By ADAM KROEMER
A 19-second span crushed Wawasee’s upset hopes Friday.
The Warriors battled fifth-ranked and undefeated Leo to a 7-7 deadlock through most of the first half. But the visiting Lions capped a 99-yard drive to score a tiebreaking touchdown with 19 seconds left in the first half.
On the next play from scrimmage, a fumbled Wawasee pass completion was scooped up by Leo’s Logan Wood and returned 40 yards for another touchdown with 2.1 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
With the lead in hand, Leo took command, opening the second half with two more touchdowns and advancing in the sectional with a 35-7 victory.
Wawasee finished the season with a 5-5 record, while Leo will take a perfect 10-0 record into the sectional semifinals, where the Lions will face East Noble (8-2), who downed NorthWood 55-14 in a first-round sectional game.
Leo’s strong rushing attack centered on junior Logan Leiter, who finished the night with 248 yards rushing on 32 carries. He capped Leo’s first drive of the night with a 22-yard touchdown run.
But the Warriors were ready for the challenge, and answered with a 74-yard drive to tie the game. Quarterback Gage Reinhard connected with Jordan Elliott across the middle for a 45-yard completion, and then found Sam Clark open in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown.
The Warriors then had two chances to take the lead. They drove to the Leo 21 after a fumble recovery, but a 38-yard field goal attempt was missed.
On Leo’s next possession, Wawasee’s Brett Ward intercepted a tipped pass and returned it to the Warrior 37. Wawasee then marched into Leo territory, keyed by a 21-yard pass from Reinhard to Clayton Cook. But a Leo interception on the 1-yard line halted the threat, and the Lions would stun Wawasee with two quick scores to close the half.
“Leo is big and they are strong, and they took advantage of their strengths,” said Wawasee coach Josh Ekovitch. “That 99-yard drive kind of took the wind out of our sails,” he added.
“That 99-yard drive was huge for us,” said Leo coach Jared Sauder. “Wawasee gave us a lot of trouble in the first half, but I can’t say enough about our offensive line.”
Leiter rushed for 88 of those yards as Leo held the ball for 14 plays, and had 177 yards rushing by halftime.
It was the last game wearing the green and gold for 10 Wawasee seniors.
Statistically, Reinhard completed 15 of 27 passes for 168 yards. Cook caught five passes for 73 yards, while Nic Wilson rushed for 47 yards.