SYRACUSE — “We’re playing football in November,” Wawasee football coach Tom Wogomon exclaimed to his team Friday. “It’s about time.”
The sophomore tandem of quarterback Gage Reinhard and wideout Clayton Cook connected on a 39-yard touchdown pass with 2:01 to play, senior Jordan Action booted the extra point and Wawasee held on to beat NorthWood 31-28 in a Class 4A sectional football semifinal at Warrior Field.
The win avenged a 35-21 loss to NorthWood in Syracuse in Week 5 and it earned the Warriors (7-4) the right to play for a sectional championship next Friday at Concord (9-2). It will be the first time Wawasee will be playing past October since 2004.
Reinhard, leading the Warriors in a no-huddle offense that gave him a chance to read the defense on the fly, completed 12-of-22 passes for 181 yards, including three for 114 yards to Cook.
“We’ve been playing together since seventh grade,” said Cook of his lengthy on-field relationship with Reinhard. “We just have that chemistry. He’s a real good quarterback and we just hook up a lot.”
Said Reinhard of Cook, “He’s a good route runner. He knows where to be and when to be there. You can depend on him.”
A crossing route in the first quarter resulted in a 64-yard TD pass from Reinhard to Cook in the second quarter.
“Their safeties were split and we had a wide open middle,” said Cook, who caught the pass and then used the speed that helped him set the school 100-meter record of 11.21 seconds last spring to out-race the defense.
Cook’s first touchdown came on the heels of a 1-yard TD run by Derrick Sorenson and 3-yard scoring run by Gabe Rhodes.
Wawasee prevailed in a game that saw the two teams score three touchdowns apiece in the first half with a 29-yard Acton field, a 26-yard TD run by Kirkwood and the final Cook TD and Acton PAT accounting for the second-half points.
The Warriors and Panthers combined for 39 first downs and 778 yards from scrimmage.
“The last time we played these guys, they ran all over us,” said Wogomon. “We knew that this NorthWood team packed a punch and we responded. This was a great game. If you paid your $6, you got every penny’s worth. No doubt about it.”
NorthWood, which pulled out a first-round win against Plymouth a week ago, went ahead 28-24 with 11:52 to go in the game on junior QB Kirkwood’s second rushing TD and kicker Brendan Widner’s PAT.
The Panthers (5-6) got three first-half touchdowns a 3-yard run by Kirkwood, 51-yard run by Luke Edwards and a 20-yard pass from Kirkwood to Nick Graber.
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Wawasee 31, NorthWood 28
Scoring by Quarters
NorthWood 14 7 0 7 — 28
Wawasee 14 7 3 7 — 31
School — Scoring Play
NW — Will Kirkwood 3 run; Brendan Widner kick, 10:14.
W — Derrick Sorenson 1 run; Jordan Acton kick, 5:07.
NW — Luke Edwards 51 run; Widner kick, 4:31.
W — Gabe Rhodes 3 run; Acton kick, 2:35.
W — Clayton Cook 64 pass from Gage Reinhard; Acton kick, 4:55.
NW — Nick Graber 20 pass from Kirkwood; Widner kick, 1:50.
W — Acton 29 field goal, 5:00.
NW — Kirkwood 26 run; Widner kick, 11:52.
W — Cook 39 pass from Reinhard; Acton kick, 2:01.
Officials: Jeff Meeks, Keith Hoyt, Ronnie Branch, Justin Shippy, Tom Talarico.
Team Statistics NW Wa
Net yards rushing 230 210
Net yards passing 157 181
Total Yards 387 391
First Downs 20 19
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-0
Penalties 4-35 3-15
NorthWood: Rushing — Will Kirkwood 11-90, Luke Edwards 4-66, Tanner Cleveland 12-50. Passing — Kirkwood 16-26-157 (0 int.). Receiving — Nick Graber 6-83, Trent Sauceda 3-29. Interceptions — Connor Bunch, Dylan Risser.
Wawasee: Rushing — Derrick Sorenson 13-106, Gabe Rhodes 11-72, Gage Reinhard 7-39. Passing — Reinhard 12-22-191 (2 int.). Receiving — Clayton Cook 3-114, Rhodes 4-50, Jordan Elliott 5-17.