TIGERS DOMINATE RAIDERS IN EVERY PHASE
Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, September 18, 2021
By Mike Deak
WARSAW – A week ago, terms like ‘slobberknocker’ and ‘grind’ were tossed out to describe the effort for Warsaw’s win at Mishawaka. Perhaps in the 36-3 Warsaw win over Northridge Friday night at Fisher Field, the tune could shift to ‘dominant’ and ‘impressive’.
In a full night of celebration on campus, starting with Homecoming and shifting to a memorium for the late Roy ‘The Rev’ Blake, then to over two hours of solid football, it was a night of pluses for Warsaw.
What had initially started as a game threatening to end at 8:15 due to the rapid pace of play in the first quarter, the two teams settled in and started exchanged proverbial punches. Both teams held just one possession each in the first quarter, Northridge turning the ball over on downs inside the Warsaw 25, and then the Tigers driving on its first attempt.
Faced with fourth and one at the Ridge 11, Tucker Curtis advanced the ball to the Ridge one, and on the first play of the second quarter, German Flores-Ortega punched it in to finish the drive. The extra point, however, was no good, wide left.
The Raiders would respond with a drive of its own, getting to the Warsaw six before stalling and settling for a 21-yard Dylan Ritchie field goal.
Faced with 84 yards to go with just 1:18 left in the half, Warsaw pieced together a scoring drive that head coach Bart Curtis himself said was one of the best two-minute drills he’s seen in his time at Warsaw. Long gains via passes to Julius Jones and Flores-Ortega had the Tigers in business, and in each long gainer, the Tigers lining up and spiking the ball properly. A final play and spike with 1.8 seconds left allowed Mason Smythe, last week’s hero at Mishawaka, to nail a chip shot field goal to put the Tigers up six at the break.
The second half was all Tigers, literally from the opening kick-off. Jones would take the kick and find some room, then break into the open and race 87 yards for the score, electrifying a capacity Warsaw crowd.
“I thought our two-minute drill right before half and then kick the walk-off field at the half was huge. Gave us a little spark,” Curtis said. “We used the clock well, we were able to spike the ball. We got the kids lined up legally. And then Julius comes back out and takes the second half kick-off for a touchdown and it was blocked up just like we drew it up.”
Warsaw’s defense would then force turnovers on Ridge’s next three possessions, two on interceptions by Theo Katris and a fumble recovery by Kyle Schnackenberg.
Warsaw would ice the game on the scoreboard with rushing scores by Flores-Ortega from three yards, Bryson Brown around end for 36 and a 14-yarder from Jayce Sawyer, all 5’6″, 140 pounds of him carrying defenders along the way in a drive where he provided the entirety of the drive with his legs.
“My God, it was amazing,” Sawyer said about dragging multiple Raider tacklers on his touchdown rampage. “Considering the fact I came in the fourth quarter to run that, it’s awesome.”
The numbers all were in Warsaw’s favor, outgaining Northridge 451-184, the Tigers pounding out 362 yards on the ground. Ridge, which was playing without its starting quarterback Micah Hochstetler after losing him for the season last week to a knee injury, did see 96 yards in the air from sophomore Connor Roth. But the four turnovers along with a myriad of penalties kept the Raiders out of the endzone for the first time since Oct. 11, 2019 in a 10-0 loss to Concord.
Flores-Ortega led the Tigers with 22 carries for 153 yards, Jones had 190 yards of total offense and Sawyer rushed for 96 yards.
“The thing that makes me the most proud about this team is when the backups go in, and our varsity guys are up on the edge of the yard line cheering for kids who back them up all week,” Curtis said. “That to me is a proud moment.
“I really feel like this is coming together. We showed a lot of good things tonight against a good Northridge team.”
Warsaw (4-1, 3-0 NLC) sit atop the Northern Lakes Conference with Concord (4-1, 3-0), with Northridge, Mishawaka and NorthWood all a game back at 2-1 overall in the standings.