacefield for an 11-yard loss and Justin Miller broke up a long pass attempt on a fourth-and-goal play from the 24.
The Tigers then went 76 yards in just four plays to make it 20-0. Quarterback Austin Head threw a gorgeous 63-yard scoring strike that hit Taylor Cone in stride with 4:59 to play. The next Plymouth possession was stopped as Miller came up with his second interception of the season.
Warsaw took a 20-0 lead into the locker room at intermission, but could have had more. The Tigers were stopped inside the Plymouth five as time ran out on the opening half.
The Rockies cut the lead to 20-7 by taking the opening drive of the second half and going 58 yards. Justin Drudge scored on a six-yard run on a toss sweep with 7:00 to play. The Tigers got a score in the final period as Head bulled in from four yards out with 7:23 left for the 26-7 final.
“We wanted to set a new tone tonight and establish that we are here to compete in the NLC this year,” said junior tailback McClone. “It all starts with my offensive line, receivers, fullbacks and quarterback. My offensive line told me the holes would be there tonight. All I had to do was run.”
Miller, a fiery 5-10, 170-pound senior cornerback, and the flying all-over-the-field Furnivall from his linebacker spot led the Tiger defense.
“We played with passion, heart and a lot of energy tonight,” said the still fired-up Miller some 15 minutes after the final horn. “It was a great way to bounce back. It’s a huge momentum boost for us to come here and play like this. I have six more interceptions to go. I’m going for the school record. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but that’s what I’m after.”
Warsaw racked up 306 yards rushing on 46 carries and Head was 4-5 passing for 85 yards.The offensive line, including Cameron Shepherd, Stuart Wagner, Chris Dausman, Anthony Hendrickson, Jorge Carrillo and Alfred Walker, along with fullbacks Jason Taylor and Chris Wooldridge, were outstanding for the Tigers.
Plymouth rushed for just 116 yards on 34 carries. Sam Stevens, who had 129 yards in a 28-20 win at Rochester last week, gained a paltry 18 on seven attempts Friday night. The Rockies completed just 2-7 passes for 11 yards.
Jensen’s team faces winless Elkhart Memorial and Northridge teams the next two weeks in NLC play.
“I’m happy for our kids to have success, but we have to take care of next week,” said Jensen. ” I told them don’t be satisfied. We’re just 1-0 in the NLC.”
Warsaw, which finished 4-6 overall and 4-3 in league play in 2011, hosts Elkhart Memorial next Friday at 7:30.
The Crimson Chargers dropped to 0-3 with a 2-0 NLC loss to Goshen Friday night. Northridge, who the Tigers face Sept. 14 in Middlebury, fell to 0-3 with a 24-23 NLC loss in overtime at Wawasee Friday night.