By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — Winamac’s football team is just one win away from its first-ever trip to the state finals.
In fact it would be the Warriors’ first trip to the state finals in any team sport since 1932 in boys basketball. The Warriors have had individual state champions in Shane Crawford (boys track), Miles Nelson (wrestling) and Chris Kasten (wrestling).
The Warriors (13-0) host Tri-Central (12-1) in the Class A northern semistate game at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Roudebush Stadium.
The Trojans enter ranked No. 8 in the AP poll and No. 7 in the coaches’ poll.
They have won 12 straight games after a season-opening loss to No. 4 Eastern Hancock (47-35), which is hosting No. 1 Linton-Stockton in the southern semistate game. Tri-Central’s tournament run has included a 35-7 win in sectional play over perennial power Sheridan and a 28-7 win at South Adams last week in regional play.
“They are a very good ballclub. There’s a reason they’re here,” Winamac coach Tim Roth said.
Tri-Central is located in northern Tipton County in between Tipton and Kokomo.
The Trojans have scored 35.9 points per game this season while allowing 10.9 ppg.
Tri-Central junior quarterback Cody Howell is 73-for-127 passing on the season for 1,272 yards with 20 touchdowns to go with four interceptions. He’s also rushed 75 times for 402 yards and 8 TDs.
Senior Garrett Kelley is the leading rusher with 1,622 yards and 19 TDs on 242 carries. Sophomore Cody Colbert has rushed for 695 yards and 4 TDs on 104 carries. Sophomore Dillon Smith has rushed for 531 yards and 9 TDs on 86 totes.
Senior Jade Pickett is the leading receiver with 25 catches for 379 yards and 9 TDs. Senior Seth Blunck adds 21 catches for 442 yards and 6 TDs.
“They run an offense that is different than what we’re used to,” Roth said. “They run a split-back veer with two backs in the backfield, not necessarily a fullback and tailback. It’s old-school football. They run dive right, dive left, off tackle right, off tackle left, option power to both sides. They run a two tight end formation. They will bounce out of two tights and run some slot as well.
“They’re averaging 6 yards per play. They throw when they have to. From that standpoint they’re a lot like us. They’re a running team that passes the ball to have balance and they throw the ball when they want to.”
The Warriors enter ranked No. 3 in the AP poll and No. 1 in the coaches’ poll. They have scored 48.4 ppg while allowing 9.5 ppg.
Senior fullback Tyler Katschke has rushed for a school-record 2,005 yards on the season on 206 carries with 32 touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Parker Fox is 29-for-49 passing on the season for 608 yards despite missing five games with a broken collarbone before returning for the sectional final against West Central. He has nine touchdown passes to go with just one interception. He is a dual threat on the ground, rushing for 486 yards on 51 carries with 7 TDs.
Senior running back Levi Schultz has scored 13 touchdowns on the season overall on offense, defense and special teams. On the ground he has rushed for 504 yards on 35 carries with 5 TDs.
Senior running back Keegan Kasten has rushed for 299 yards and 6 TDs on 35 attempts and adds 10 receptions for 175 yards and 4 TDs.
Senior tight end Sean Lynch is the leading receiver with 15 catches for 394 yards and five TDs.
Roth further talked about the matchup with the Trojans.
“Defensively they play a 3-4, and their front three play like they’re shot out of a gun. They play the run real well,” he said. “That will create some problems for us offensively. Their four linebackers are able to pursue.
“It’s not anything different from what we’ve already seen defensively. Hopefully our guys will go out and concentrate and execute like they have been and make some plays.”
Junior linebacker Mitch Reed is Winamac’s leading tackler with 113. Dalton Button has 22 tackles for a loss, Katschke has 20 and Reed adds 17. Button and Kasten each have four sacks.