Junior Austin Floria of Northridge does all he can to try to break up a pass completion as senior Dylan Hepler of Wawasee makes a spectacular grab during the second quarter. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
Junior Austin Floria of Northridge does all he can to try to break up a pass completion as senior Dylan Hepler of Wawasee makes a spectacular grab during the second quarter. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
SYRACUSE – With an offense that rushed for nearly 300 yards and a defense that held Wawasee to -49 yards on the ground, the Northridge Raiders beat the host Warriors 33-12 Friday in the opening round of Class 4A Sectional 19.

Northridge, now 5-5 on the season, totaled 425 yards of offense in the win – 296 on the ground and 129 through the air.

The Warriors, whose season ended with a 1-9 record, managed 245 passing yards as junior quarterback Evan Eshbach completed 19 of 31 attempts with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions.

Senior Dylan Hepler caught seven passes from Eshbach for 145 yards and a score, while senior Steven Hauntz pulled in three catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.

“Really tonight is not necessarily about moving forward. Tonight is about making sure that we take care of our seniors and we communicate to them that they're appreciated and that we love them and care about them,” said Wawasee coach Mike Eshbach.

“We're thankful for the contributions that they made to the football program. And that's really about all you can do.”

The ground game is where Wawasee struggled. The Warriors were held to -49 yards on 25 rushing attempts. There were a number of bad snaps, and Northridge’s defense got to Eshbach a number of times, leaving Wawasee’s signal caller with 13 carries for -71 yards.

Junior Jesse Landeros led the hosts with 15 yards on one carry, and seniors Brayden Johnson and Keyan Peete had five yards each.

“Some of it was bad snaps, some of it was just not winning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” said the second-year Warrior coach.

“I've just never seen a situation where we just have had a struggle with snaps like that. It's not just the center, it's not just the quarterback, I can't put my finger on it. I don't know the answer to it. It just, it baffles me a little bit.”

Northridge’s 296 rushing yards came on 40 carries.

Caid Lacey led the way with 21 carries for 163 yards and one touchdown, while Dom Crowder and Oliver Eveler tallied 49 and 48 yards, respectively, with Eveler scoring twice.

Josh Beard had one carry for the Raiders, which he turned into a 36-yard touchdown run.

Eveler completed 6 of 10 passes for 58 yards, while Nolan Laughlin was 3 of 3 through the air for 71 yards and a score.

The Raiders, who beat Wawasee 27-6 in Syracuse in Week 3, will travel to Angola next week for a sectional semifinal against the fifth-ranked Hornets (10-0), who beat Culver Academy 27-7 Friday.

On the other side of the bracket, top-ranked and undefeated NorthWood beat Plymouth 40-7. The Panthers will travel to Kendallville for a semifinal matchup with East Noble (9-1), a 33-32 winner over DeKalb.