By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — Winamac’s football team recorded an impressive 21-point win over Whiting in sectional play last week.
The Class A No. 3 Warriors (11-0) are now getting one of their top athletes back from injury for tonight’s 7 p.m. sectional championship game at West Central (8-3).
Junior Parker Fox is set to return from his broken collarbone injury for tonight’s final. Winamac coach Tim Roth said Fox will return to his starting spot at quarterback.
“He’s cleared. He’s going to play,” Roth said.
The Warriors are facing a West Central team they drubbed 51-0 six weeks ago.
A big storyline entering the contest is what happened last season, when the Trojans won 49-7 in the regular season and the Warriors turned the tables in a 49-13 win in the sectional final.
“We’ve been preaching to the kids that what happened last year could happen this year,” Roth said. “The team that gets beat traditionally makes more adjustments and plays harder than the team that wins. And we’re dealing with teenage kids that don’t always understand that. We’ve had a good week of practice. The guys will play hard. They know what they’re playing for and what they have to do.
“We know it won’t be as easy as the first time around. They had a couple turnovers early that really got us the early momentum that carried us through the ballgame. I’m confident if we go over there and play well we can win. It’ll be a 48-minute war. West Central will give everything they’ve got.”
Roth said Fox will also likely play at safety on defense tonight but probably won’t get the start there.
“He’ll definitely play in passing situations,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see and get the feel of the game, how his stamina is. We’ve won five ballgames without him. We’re confident in the kids that took his place. We replaced him with three or four guys and they stepped up and played well for us.”
Fox suffered his left shoulder injury during the West Central game and missed five games.
“The doctors were impressed with his healing abilities,” Roth said. “He drank more milk than he’s ever drank to get calcium into his system. He’s an athletic kid and a healthy, athletic kid who takes good care of himself. His body fat is minimal.”
Fox rushed for 385 yards and six touchdowns and averaged 10.1 yards per rush over the first five and a half games of the season. He passed for 416 yards and six TDs with one interception.
“I don’t know how many reps he’ll get, probably not as many as he would like,” Roth said. “I do know [offensive coordinator] Mark [Hendryx] wants to use him on offense as much as he can and we’ll go from there.
“I don’t know how many reps he’ll get on the other side of the ball. We’ll see how he feels. He’s been running for over a week and doing conditioning stuff with us.”
Backup quarterback J.T. Garnett has passed for 450 yards and 10 TDs with one interception.
“The nice thing is we know what J.T. can do and if Parker struggles a bit there J.T. will be there to pick up the pieces,” Roth said. “He’ll still get some playing time. He’ll go back into the receiver rotation and play special teams.”
Roth said Dakota Rogers and Kolten Scott have done a good job filling in for Fox at safety and that they and Luke Pugh could see time there tonight as well.
Senior fullback Tyler Katschke has rushed for 1,747 yards and 29 TDs this year to lead the Warriors. He’s averaging 10.3 yards per carry. He rushed for 200 yards and four TDs on 29 carries in last week’s 41-20 win over No. 7 Whiting.
Levi Schultz adds 419 yards rushing and 5 TDs and 234 yards receiving and 4 TDs.
Mitch Reed leads the defense with 94 tackles and 15 tackles for a loss. Katschke has 17 tackles for a loss and Dalton Button adds 16 tackles for a loss and four sacks.
The Warriors are seeking their first back-to-back sectional championships in program history and fourth sectional title overall.
The Trojans have defeated Culver 54-38 and Triton 66-6 in sectional play thus far. They have the 15th most votes in the Class A poll.
They are led by Parker Fritz, who has rushed for 1,081 yards and 17 TDs on the season. Hunter Holliday has passed for 461 yards and 3 TDs and rushed for 838 yards and 11 TDs.
“They’ve got some nice athletes,” Roth said. “Fritz at running back, if he can turn the corner he’s fast and he can be gone. Holliday at quarterback is vastly improved. Their offensive line when we played them was beat up and we beat them up more during our game. They’re all back and healthy.”
West Central is seeking its fourth sectional title and first since it won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005.