My roles among media and public address announcing make my evenings and weekend mornings interesting, exciting, and sometimes unpredictable. My wife, consequently, is, what I’ve termed, a press box widow.

The Warsaw Tiger football season ended ten days ago, and the women’s basketball home opener last Friday night was postponed, so I suddenly had a blank dance card on a Friday night – some welcome unpredictability! First, my wife and I enjoyed a long-overdue dinner at Cerulean. I subsequently returned home where my thoughts turned toward reflecting on a very memorable football season for the orange and black.

My thoughts moved among the season in summary, some players you didn’t read much about this year, the 2020 Tigers’ remarkable statistical accomplishments, and players to watch in 2021.

The 2020 Northern Lakes Conference (NLC) co-champs’ success in COVID-19 safeguards and protocols reaped the ultimate reward of doing what they loved for eleven consecutive Friday nights! The only reason they did not play this last Friday was by process of playoff elimination in a 30-22 sectional title fray at the hands of the Homestead Spartans.

Warsaw’s journey toward their 8-3 overall won-loss record, and their 6-1 NLC mark began in Huntington. Their third season operating the triple-option offense launched in record-setting fashion, rolling up 499 rushing yards in a 42-35 win.

The 2020 home opener was a speed bump where the Michigan City Wolves traveled from The Region to avenge last year’s 20-19 loss, this time sprinting away from the Tigers 41-21.

The Tigers rolled through their first five NLC games unblemished. They traveled to Plymouth knocking off the Rockies 28-14 for their first win against their oldest rivals since 2013, a year when almost all of the kids currently on the roster weren’t tall enough to ride any of the numerous coasters at Cedar Point (except maybe Jackson Dawson, Kyle Dawson and Russ Winchester).

The conference’s newest member, Mishawaka, showed fans this year in Fisher Field there was more than one explosive triple-option system in the NLC. The Tigers prevailed 40-32 in a high-scoring match where two defensive stops on fourth down late in the second and fourth quarters were some of the most crucial plays in the win. If there were not pandemic-related attendance limitations, fans would have leaned against the fences to watch the action. I’m eager to see what post-pandemic crowds this game will draw at each school’s great football venues.

The string of wins continued in victories over Northridge (27-14), Goshen (41-28) and Wawasee (42-17, retention of the “W” trophy to boot), but Tiger fortunes reversed on a trip to Andrews Field where the Northwood Panthers held on 22-21 in the season’s most exciting game from a fan’s perspective. This was another venue whose fences would have been lined with fans in an ordinary world.

Warsaw finished their regular season business with a NLC co-championship clinching 35-17 victory over Concord: the first NLC title hardware on Warsaw’s shelves since 2001.

Indiana postseason high school football affords all teams, regardless of won-loss records, a chance to go 1-0 each week until they do battle in the state title game in Lucas Oil Stadium. Prep football pundits pegged Warsaw as a 14-point underdog when the Carroll Chargers traveled to Fisher Field from Northwest Allen County. Two brutally efficient offenses, polarized by style, combined for an action-packed evening, and the Tigers stumped the experts with a 42-35 win. The Tigers eventually turned in their gear ten days following the aforementioned sectional title loss.

You’ve seen the usual names of big-play contributors in print, heard them on the radio, and saw them on WHME 46 Sports. A football team’s success, however, is dependent upon a complete team effort.

The record-setting rushing game was anchored by the Wild Hogs, the offensive line’s moniker, who replaced the entire starting unit from 2019. (Seniors) Dallas Anders, Izak Leach, Jacob Hawn, (juniors) Michael Ramirez, Noah Chew, Trace Stookey and Isaiah Courtois blended their talents by spelling each other’s injuries in a role that is probably the most meticulously coached at all levels, but least recognized in media. Hawn and Ramirez were converted from defensive line positions they held the previous year. Leach, as a sophomore JV player, was a sure-handed secret weapon on short pass situations. Courtois, in the throes of euphoria following a go-ahead Tiger playoff score versus Carroll, didn’t realize he would coin a new mantra for the Tigers when he exclaimed with confidence, not hubris, “We’re built different!”

Zach Ransbottom, a senior linebacker, in between book-end injuries, made a fourth-down stop that preserved the Tigers’ win over Mishawaka. Ransbottom was immediately inserted as a starter upon return from injury, and eventually ended his season prematurely, but stayed with the program from pillar to post.

Jose Martinez, a senior whose tackling ability is enhanced by his wrestling skills, contributed in early starts as a defensive back as well as late-season meaningful minutes blocking on big-play perimeter runs at split end.

Andres “Fuzzy” Adame, who disrupted opposing rushers as a 260-pound junior nose tackle in 2019, trimmed to 175 pounds and moved to defensive end, moving into backfields more quickly in 2020.

Jaheim Coleman, a 6’4” big man on the defensive line had a season limited by injuries but was effective when the senior had a chance to get action on the front four. A quiet yet brutally strong young man was tough for opponents to move.

Jason Garcia played an important role as a senior contributing on scout teams throughout the season give the Tigers their “best look” at opposing schemes. Garcia loves football, and he took pride in preparing himself each week with new schemes.

The NLC championship season was chock-full of remarkable statistical performances.

The 2020 Tigers, played eleven games, but eclipsed records previously set by the 2019 quad, who played twelve games.  They established new records in season rushing yards (3,899), rushing yards per game (354.5), and first downs (215). It is uncertain whether or not Warsaw’s time of possession, an average of 29:59 per 48-minute contest, is a team record, but that mark is the best in the three years of triple-option football for the Tigers.

Individual offensive performances of note were senior quarterback Aaron Greene, (1,046 rushing yards, 363 passing yards), senior B-back Juan Jaramillo (998 yards on the ground), junior A-back Julius Jones (871 yards) and senior A-back Patrick Zollinger (457 yards).

Jaramillo finished his three seasons donning the orange and black with 2,864 rushing yards and 33 rushing TDs. Greene’s rushing output was the highest among the three QBs in three seasons of “Bart Ball.”

Senior two-way starter, Luke Adamiec, a guy whom many thought wouldn’t see much action through the air once the shift was made to triple option, was extremely efficient when he was targeted these last three seasons. When the good ones are targeted, they’re open… REALLY open! Adamiec led Tiger receivers with 11 receptions, 239 yards (21.8 yards per catch), and 5 TDs. The 6’4” end who earned a reputation for snaring anything in his reach as a receiver and a defender finished his three seasons of “Bart Ball” (excluding his varsity freshman stint) with 22 catches, 493 yards (22.4 yards/catch) and 8 scores. This means just about one of every three catches in this time frame resulted in a touchdown for the Tigers.

The Tigers also picked off 14 of their opponents passes. Adamiec and fellow classmate Caden Silveus led the way with three apiece. Each athlete was a three-year starter in the defensive backfield. Adamiec (8 career INTs) and Silveus (7 career picks) crept up closely to the record of 9 career thefts.

Seniors Mason Martz and Zach DeFord led the team in tackles. Each of these players missed games due to injuries in their junior seasons yet finished among the top four tacklers in 2019. Junior Luke Anderson led the team in sacks. The 6’3” junior bulked up from 185 lbs. last year to 230 lbs. this season to accompany his speed at defensive end.

Senior kicker Colton Wampler made people forget about 50+ touchback kickoffs last year when he unpacked his varietal bag of on-side kick tricks. He also spelled Jaramillo in the win over Plymouth with a 125-yard rushing effort.

The Tigers had several sophomores (Greek for “wise fool”), contribute to their success this season whether they were spelling an injured teammate or earned a starting spot. D-linemen Russ Winchester, and Kyle Schnackenberg were accompanied under Friday night lights by linebackers Zackary Diecks and Theo Katris, linebacker-safety hybrid Jonny Burritt, and defensive backs Nick Katris (the other half of the Katrii), and Trey Koontz. German Flores-Ortega started early games at linebacker and had flashes of brilliance with a 53-yard scoring run at B-back.

I alluded to “wise fool” because the class of ’23 – in their freshman season – demonstrated on-field talent, but the coaching staff believed this class had much to learn about “shutting up and listening.”

In my preseason discussion with Tiger head coach Bart Curtis regarding how their progress was for that matter, he replied in a pleasantly surprised tone, “Oh! That’s going VERY well!”

Warsaw juniors, cousins Kyle (D-line/O-line) and Jackson Dawson (split end/safety), two of the tallest Tigers, earned meaningful minutes this season in addition to the junior Wild Hogs, Anderson and A-back Jones.

Each team in the Tiger football program is building upon the accomplishments of those teams who preceded them. I hope this pattern continues favorably for the Tigers, and better yet, I hope my football season coverage ties up my Friday nights all the way through Thanksgiving weekend!