ELKHART — When his team needed him the most, one senior defensive player made a play.

Down 22-20, facing a 4th and 3 midway through the fourth quarter, Concord senior safety Will Odhiambo took down Warsaw running back Reed Zollinger short of the first down to give his team life.

“How awesome was that?” said Concord head coach Craig Koehler of the play by Odhiambo. “That was fantastic. He missed the play on the drive earlier. He’s really down on himself. I told him ‘Odhi, next play’. And then he comes back and makes that play. Just an incredible effort by him. And he deserves it. He’s a senior, he played his tail off and he made the play when he needed to make the play.”

The Minutemen offense took advantage of the opportunity its defense gave them by driving nearly 80 yards in five minutes to go ahead on a 21-yard touchdown by senior wide receiver Jack D’Arcy from senior quarterback Hunter Dutton with 50 seconds left to put the Minutemen up 26-22.

Warsaw had one more shot with less than a minute, but a fumble recovered by Concord’s Armen Koltookian sealed it, and the celebration was on. Players and coaches hugged, and Concord head coach Craig Koehler was doused with water by his team on a few occasions on the muddy, rain-soaked field.

With the win, Concord became the outright Northern Lakes Conference champions for the first time since 2015.

“Oh, man - it’s big,” said Koehler of being NLC champions. “This means we’re NLC champions. This was about our entire damn team. This is about the Concord Minutemen getting that trophy back in that case where it belongs. It’s not about a particular player, or a particular side of the ball. It’s about a program and a team.”

On what was a damp field early in the game due to all the rain that came down throughout the afternoon, Warsaw coughed it up on its first drive of the game. A fumble recovery by Anthony Trudell put his offense in great position to strike first, and they did.

It took two plays and 36 yards, and the Minutemen were up early on the scoreboard. A 25-yard connection from Dutton to D’Arcy put the Minutemen ahead 7-0 just a couple minutes into the first quarter.

The Tigers answered later in the quarter behind their potent rushing attack that saw five different players carry the ball on Friday night. One of those players, Bryson Brown – tied the game at seven with 3:21 to play in the first quarter after he bounced it outside for what would be a 24-yard scamper into the end zone.

The game remained tied at seven a piece until Warsaw’s dynamic running back Julius Jones found a hole in the Concord defensive line and sprinted down the field for 81 yards before getting stopped at the Minutemen 2. Two plays later, he’d punch it in from two yards out to put Warsaw up 14-7 midway through the second quarter.

Concord made multiple splash plays on both defense and special teams on Friday night, but perhaps the biggest one came late in the second quarter on a Warsaw punt.

Concord’s Gabe Mayo punched through the line and blocked the Tiger punt inside the Warsaw 20-yard line. The Minutemen offense would drive down to the Tigers one-yard line, and on fourth down, Dutton rolled out and found Trudell in the middle of the end zone to tie the game at 14 going into halftime.

"It was massive," said Koehler of the blocked punt. "To make a special teams play to get it even before the half, that was big."

In the second half, the Tigers took the lead on a third and long after quarterback Tucker Curtis scrambled out of the pocket and into the end zone for a 25-yard score. A botched snap led to a two-point conversion, and it was 22-14, Tigers with 9:45 left in the third quarter.

Both team’s defenses did their jobs for the remainder of the third quarter before Concord finally scored again early in the fourth. A well-orchestrated drive by the Minutemen ended with a 12-yard touchdown grab on third down by Amarion Moore with 10:39 left in the fourth.

With Warsaw leading 22-20, the Minutemen defense had to make a stop. The Tigers ran the ball down the throats of a tired Concord defense for most of the drive until Odhiambo made the crucial stop to give his team a shot.

A savvy Dutton at quarterback went 10/10 on the final drive that ended in the game-winning touchdown to D’Arcy.

For the fifth time in seven tries, the Minutemen beat Warsaw. This time though, the victory earned them their eighth win in a row and a conference championship.

"I didn't know what the scoreboard would say at the end of the game, but I knew my team would battle," Koehler said. "You have to give Warsaw a heck of a lot of credit. We just beat a really good football team. I just knew there certainly wouldn't be any give up in us. I knew both teams would be prepared. I have a tremendous amount of respect for (Warsaw head coach Bart Curtis). It just came down to 15-to-18 year old kids making plays."


CONCORD 26, WARSAW 22

Warsaw — 7; 7; 8; 0 — 22

Concord — 7; 7; 0; 12 — 26

Scoring Plays

First Quarter

CON – (9:38) Jack D’Arcy 25 pass from Hunter Dutton (Miguel Aguilar kick)

WAR – (3:21) Bryce Brown 24 run (Mason Smythe kick)

Second Quarter

WAR – (6:57) Julius Jones 2 run (Mason Smythe kick)

CON – (:09) Anthony Trudell 1 pass from Hunter Dutton (Miguel Aguilar kick)

Third Quarter

WAR – (9:45) Tucker Curtis 25 run (Russ Winchester pass from Curtis two-point conversion good)

Fourth Quarter

CON – (10:39) Amarion Moore 12 pass from Hunter Dutton (two-point conversion no good)

CON – (:50) Jack D’Arcy 21 pass from Hunter Dutton (two-point conversion no good)

Evan Lepak can be reached at evan.lepak@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 240326. Follow him on Twitter @EvanMPLepak.

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