Warsaw sophomore quarterback Drew Sullivan drags a Wawasee defender while picking up big yardage during the first half as a pair of other Warriors close in. Photos by Gary Nieter
Warsaw sophomore quarterback Drew Sullivan drags a Wawasee defender while picking up big yardage during the first half as a pair of other Warriors close in. Photos by Gary Nieter
SYRACUSE - The 37th annual “W” game was held at Wawasee High School Friday night between the Warriors and the Warsaw Tigers. For the 25thtime since the trophy was donated by Robert and Patricia Reiff in 1986, it would be Warsaw keeping it in their trophy case after a 36-0 win.

“It feels great, it’s been a long time without a victory,” Warsaw head coach Bart Curtis said. “Two weeks and one day ago we were feeling really good about ourselves and in a hurry it turned into wondering what was up, so it’s nice to get a W.”

Fans in attendance were unbothered by the fact that each team had lost its previous two games coming into the contest. Fans on both sides of the field had horns, shakers and any other noise-making appliance one could think of. Wawasee’s Grady Maloney aimed to fire the home side up even more, waving his arms in the air in hopes of generating some more noise.

The commotion paid off on the opening kickoff for the Warriors. Instead of sending the ball deep, Wawasee kicked short, catching the visitors off guard. The Warriors would pounce on the ball and recover the onside kick at the fifty-yard line.

With momentum on its side, Wawasee would move the ball well on its opening drive. Junior quarterback Mason Shoemaker would escape pressure and convert on a 20-yard scramble. After a big sack by Warsaw’s Isaac Beam on a third and long, Shoemaker would connect with Hunter Tinkey for 22 yards on 4th down to keep the drive alive. Faced with another fourth down at the Warsaw nine-yard line, the team would elect to kick. The attempt would sail wide left and leave the home team pointless after a nice opening drive.

“Wawasee came to play some ball tonight. They’re young and playing hard,” Curtis said. “I was really impressed with the way they fought.”

The Tigers would get the ball with a long field in front of them. Warsaw would march methodically down the field picking up four or five yards at a time aside from a 20-yard run by Bryson Brown. The drive would be punctuated by a three-yard touchdown run by German Flores-Ortega with two seconds remaining in the opening quarter. Quarterback Drew Sullivan would scamper into the end zone to convert the 2-point conversion and give the Tigers an 8-0 lead.

“We wanted to see if there were some things we could run well, which had not been the case the last couple of weeks. It was good to see we could still execute the simple things,” Curtis said.

Wawasee would go three-and-out on its next possession, punting the ball back to the Tigers. Warsaw would continue its methodical offensive approach, marching down the field with ease. Around the 50-yard line, the team ditched its option offense and began to feed Flores-Ortega on each play. The senior was up for the task, picking up big carries to put the team into the red zone. He would be rewarded for his efforts and would hit pay dirt once again, this time from 10 yards out. Sullivan would again score the 2-point, and Warsaw was up 16-0.

A good return by the Warriors’ Chase Dennis would set up the home team nicely on its next drive. The team would fail to find any success on its first three downs once again, but elected to go for it on fourth. The decision paid off, as the Tigers jumped offside and awarded Wawasee the first. Before the team was able to get anything else going however, Shoemaker would be made victim to a vicious strip sack that gave the ball back to the visitors on the Warriors’ side of the field.

It didn’t take long for Warsaw to capitalize. A 19-yard completion from Sullivan to Haydin Rodriguez would put the Tigers back into the red zone and Flores-Ortega would do the rest, scoring from ten yards out for his third touchdown of the first half with less than a minute remaining. Flores-Ortega would finish the night with 96 yards and three scores.

“He gives us one heck of a punch. He’s 205 pounds of dynamite,” Curtis said. “When he gets out of his stance and gets downfield, he’s really hard to stop with a full head of steam.”

Trailing 24-0, Wawasee looked to run the ball and run out the clock. However, the team would fumble for the second time in the final three minutes, giving Warsaw the chance for more points with 21 seconds remaining. Sullivan would take a shot on the first play, but an offensive pass interference would push the ball back. With two seconds to go, Sullivan would take another shot, this time connecting with senior receiver Jack Murrell for a 28-yard score to make it a 30-0 ballgame. Sullivan would throw for 73 yards in the game while contributing 61 on the ground.

Needing some points in a hurry, Wawasee started its first drive of the second half on the right foot. Shoemaker would find Dennis for a 22-yard gain. It wouldn’t mean much though, as a few plays later another sack by Beam on third down would force a punt.

The Tigers wouldn’t do much with it as some sloppy play would rear its head. Warsaw would fumble two snaps, the second being recovered by the Warriors. After another punt by the home team, the Tigers would almost lose another fumble on the punt that followed. No points would be scored in the third quarter, but it would end with the visitors threatening in the red zone.

Wawasee would keep Warsaw out. The team would force a turnover on downs with a big stop at the goal line, but it would not take long for the Tigers to get the ball back. Warsaw’s Leyton Isbell would intercept Shoemaker’s pass on the first play of the drive. Shoemaker would finish his night 9-15 for 85 yards and the interception.

Warsaw would finally force the running clock on its next possession. After another methodical drive, backup quarterback Grady Nolin would break free for a 25-yard touchdown run to give the game its final score of 36-0. Wawasee would pick up a good chunk of yardage on its final possession, but was unable to get on the scoreboard.

The Tigers are back at home next Friday, hosting Goshen. Wawasee is on the road at NorthWood.

“We’ve had our share of injuries and struggles recently,” Curtis remarked. “We can’t crawl up into our own foxholes and worry about ourselves. To get out of something you have to get out of it together.”