By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — WINAMAC — The 2013 Winamac Warriors football team is in very good company.
The Warriors matched what their 2000 squad was able to accomplish with a 13-1 record and finishing as semistate finalists.
Winamac coach Tim Roth coached both teams as he has all the Warriors squads over the last 33 seasons. Both teams certainly rank among the best in program history.
Roth has often been asked which one was better.
“They were equal. That’s the way I would leave it,” he said. “The difference was in 2000 we were in [Class] 2A and this year we were in 1A. Statistically this team broke the school records in yardage and scoring. But in the 2000 state tournament run, they beat some real Class 2A powers. They beat Cass in Week 1, Eastbrook in Week 2, Delphi who at that time was undefeated in Week 3. We beat North Judson in regional play and then played the eventual state champion the next year in Luers.
“That team would say the competition was greater than it was this year. Both teams were pretty darn good teams and a lot of fun to coach. The biggest similarity would be there was what I would call ‘good ornery’ on both teams. They’re smart kids, athletic kids that are very coachable. What they had most in common is they had great chemistry.”
Roth has watched the film of the heartbreaking 20-14 semistate loss to Tri-Central Friday that included a game-winning 80-yard drive by the Trojans in the final 2:41 of the contest.
“We got beat by a good team. They might lay an egg on Friday but they’re 13-1,” Roth said.
The Winamac coach said the two teams were very evenly matched.
“We were extremely even. If we played 10 times we’d go 5-5 against each other,” he said.
Roth has no regrets. If there was anything he would do differently it would be going for it on fourth down late in the game instead of trying a 48-yard field goal. The Warriors faced a fourth-and-14 situation from the TC 31-yard line with 2:49 left to play in a 14-14 ballgame and opted to let all-state kicker Zach Markley try a 48-yard attempt.
“We might have run some kind of play-action pass to try to get a first down there. But I have no regrets,” Roth said.
A false start penalty made the try from 48 yards instead of 43, and Roth said maybe he should have changed his mind on attempting a field goal following the penalty. Markley had connected on field goals of 47, 48 and 50 yards this season, but the cold and wet conditions Friday were difficult for kicking.
“It was dead on, it just fell five yards short,” Roth said. “You see that happen in the NFL all the time. Fortunately we had a kicker that can kick long field goals, but that penalty killed us.”
Tri-Central put together a drive at the end of the game that will certainly be remembered in that program’s lore.
“They showed a lot of poise to get the ball with 2:41 and go 80 yards for a score and leave 4 ticks on the clock. A lot of teams can’t do that,” Roth said.
The Warriors nearly had a sack early in the drive that would have put the Trojans around the 5-yard line and might have ended any chance they had of scoring before the end of regulation. They missed both their PATs in the game so a field goal seemingly would not have been a good option. But quarterback Cody Howell somehow eluded the sack and completed a 14-yard pass to the 34-yard line to get the drive started.
“Sean [Lynch] had him by the jersey and spun him around,” Roth said. “Dalton [Button] was coming to finish him off but when [Lynch] spun him around, Dalton and [Devin] Kistler were coming and they took each other out. He got outside and made a tremendous pass.”
The Trojans were later aided by a facemask penalty that moved them into Winamac territory. It was one of 12 penalties committed by the Warriors for 120 yards in the contest.
Roth did not exactly agree with all of the calls.
“This is going to sound like sour grapes but eight of the 12 penalties came from the official on the other side of the field,” he said. “The last facemask penalty called, I don’t know who they called it on. He said it was on Mitch Reed, but I don’t know what they saw. It was something we didn’t see on film.
“On film it looked like we were not around the kid’s head, we were around his waist.”
In the end the Warriors needed to play a cleaner game to pull off the win.
“We thought we had the penalty situation figured out during our playoff run but when you have 12 penalties and two turnovers you’re not going to win many games like that,” Roth said.
The high-octane Warrior offense had a slow start to the game. The Warriors committed five penalties for 60 yards in the first half alone and trailed 6-0 at halftime after a 64-yard pass play set up the Trojans’ first score on their opening possession of the game.
“We played so poorly offensively the first half, that’s what killed us,” Roth said.
The Trojans put together a 92-yard scoring drive that took up over six minutes of the third quarter to take a 14-0 lead.
The Warriors had an 85-yard drive of their own to get on the board in the fourth quarter.
“Finally we woke up in the fourth quarter and we get things moving and make a game out of it,” Roth said.
The Warriors then recovered back-to-back fumbles by the Trojans in Winamac territory. The Warriors converted the first one to tie the game but missed the long field goal on the second one, setting up Tri-Central’s final drive.
Tyler Katschke, Winamac’s all-time and single season rushing leader, ran for 119 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in the game. Quarterback Parker Fox was 8-of-12 passing for 172 yards and a touchdown. Lynch had four catches for 104 yards and a TD, and Levi Schultz added three catches for 62 yards.
Katschke finished his fine season with 2,124 yards rushing and 33 TDs.
Tri-Central outgained Winamac 307-299 in total yardage for the game, including 161-127 on the ground.
Roth was impressed with Tri-Central’s defense.
“Honestly we felt like if we could control their front three we had a good chance of winning. On film we didn’t see what kind of team speed they had. Their four linebackers, we tested all of them throughout the game. They played great, especially No. 21 [Garrett Kelley], that guy made plays all over the field.”
The game was an extremely physical and hard-hitting contest by both squads.
“We did that in 2000 to Luers when they played Mater Dei in the state finals,” Roth said. “Matt Lindsey told me afterwards that they were so beat up after their semistate game that they weren’t the same team on Friday and they lost by a big score. Then in this game, everybody that got hit got planted. There was no one bouncing off tackles. And it wasn’t just one guy, it was all 22.
“It was never a case of effort. We had mental mistakes and mental mishaps, but they played their hearts out.”