DUNLAP — Two months ago must seem like an eternity to Concord and Wawasee.
Way back on Week 4, the Minutemen buried the Warriors 54-7 on Jake Field. Concord piled up 454 yards of offense and never looked back.
But there have been plenty of changes to go around in both camps for the NLC rivals, who meet again tonight in a Class 4A sectional championship game.
Concord has switched quarterback and switched gears offensively, retreating some from a pass-first attack to more of a run-based control game. After being thrashed by Jimtown in Week 6 and a tough home loss to Plymouth a week later, the Minutemen have ripped off four straight wins, averaging 41 points a game.
Wawasee, which was forced to go to sophomore Gabe Reinhard after the dismissal of senior D.J. Semon, scuffled along in midseason, being drubbed in successive weeks to Concord, NorthWood and Plymouth.
But a 14-13 victory over Warsaw, the Warriors’ most bitter rival, changed the scenery.
“To say we were out-played is an understatement. That was our third game in a row of getting blown out,” said Tom Wogomon, Wawasee’s head coach. “We sat down on Saturday and looked at the game tape and we said this is a pivotal game in our program. We can go one way or the other, but we can’t stay the same.
“We were staring at 2-8 and we weren’t playing competitive football,” he said.
But through a combination of injuries healing, a few players quitting the team and a general commitment to working hard, Wawasee has managed to reel off five consecutive wins.
Forget that early meeting. Concord coach Tim Dawson says this Warrior team can’t be taken lightly at all.
“They’re playing hard, they’re playing with a lot more confidence,” said Dawson, whose club is looking for its first sectional title since 2010. “They’ve tweaked their offense some. They’re trying to get the ball to (wideout Clayton) Cook and they’re running the ball more.
“They’re playing with a purpose.”
“When we stepped on the field against Warsaw, there was a look in their eyes we hadn’t seen before,” Wogomon said. “It was nothing like a quick transformation. We just played good football.”
And since a wild back-and-forth, tourney-opening win at East Noble, the Minutemen have found a rhythm as well.
With junior Trevor Wilmore bringing an elusive run-pass threat to the quarterback position and with senior halfback DuWhan Alford running with a chip on his shoulder, Concord has a ground game which eats games away.
“Wilmore can still pass, but it’s a totally different area between the tackles and he’s bouncing it outside, too,” Wogomon said.
“I think East Noble was a great win for us,” Dawson said. “The final drive gave us a lot of confidence. Trevor extends plays more for us and we’ve got a good game plan in. We have to take it to them.”
Wawasee at Concord
Kickoff: Friday, 7 p.m.
Site: Jake Field, Concord High School.
Records: Wawasee 7-4, Concord 9-2.
Streaks: Wawasee has won 5 straight games; Concord has won 4 straight games.
Series: Concord leads 35-12; Concord has won last 8 meetings.
Last meeting: Concord won 54-7 on Sept. 7.
Advancement: Winner to meet either Norwell or New Haven in regional on Nov. 9.
Broadcast: WAWC 103.5, www.willie1035.com.
Rushing — Derrick Sorensen 188-612 (18 TDs), Gabe Rhodes 104-550 (5 TDs). Passing — Gage Reinhard 92-175-1,328 (13 TDs). Receiving — Clayton Cook 40-782 (11 TDs), Rhodes 22-281. Tackles — Braxton O’Haver 80 (34 solos, 46 assists), Rhodes 80 (30-50), Brandon McCullouch 75 (37-38), Austin Lutz 74 (40-34).
Rushing — DuWhan Alford 140-992 (13 TDs), Trevor Wilmore 78-706 (11 TDs). Passing — Wilmore 53-90-747 (6 TDs), Ryan McKibbin 75-156-1,109 (8 TDs). Receiving — Adam Glanders 44-722 (8 TDs), Dakota Simon 29-429 (3 TDs), Franko House 28-293 (3 TDs). Tackles — Taylor Miller 80 (37-43), Dallas Maynard 66 (30-36), House 58 (25-33), Brandon Thomas 50 (32-18).