Saturday, September 11, 2021 7:00 AM
MISHAWAKA – It was a back-and-forth contest as Warsaw moved to face undefeated Mishawaka on Friday night. The close game was decided late, with Mason Smithe, a freshman from Warsaw, who scored at the end of the fourth quarter to eliminate Cavemen No.4 5A 17-15 in Conference football of the northern lakes on Friday evening.
It was somewhat of a successful homecoming for Tigers head coach Bart Curtis, who recorded a 90-35 record as head coach of Mishawaka from 2008 to 2017.
“I think they have some of the best coaches in the state of Indiana with mine. It’s a good football team, ”Curtis said. “This is a place where I am truly delighted to say that my children have graduated and it has been my home for ten wonderful years. “
The Tigers made their presence felt from the start of it. In the game’s first official play, the Warsaw defensive line forced a fumble, which was picked up by junior Jonney Burritt and took eight yards in the end zone to start the scoring just over thirty seconds into the start. Match.
After a defensive stop that followed, Warsaw picked up where it left off. A 55-yard touchdown was set up by the Tiger offense, highlighted by junior full-back German Ortega, who had 44 yards on the disc, including a one-yard TD to finish, his fifth of the season. . Warsaw was rolling, with a 14-0 lead after less than six minutes of the game. Ortega finished his day with 114 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown.
It seemed like a game the Tigers would run away with, but the Cavemen responded in a big way. The ensuing kickoff resulted in a blunder from the Warsaw special teams, allowing for a 61-yard return that gave Mishawaka the ball deep into Warsaw territory. It didn’t take long for the cavemen to capitalize, as second-year quarterback Brady Fisher dove from the one-yard line to put Mishawaka on the board, then again for a two-point conversion. .
After the warm start to the game, Warsaw’s offense stalled for the remainder of the half. The Cavemen would get the first and only score of the second quarter with just over two and a half minutes to go in halftime of a six-yard Chase Gooden rush. Mishawaka took a 15-14 lead in the locker room.
Special teams injured the Tigers all night, whether it was allowing for long comebacks or doing a poor job of fending off the Cavemen’s offense. A 14-yard punt after Warsaw’s first possession in the second period gave Mishawaka another great opportunity to strike. It looked like the cavemen would, but on the second attempt to convert to fourth from the drive, Trey Koontz landed a big tackle which kept him a one-point game. Both teams headed for the fourth quarter as Warsaw failed to secure a first try in the third.
“Sometimes our team handles adversity much better than prosperity,” Curtis said. “I think our attack tonight didn’t handle prosperity very well. I asked them in the second half ‘are we going to keep fighting, take our own breaks, or are we going to bed?’ “
Warsaw gained momentum to start the fourth quarter, tackling a key fourth save. But the momentum was quickly lifted, as a pass from Tucker Curtis passed through the hands of his receiver and into the hands of a Caveman cornerback. But like all of Tiger’s other mistakes in the second half, the defense was there to back them up. Another fourth save put the ball back in the hands of Warsaw. Curtis finished the game 1-3 passing for 19 yards and an interception, and also added 32 rushing yards.
With just over four minutes to go, the Tigers tried one last push. Having struggled on offense since the end of the first quarter, Warsaw got its first first try of the second half on a 52-yard run from Julius Jones to place the ball inside Mishawaka’s ten-yard line. . Warsaw managed to hand the ball to both, before choosing to hit a 20-yard basket. Smithe’s kick was good, giving the Tigers a 17-15 lead with just over two minutes to go.
“You have to keep telling your kids that we’re at a game. A game outside,” Curtis said. “We have to make things happen. There was a lot of talk about what to do, I didn’t want to lose that game 15-14 with a kid who could hit him through the studs. We weren’t good in fourth place.
The defense had to make one more stop. After a personal foul seemed to set up Mishawaka in Warsaw’s 33rd, a detention penalty brought the offense back, and the Tigers were able to hold on from there. After an incomplete pass in the 4th and 17th fall, the Tigers linebackers threw their fists in the air. They held the undefeated Cavemen scoreless in the second half. All you have to do is get down on one knee.
“I can’t say enough about the work our kids did tonight,” Curtis said. “It was one hell of a high school game. If we lost 15-14, I would still say it was one hell of a high school game. I may not be smiling. “
Warsaw is playing its next game on Friday night against Northridge.
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