PLYMOUTH — After winning its first two games this season on the back of its defense, the Warsaw Tiger football team finally had the offensive success it was waiting for, steamrolling 41-7 past Northern Lakes Conference rival Plymouth in both teams’ NLC opener. Warsaw remains undefeated this season at 3-0, 1-0 in the NLC.
The stout Tiger defense, which has allowed only 9.5 points per game so far on the young season, took the field to start the game. It was an interesting first series for the Warsaw D, as the team continued the trend of stuffing the run, but struggled mightily with the pass. The Tigers consistently stopped runs at or near the line of scrimmage, but the Rockies continued to move the ball well through the air.
Regardless, it looked as if the visitors would get off the field after a huge sack by Nate Rosas to force third and long, but a quarterback keeper would get it all back for Plymouth, and the home side would open up the scoring a few plays later with a touchdown after a six-minute drive.
“All of the credit goes to Plymouth, they executed well and made it really hard for us on the opening drive,” Warsaw head coach Bart Curtis said. “We can’t just expect people to look at us and our record and rollover. They punched us in the mouth and took it to us from the jump.”
The lead would not hold for long. The run-reliant Warsaw offense took the field next and went to work immediately. The Tigers would use a 28-yard run by Reed Zollinger and an 18-yard carry from Ethan Egolf to get into the red zone, where Lucas Ransbottom would take them the rest of the way. Less than two minutes after his team fell behind, the senior would tie the game up with a 15-yard scamper.
Warsaw senior Lucas Ransbottom scampers down the sideline for a long gain during the second quarter. Photo by Gary Nieter.
The Warsaw defense was much more successful on its second series. The Rockies would pick up a pair of first downs, but not much else. A punt would give the ball back to the visitors, and once again, they would get onto the scoreboard. After putting together another nice drive, kicker Mason Smythe, who has been busy in the early going, came up clutch once again. The junior would convert his 46-yard field goal to put his team on top for the first time.
Plymouth was able to put together another nice drive on the following series, using the passing attack to inflict damage on the visitors once more. This time, however, the Tigers would bend, but not break, forcing a short field goal attempt. Senior linebacker Eric Pohl would use the situation to come up with the biggest highlight of the night so far: a block that would keep the home team behind on the scoreboard.
“We were definitely a little shell-shocked at first but it was a good thing that the offense was able to get going and make up for the early defensive issues.”
With momentum starting to really turn in Warsaw’s favor, the Tigers put together another impressive drive following the stop. It looked as if Curtis’ side was going to find the end zone once again, but ball security issues that have hurt the Tigers all season long would say otherwise. After a nice first down run, Leyton Isbell coughed up the ball in the red zone, giving the Rockies new life.
Isbell’s defense would have his back. Warsaw would force a three-and-out after the turnover and get the ball back with just under three minutes to go in the half. The visitors would use this opportunity to catch their opponents off guard. On just his second pass of the night, Warsaw quarterback Quinton Brock would hit Ransbottom for a 35-yard gain to put his team in Plymouth territory. After methodically moving it towards the goal line, Zollinger would punch it in from two yards out to extend the Tiger lead to 10 with just 30 seconds left in the half.
“We felt that they were committed to stopping the fullback up front, so we were able to adapt and start running outside, which I was really proud of,” Curtis said. “It’s great when you have so many guys that can get you yards.”
Already on top and getting the ball to begin the third, Warsaw put together a picture-perfect drive to extend its lead. After spending a majority of the first half handing the ball off or tossing it back, Brock began to keep the ball himself, resulting in the QB picking up a handful of first downs with his legs. Just about everybody who could touch the ball for the Tigers did so on this drive, as the visitors burned four minutes off of the clock and reached the end zone once again on a one-yard carry from Zollinger.
Needing something and needing it fast, the Rockies were able to string some first downs together on the following drive, getting the ball into Warsaw territory. But the home side was unable to get any points to show for it. Needing a fourth down conversion to continue the drive, Plymouth would not get it. Senior D-lineman Isaac Beam would blow up the play and lay a devastating hit for a sack to get his team off the field.
Warsaw used the stop to its advantage, getting into scoring range once again and letting Smythe do the rest. This time, his field goal would be good from 52 yards, extending the Tiger lead to an even 20.
The fourth quarter was relatively drama-free, with Warsaw adding another touchdown four minutes in on a two-yard run by junior Robbie Hoffert, and another with just over three minutes remaining on a one-yard carry by Brody Duncan to put an exclamation point on the win.
The Tigers ran for 343 yards in the game, led by Ransbottom’s 133. Egolf added 64 yards and Zollinger rounded out the top three with 58. Brock threw for 55 yards, all to Ransbottom, while running for 23 on the ground.
After three straight road contests to begin the year, the Tigers will finally get the chance to enjoy their home opener next Friday against Concord.
“It’s better than going on the road,” Curtis said, “Although this one felt like a trip down the neighborhood compared to our last two.”