MONON — There was still a chance, still hope.
North White faltered with its late second-half drive against Winamac on Friday at Horton Field, turning the ball over with one minute, 30 seconds left in the second quarter. And sure, the Warriors responded with a touchdown and 2-point conversion to pull ahead by six before the halftime buzzer.
But the Vikings were still within striking distance of the visitors in a contest between winless teams. Within a span of 20 seconds, hope disembarked.
Really, it encompassed the first 4:35 of the third quarter. But Winamac took control of the game in a span of roughly 20 scoreboard seconds and rolled to a 62-24 victory.
The Warriors (1-2) closed a 62-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run from Gabe Townsend at the 7:45 mark of the third frame. A 2-point conversion pass from Russell Compton to Hayden Clark pushed the lead to 32-18.
After a Brayden Buschman 11-yard kick return, North White (0-3) set up at its own 37 on first down. Its offense hit paydirt twice in the first quarter and once in the second, responding each time to either a Warriors score or after collecting a turnover.
Senior quarterback Anthony Ball went for a middle of the field throw to the right hashmark — a space where he connected several times in the first half with good results. This throw, however, was short of its intended target, and intercepted at the 42 by linebacker Beau Brandt. Brandt collected the ball and took off in the other direction with nearly a clear path and much clearer intentions.
He crossed the goal line at 7:25 of the third for a touchdown, and then Compton found Brayden Lynch for the 2-point conversion and a 40-18 advantage.
Unfortunately for the home faithful, it got worse for Ball and the hosts. Ball threw another interception on the next drive, ruled one as Lynch and a Vikings player seemed to wrestle for control of the ball as they tumbled out of bounds.
Winamac punted on the drive, but Ball opened the next drive with another pick-six that pushed the Warriors’ lead to 48-18 with the conversion run.
“Offensively, we made a few mistakes here and there,” North White head coach Kirk Quasebarth said. “Made some big ones that put scores on the board, and then we were playing catch-up. And we’re not a good team to do that right now.”
Winamac then recovered an onside kick — using the same ploy the Vikings tried multiple times and pulled off successfully once — and scored on that drive, as well. Brandt rumbled 43 yards for a 54-18 lead and a running clock with under three minutes to play in the frame.
North White momentarily stopped the running clock as Ball ran in from one yard out for a 54-24 score, but Townsend added a 6-yard run and the 2-point conversion for the game’s final score with four and a half minutes to play.
Fox and Townsend combined for 193 rush yards, with Fox garnering 118. Winamac rushed for 249, but Quasebarth took solace in the fact the Warriors got most of that in the first half.
“I thought the second half we played better defense on their run game, which we had problems with in the first half,” Quasebarth said.
It wasn’t all bad for Ball, either. He was 16 for 27 for 261 yards, and threw for three touchdowns. He also ran for one. Tight end Trey Cobb caught five passes for 73 yards, and two touchdowns.
His first, a catch down the left hash mark, saw Cobb rumble in the rest of the way for a 12-yard score and a 12-6 lead with 1:27 left in the first quarter.
Ball lived mostly between the hash marks, with several seam and circle route passes going for completions to his tight ends and tailbacks.
One of the first was a 23-yard touchdown to Cade Garrett in which Ball rolled to his right, then lofted a ball toward Garrett in the end zone near the right sideline. That score pulled the Vikings within 8-6 late in the first quarter.
North White attempted an onside kick, and Parker Smith pounded when the Warriors Jaden Terry fumbled the ball.
Given a relatively short field, Ball directed a 45-yard drive that ended with Cobb’s first score and a two-TD output in just under 1:30 of game time.
In the second quarter, after Winamac pulled ahead 16-12, it took the Vikings just 38 seconds to answer. Ball found Cobb streaking down the left hash mark this time, with the senior earning roughly half the 32-yard score after the catch for an 18-16 North White lead with 8:21 left in the half.
The hosts later took control of the ball with 2:40 until halftime, and drove for 1:10 before an incomplete pass on 4th-and-15 gave Winamac the ball and sent the Warriors on an unprecedented scoring run.
Brayden Buschman had six catches for 88 yards, and Richie Spear accumulated 54 yards on four catches. Devon Pezel accrued 11.5 tackles, while Zackery Sloan added 10.5 and Ball had nine.
“We’re still a team trying to find our identity,” Qusebarth said. “This team here has been fighting all year. … We’re going to win a couple games this year, win some games down the road.”