Warsaw senior quarterback Tristan Larsh breaks into a sprint upfield while getting some help from his blockers. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
Warsaw senior quarterback Tristan Larsh breaks into a sprint upfield while getting some help from his blockers. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
OSCEOLA – Phil Jensen knows just how dangerous it is not to finish what you start against Penn.

He knows it because he played for the Kingsmen. He has also coached against his alma mater multiple times during his 18 seasons as Warsaw’s head football coach.

“When you’re playing the Penn Kingsmen, you have to hold on to everything. You can’t let anything go,” Jensen said Friday after a 40-0 Class 6A sectional championship game loss at Penn’s TCU Freed Field. “When you don’t cash in on opportunities, when you don’t finish things against them and you let go a little bit, they take off 1,000 mph.”

The fourth-ranked Kingsmen scored 28 second-quarter points and tallied all their points before halftime.

“You’ve got to be in it at halftime, but once it starts slipping away, (Penn) is so good,” said Jensen. “They are not going to let up.

“They play the game in its entirety the way it’s supposed to be played. There’s no individuals on that team. There’s no ‘what do I want to do?’ on that team. It’s all about Penn football and carrying on the tradition that has gone with it for a lot of years.”

After Penn’s Johnny Ho pounced on a Will McGarvey fumble inside the Kingsmen 20, the hosts – already leading 12-0 – struck quickly. Ryan Whiteman dashed 69 yards and Caden Paquette tacked on the extra point for a 19-0 advantage.

The next time the Tigers had the football, they converted on third down once on a run by McGarvey. Moments later, Leegrand Alovili and James Morris combined to sack Warsaw senior quarterback Tristan Larsh.

When the snap from punt formation was wild, a scramble ensued and Notre Dame recruit Paula Moala ended up on the loose ball in the end zone while Warsaw was flagged for illegal touching. With a Paquette kick, Penn led 26-0.

The Kingsmen forced Warsaw to punt on the ensuing possession and turned that into a 4-yard touchdown run by Brock Zolman and a Paquette PAT for a 33-0 edge.

The final tallies of the first half were a 37-yard interception return by Paquette on a deflected pass from Larsh and another Paquette point-after boot.

Penn took the opening kickoff of the game and went 48 yards on eight plays, with left-hander Ryan Lynch tossing a 5-yard TD pass to George Ohlson.

After stopping the Tigers on 4th-and-7, the Kingsmen took the ball and went 64 yards in three plays – the last 58 on a scoring sprint by Whiteman. Penn missed both extra-point kicks in the first quarter.

The Kingsmen gained 246 total yards (201 rushing) in the first half. At the same point, the Tigers had 42 net yards (40 passing).

Penn took the ball on the kickoff coming out of halftime and was stopped on its drive by Warsaw at the Tigers’ 16. Ron Powlus quarterbacked the Kingsmen in the second half.

Larsh carried the ball 18 times for a team-best 102 rushing yards.

“We were doing a pretty good job of getting him in some spots,” said Jensen. “But their team speed … he’s the fastest kid in the (Northern Lakes Conference) and they had guys running him down. We couldn’t get too much going up inside. (Penn) plays great team defense. Everybody plays their responsibility on every play.”

Jensen took time after the game to address the freshmen that dressed for the game.

“I told them that ‘you can’t wait until your senior year for it to matter if you’re going to beat a Penn,’” Jensen of his message to those members of the Class of 2021. “It’s got to matter to those six freshmen right now. They’ve got to go back on Monday and grab the other 40 freshmen and say, ‘boys, we’re going to make a change.’”

Jensen grew up in the Penn football culture and knows that it starts long before players get to perform in a varsity game.

“It starts to matter as soon they start playing football,” said Jensen. “You have to earn your place on this field.”

With 3:53 to go in the third quarter, there was lengthy delay while injured Penn offensive lineman Alex Fish was attended. He gave a thumbs-up to the crowd as he left the field by stretcher.

It was the 24th sectional football championship and fifth in a row for the Kingsmen, who now lead the all-time series against Warsaw 11-0. The Tigers (6-5) were looking for their first sectional title.

The regional will see Penn (10-1) traveling to Crown Point (7-4).

Whiteman led the Kingsmen with 158 yards and two touchdowns on four carries. Hunter Whitlow rushed for 43 yards on seven attempts.


W    0    0    0    0    —    0

P    12    28     0    0     —    40

    W    P

1st downs    12    13

Rushing yds    139    234

Passing yds    36    45

Comp-Att-Int    6-13-1    4-5-0

Total yds    175    279

Fumbles/lost    2/2    0/0

Penalties/yds    2/20    1/10

Punts/Avg    3/28    1/31

First Quarter

P – Ryan Lynch 5 pass to George Ohlson (kick failed) 7:09, 6-0

P – Ryan Whiteman 58 run (kick failed) 2:32, 12-0

Second Quarter

P – Whiteman 69 run (Caden Paquette kick) 10:27, 19-0

P – Paul Moala fumble recovery (Paquette kick) 6:43, 26-0

P – Brock Zolman 4 run (Paquette kick) 3:41, 33-0

P – Paquette interception return (Paquette kick) 2:43, 40-0


Rushing — Warsaw, Larsh 18-102, McGarvey 17-56, Bryce Garner 3-9; Penn, Whiteman 4-158, Hunter Whitlow 7-43, Lynch 6-22

Passing — Warsaw, Larsh 5-12-34, 1 INT, Josh West 1-1-2; Penn, Lynch 4-5-45, 1 TD

Receiving — Warsaw, Zach Riley 4-27, Trevor York 1-7, Larsh 1-2; Penn, Brock Boynton 2-36, Ohlson 1-5, Zach Usenick 1-4

Records: Warsaw 6-5, Penn 10-1