Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
Senior Luke Adamiec of Warsaw moves the ball upfield after a catch during Friday night's game at NorthWood.
Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union Senior Luke Adamiec of Warsaw moves the ball upfield after a catch during Friday night's game at NorthWood.
NAPPANEE - The Warsaw Tigers football team started Friday evening’s business with the lone unbeaten record, 5-0, in the Northern Lakes Conference, but ended the evening in a three-way tie for the conference driver’s seat, falling to a physical NorthWood Panther squad, 22-21, at Andrews Field.

The Tigers were driving toward the host’s red zone, still trailing 22-21 with 6:38 remaining in the contest when Aaron Greene stepped back in the pocket, unleashed a crisp bullet to Caden Silveus, who ran a perfect route but could not secure the ball. The senior two-way starter for Warsaw had enough momentum to escape his defender for a touchdown.

The orange and black had another opportunity to turn the deficit around with 5:00 left starting at their own 13-yard line, but a physical, well-disciplined NorthWood defense thwarted those efforts once the Tigers reached midfield, then spent the remaining 1:14 in victory formation to seal the win.

The game was a physical battle between two squads who value ball control and thrive on a strong running game. Although the Panthers controlled the Tigers’ vaunted perimeter rushing game most of the night, Warsaw outgained their foe on the ground 309-250, and in the air 42-20, but Head Coach Bart Curtis felt his men were outplayed by the hosts, stats notwithstanding.

Curtis said, “They deserved to win, we did not. We played hard; we didn’t play well. They played hard and played well. Both teams made some critical mistakes, but we made some more.”

The Tigers’ defense played well in the second half, ahead 21-14, so the team was comfortable punting on fourth down, a rarity due to coming into tonight’s contest converting nearly 70% of their fourth downs. NorthWood’s two-way starter, sophomore halfback Ethan Evers sprinted 65 yards to paydirt on the first touch from scrimmage following that punt on his way to 106 yards on 11 carries for two TDs on the night, closing in on Warsaw 21-20.

The ensuing two-point conversion was highlight reel material. Tanner Feenstra lined up for the snap, rushed left and was stood up to a near stop by three orange-and-black defenders, but he was able to release the pitch blindly to Evers for the two-point conversion run, a 2202 lead the hosts would not relinquish.

The two teams swapped a single possession in the first quarter, but neither scored, losing possession on attempted fourth down conversions.

NorthWood drew first blood with 9:26 in the second frame on Evers’ 3-yard touchdown run on a drive where the Panther line imposed their will on the guest’s defense, with speedster Kyler Sellers converting an extra point run to post an 8-0 lead.

Warsaw responded on the following possession with a drive capped by senior B-back Juan Jaramillo’s 4-yard TD rumble followed by Colton Wampler’s first of 3 extra point kicks, narrowing the host’s lead to 8-7 with 5:55 left in the half.

The Panthers powered their way to another touchdown on a 4-yard run by Caden Lone, who swapped running back duties for quarterback duties with Sellers on the scoring drive, but the extra point run was unsuccessful with 1:17 left until halftime. The two combatants returned to their locker rooms with NorthWood leading 14-7.

Jaramillo ran angry in the third quarter opening Tiger drive, gaining 41 yards on five carries punctuated with a 5-yard score, tying the contest at 14. he gained 112 second half yards, and 141 for the evening on a lunch-pail carrying 26 totes.

Colton Wampler, whose punting and place-kicking game was sharp on this balmy evening, executed a Dallas Cowboys-esque wobbling onside kick he also recovered just past the 50-yard line to set up the Tigers for their next scoring drive. Big runs by Greene (11 carries 80 yards) and senior Patrick Zollinger (2 rushes 26 yard) set up junior A-back Julius Jones for a 22-yard rocket toss pitch for a 21-20 Warsaw lead.

Senior split end Luke Adamiec snared all five of Greene’s completed passes for 42 yards, and two-way starter Mason Martz rounded out the offensive output with 5 rushes for 34 yards.

The Tigers, sharing he conference lead with Mishawaka (4-1) and Northridge (5-1), will regroup, and prepare for their next contest, a Senior Night fray with the Concord Minutemen next Friday, who are smarting from a 55-20 loss to Northridge. Northridge and Mishawaka’s fray next Friday will also affect the conference title outcome.

Coach Curtis spoke of his focus for the upcoming game saying, “Here’s what I’m thinking about. This group is gonna regroup, lick our wounds, trying to figure out a combination of plays, work hard all the time together and eliminate the stupid mistakes. Then we’ll come back and try to go 1-0 next week.”

W –       0       7     14     0  -  21

NW -     0     14       0     8  -  22  

1ST Quarter

No scoring

2nd Quarter

NW – Ethan Evers 3 run (Kyle Sellers run) 9:26

W – Juan Jaramillo 3 run (Colton Wampler kick) 5:55

NW – Caden Lone 3 run (run failed) 1:17

3rd Quarter

W – Jaramillo 5 run (Wanpler kick) 6:02

4th Quarter

NW – Evers 64 run (Evers run)