By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
It’s been nearly two months since the Concord Minutemen and the Wawasee Warriors squared off on the local high school football gridiron and both teams have undergone some personnel changes since that meeting back on Sept. 7 at Concord.
The Minutemen won the regular-season contest by a 54-7 score at Jake Field in Dunlap where the two NLC rivals will hook up again this Friday for the Class 4A, Sectional 11 championship.
Concord enters the game with a 9-2 record and a four-game winning streak while Wawasee is 7-4 and is riding a five game-winning streak. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
“That was eight games ago,” said Concord coach Tim Dawson about the first game. “You can see on film Wawasee is playing with more confidence.
“This is another game where we are the favorite, but as we told the kids if you don’t believe Wawasee can beat us call the kids from NorthWood (lost to Wawasee 31-28 last week) and ask them.”
The Minutemen would be on the road in the regional championship either at Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger (5-6) or Norwell (2-9).
“We are a different club,” said Wawasee coach Tom Wogomon about the first meeting. “One of the things that has happened to us is all the kids have pulled together. We have been talking to kids all season about playing more physical, which is what you have to do to win games in the NLC.”
The Warriors’ win streak started when the team got more physical in the Warsaw game (14-13 Wawasee win) back in Week 7.
“Football is a game you can’t just worry about playing your assignment,” Wogomon said. “You have to play the game with a certain emotional level and the Warsaw game is where we started seeing that from our kids.”
Wawasee would host Norwell or travel to Dwenger in the regional finale.
In kind of an unusual twist, quarterback is one position where both teams are expected to start different players than they did before.
Six-foot (171) junior Trevor Wilmore has taken over as the Concord starter replacing 6-3 (235) senior Ryan McKibbin.
“Since Wilmore has taken over Concord is doing a lot more of what we are doing on offense,” Wogomon said.
Wilmore has completed 53-of-90 passes (58.9 percent) for 747 yards and six touchdowns. He is also Concord’s second-leading rusher with 706 yards on 78 carries (9.1 average) and 11 scores.
“The reason Wilmore is in there is his running ability,” Dawson said. “His running ability compliments our passing game and makes our offense a two-headed monster. At this stage of the year you have to be able to run the ball.”
McKibbin is 75-of-156 passing for 1,109 yards and 10 TDs to go with 126 rushing yards on 50 carries and three scores.
Six-foot (145) sophomore Gage Reinhard is the Wawasee starter. The prior starter is no longer on the team.
“One of the things Wawasee has done with the change is simplify the offense,” Dawson said. “They are using fewer formations so we have less looks to consider in practice. The thing Wawasee is doing is spreading the defense out and making you defend the whole field. That is what we like to do.”
Reinhard is 92-of-175 passing (52.6 percent) for 1,327 yards and 13 TDs.
Wilmore is the bigger threat to run.
“We have got to make sure we corral him,” Wogomon said. “All you have to do is look at the film from the East Noble game. There were a number of times where we thought the defense had him and were ready to move on to the next play only to have him suddenly pop out. He can cut on a dime and use his feet to get around the corner.”
One area Wogomon knows his defense needs to improve upon this time around is cutting down on the big plays. The Minutemen scored five TDs (four offensive) on plays of 30 or more yards.
“We have got to limit the big plays,” Wogomon said. “The first meeting was a highlight film for Concord.”
Concord’s leading rusher is 6-2 (230) senior DuWhan Alford with 922 yards on 140 carries (6.6 average). He has scored 13 TDs. The team has three receivers with 28 or more receptions. Six-two (172) junior Adam Glanders had 44 catches for 722 yards (16.4) and eight scores, 6-2 (185) senior Dakota Simon 29 for 429 (14.8) and three and 6-4 (236) senior Franko House 28 for 293 (10.5) and three.
“Glanders is an outstanding receiver,” Wogomon said. “He had great hands, good speed and runs routes well.”
The top rushers for Wawasee are 5-8 (165) senior Derrick Sorensen with 612 yards on 168 attempts (3.6 average) and eight TDs and 5-10 (190) junior Gabe Rhodes 550 on 104 (5.3) and five.
Six-two (160) sophomore wideout Clayton Cook is the leading receiver with 40 catches for 782 yards (19.6) and 11 TDs.
“Cook is playmaker and Wawasee is trying to get him the ball,” Dawson said. “If he gets the ball in the open field he is hard to get down.”
Both teams have capable placekickers. Six-one (180) sophomore Ryan Tepe is 47-of-50 on PATs and 4-of-9 on field goals for the Minutemen. He has a long field goal of 45 yards and booted the game-winner of 33 yards with :11 left in the East Noble game. Six-foot (160) senior Jordan Acton is 22-of-25 on PATs and 2-of-3 in field goals. His long field goal is 29 yards.
Concord’s defense has forced opposing team’s into 36 turnovers (21 interceptions and 15 fumbles)
“We have scored a lot of touchdowns off those turnovers,” Dawson said.
Five-eleven (178) sophomore safety Brandon Thomas leads the Minutemen with five interceptions, 5-9 (175) senior linebacker Taylor Miller four, 5-9 (150) senior defensive back Desmond Love and Wilmore both three. Five-eleven (150) sophomore defensive back Kyle Moreno and 5-10 (186) senior lineman Shawndale Gwynn both have a team-high two fumble recoveries.
Wawasee’s defense has picked off 10 passes with 5-11 (170) junior Austin Lutz having four, Sorensen three and 5-8 (145) junior Brandon McCullouch two.
The leading tacklers for Concord are Miller with 37 tackles and 43 assists, 5-9 (188) senior linebacker Dallas Maynard 30 and 36, House 25 and 33, Thomas 32 and 18 and 6-1 (215) junior tackle Michael McQueen 25 and 21.
Wawasee leaders are 6-2 (185) junior linebacker Braxton O’Haver 34 tackles and 46 assists, Lutz 40 and 34, McCullouch 37 and 38, Rhodes 30 and 50 and Sorensen 24 and 4.