German Flores-Ortega breaks loose for Warsaw's first score of Friday night's sectional championship game at Carroll. Photos by Gary Nieter
German Flores-Ortega breaks loose for Warsaw's first score of Friday night's sectional championship game at Carroll. Photos by Gary Nieter
HUNTERTOWN – An unidentified, well-mannered gentleman donning a Carroll hat whose grandson played for the Carroll Chargers came up to Warsaw head football coach Bart Curtis during postgame interviews, shook his hand, and said, “You had one hell of a game plan, but it’s too bad (Warsaw) couldn’t hang onto the football.”

The gentleman was right on both counts.

Warsaw’s triple option offense was on the field nearly 23 of the first 31 minutes of last night’s Class 6A Sectional 2 championship game, but Carroll scored on four Tiger turnovers to earn the honor of hoisting championship hardware in a 34-17 victory over Warsaw last night.

Warsaw opened the third quarter continuing the aforementioned game plan by exposing Carroll’s defense in the C gap between the guards and tackles, fooling one of Carroll’s two athletic safeties. Drew Sullivan (20 carries, 117 yards) and German Flores-Ortega (18 carries, 126 yards) continued to physically punish Charger defenders with tranches of yardage ranging from two to ten yards each carry.

The Tigers, trailing 13-10, used 7:00 on the opening second half drive without a score, however, when the football coughed forward from the Carroll 19-yard line to the Carroll 15-ayrd line beyond the reach of any Tiger on the field.

Carroll’s offense, whose skill players stayed limber on the sidelines, responded knowing their number of possessions would be limited against the Tigers, marching 85 yards punctuated by two-way star Brayden Steely’s five-yard touchdown run out of a four-man “chaos” backfield wall similar to a wildcat set to widen the 3-point lead to a 20-10 cushion with 46 seconds on the third quarter game clock.

Steely wasn’t wearing down considering he was on the field almost the entire contest to this point, mostly containing outside runs, and coming up in A and B gap run coverage as well. Steely finished the night with 75 yards on the ground.

“Credit to Carroll, they’re a very explosive team,” Curtis noted on their efficiency and ability to capitalize on long and short field turnover field position.

The Tigers responded with another drive starting at their own 20-yard line until they fumbled again at the Chargers’ 22-yard line. Carroll, who already had three scores on each of Warsaw’s three turnovers (on downs, interceptions, fumble) moved to midfield again with sophomore quarterback Jimmy Sullivan (18-24 passing for 138 yards, 37 rushing yards) before the Carrol sophomore field marshal handed the reins back to Steely and his “chaos” formation quarter, the latter dashing 24 yards to move Carroll ahead 27-10 with 5:03 left on the final quarter clock.

Warsaw, once again, was determined to wear practice gear for another Monday responding with Haydin Rodriguez’s 84-yard sprint to paydirt down the left sideline on a Drew Sullivan perimeter pitch. The Tigers moved to within 10 points, 27-17 18 seconds after Steely’s score.

Carroll added another score on a 69-yard breakaway scamper by Nathan Starks with 2:30 left in the fray to close out the night’s score, 34-17. Starks led all rushers with 176 yards on 18 totes.

Curtis realized he and his Tigers couldn’t reverse the turnovers, but he was particularly pleased with how Warsaw’s levels of intensity remained high despite the adversity Warsaw created with ball security.

“We fought like crazy,” The Hall-of-Famer said. “The kids did a great job. We’re proud of ‘em. There was a certain type of game we had to play to stay in this thing. We played quite a bit of it, but we didn’t finish some drives.

“We circled the wagons when things went south, and just continued to battle it out. I can’t say enough about our coaches who took the pieces remaining by playing the hand they were dealt.”

Carroll jumped ahead 10-0 courtesy of a 25-yard Sebastian Lopez field goal after the Tiger defense made a stout stand in short field second quarter.

The Tigers scored their first touchdown after a 4:12 scoring drive capped off by Flores-Ortega’s 53-yard burst through the middle of the trenches, to close within 3 points, 10-7 with 7:26 remaining in the second period.

Dmitri Chandler put the kibosh on any notion Carroll had of stepping back on the offensive side of the field when the 6’2” senior safety streaked down the left sideline to recover an onside kick.

Warsaw’s program has had their fair share of juniors who get a lot of junior varsity minutes before a breakout senior season, and Chandler jumped aboard an already-impressive list this season.

“(He) played incredible football the last six weeks compared to where he was a year ago,” Curtis said of his big safety, who seemed to have some of fellow safety Theo Katris’s intensity and nose for run coverage rub off on him.

The Tigers rolled down the field after Chandler’s big play capping their 6-minute drive with a 28-yard Mason Smythe field goal with 1:40 left in the second frame to tie the game at 10 points apiece.

The Tigers moved into field goal range behind the physical, intense display of offensive line play among guards Russ Winchester and Broc Fraley, tackles Javion Lawson and Harrison Stofer, and center Kyle Schnackenberg. Chase Carl pitched in with the heavy left and right alignments when he wasn’t chasing Carroll’s QB all over the field.

The Carroll Chargers, however, broke the 10-10 second quarter tie when the offense took to the field with 1:40 left from their 24-yard line enroute to a Sebastian Lopez 26-yard field goal as time ran out into halftime with Carroll on top 13-10.

Carroll moved the ball up efficiently up the left sideline with only one pass to the middle of the field on this quick drive.

Carroll (11-0), ranked fifth in the coaches’ poll, will travel to Lafayette Jefferson (9-2, Sectional 1 champion) Friday. Warsaw, who tallied 361 rushing yards and 8 yards through the air, finished the season 8-3.