Tigers trounce Carroll in semifinal contest

Carroll quarterback Jimmy Sullivan finds himself engulfed by a trio of Tiger defenders (L-R) Eric Pohl, Cohen Heady and Nate Rosas. Photo by Gary Nieter
By Ella Perkins
Times-Union Correspondent

WARSAW — In a game that will undoubtedly be etched into Warsaw football history, the Tigers put on an incredible performance against Carroll, showcasing a level of skill, strategy, and teamwork that had fans erupting in the stands.

From start to finish, the team displayed fantastic defense on its way to a 31-17 win in its 6A Sectional 2 semifinal contest Friday night.

“We didn’t want to come out flat,” Eric Pohl said when asked about what made this game the one where Warsaw needed to send a message early.

Right from the opening kick-off by Mason Smythe, it was evident the Tigers meant business. Their first drive down the field was a masterpiece, with Drew Sullivan scoring  only a minute into the game on a 24-yard run.

The Tiger’s defense was also on their game with an interception by Daylor Vilamaa and tackles for losses setting the tone for the entire game.

As the game progressed into the second quarter, Warsaw continued to exhibit a mesmerizing offensive display.

Despite all of Carroll’s best efforts to stop him, Reed Zollinger was his usual self in this one, playing bully ball and shedding tackles like a snake getting its new skin. Each play seemed like a well-choreographed ballet of routes and passes, leading to Mason Smythe kicking a field goal to extend the lead to 10-0 and keeping the Tigers in front.

But, it wasn’t long after that the Chargers booted a field goal as well, earning them three points. The running game was equally potent, with a perfect blend of power and agility for Warsaw.

By the time the third quarter rolled around, it was clear the Tigers had the upper hand in this one. Warsaw showed off a display of dominance that has been unmatched in the area thus far this season by going on a drive that lasted the entirety of the third quarter punctuated by Zollinger’s first score of the night four seconds into the fourth.

“We felt like we had to play and match their physicality and their enthusiasm…and we came out and did that,” Head Coach Bart Curtis said when asked about how they were able to keep the ball, and the pace, for so long.

Sacks, fumbles, and interceptions were commonplace for Carrol’s quarterback, Jimmy Sullivan, as the Warsaw defense, which has been such a key factor in so many games for the Tigers all season long, kept a tight hold on him.

Entering the final quarter with a comfortable lead, Warsaw didn’t let its foot off the gas. During the first four seconds into the clock, the Zollinger score extended the lead to 17-3.

Staring elimination in the face, the Chargers began to get it going on offense. Griffin Scheele had a nice 36-yard run for Carroll, but Isaac Beam ran in for the tackle stopping them from moving any further. Not long after, Robbie Straughan began to shine for the Tigers, getting an interception and keeping the Chargers from clawing any closer.

Following Straughan’s play, Zollinger fought for another touchdown to make the score 24-3.

Carroll began to gain yards on Warsaw’s 6 minutes left on the clock and was able to sneak a touchdown in by Jimmy Sullivan throwing the ball quickly to Brady Rhoad who ducked and slid into the touchdown zone, changing the score to 24-10.

With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Ethan Egolf put the finishing touches on the victory with a 14-yard touchdown run to put things away for good. The Chargers added one more score in the final minute, but it was not enough to spoil the Tigers’ big night.

In Warsaw Football History, there are games that stand out as masterpieces and this game will undoubtedly be remembered as one of them.

The Tigers showcased an exceptional level of skill, teamwork, and strategy throughout the entire game. From a shining first quarter to a dominating 3rd and 4th quarter, they left no doubt about their prowess. This was more than a game: it was a statement of excellence on display from Warsaw.

The Tigers will take on Penn for the right to hoist a sectional championship on Friday night.