ELKHART — It was the perfect send-off in what could be the final high school football game at Charger Field.
Elkhart Memorial overcame some costly mistakes in the first half and rallied to beat Northridge, 24-13, in Northern Lakes Conference play on Friday.
"Sweet Caroline" was played at the game's conclusion to celebrate the win and the field. The first game on the field was played on August 23rd, 2002, with Elkhart Memorial defeating Elkhart Central, 49-6.
"It's a little bit of history for us," said Memorial coach Scot Shaw about it possibly being the last game at Charger Field. "The kids can remember that they won the last game on Memorial's field. It was a great job done by the team."
Memorial scored the final 18 points of the game, as Northridge led 13-6 after getting a 35-yard field goal from Cameron Graber with 8:46 left in the third quarter. In the first quarter, Graber made a 43-yard field goal.
Setting up that third quarter field goal was an onside kick recovered by the Raiders' Zack Howey at the Crimson Chargers' 47-yard line to start the second half.
For a brief moment it appeared that Memorial had stopped the drive after a Derrick Woods interception, which he returned 87 yards for a touchdown. But the referees ruled that the ball, which bounced into Woods' hands, hit the ground.
"I thought it was an (interception) too," Shaw said. "(Woods) had his hands under it. He lifted the ball when it went up into the air and picked it and went. But you don't get the benefit of replay in high school."
Memorial shook off the bad break and scored touchdowns on their final three drives. Woods bounced to the outside and scored on a 27-yard run to start the Memorial comeback with 3:44 left in the third quarter. The two-point conversion pass failed.
The hosts took the lead for good at 18-13 after quarterback Tyler Lehner hooked up with Tyren Mason on a 54-yard touchdown pass with :40 left in the third. Lehner hit Mason in stride at Northridge's 20 and Mason sprinted from there into the end zone. The two-point conversion run failed.
Memorial sealed the game by going 72 yards on 13 plays, as Lehner capped the drive with a one-yard scoring plunge. An emotional Lehner raised his right arm emphatically with the ball after scoring. The drive started with 8:49 left in the game. The touchdown came with only 1:28 left in the game. The two-point conversion run failed.
"The best offensive series that we've had all year is the one we had to put the game away," Shaw said. "I was really happy with that and proud of our kids."
On the that drive, Woods rushed for 37 yards on nine carries. For the game, Woods totaled 109 yards rushing on 17 carries. The junior back exhibited a combination of power and speed.
"Derrick's a great athlete," Shaw said. "He enjoys playing. Tonight, he had to pull double-duty. He had to play corner as well because D'Arjon (Lewis) was sick. (Woods) had a great game. It's nice to have a kid that can make plays that aren't really scripted. He's a good one."
Shaw's squad was able to run out the clock after getting an interception for Lashawn Whitener with 1:12 left in the game.
In the second half, Memorial outgained Northridge, 180 yards to 51, and had nine first downs compared to only three for the Raiders.
Northridge's lone touchdown was a two-yard scamper by Caid Lacey with 1:56 left in the second quarter. A fake punt and Memorial personal foul and pass interference penalties set up that touchdown.
"We're just having to work too hard to get any points," said Raiders coach Tom Wogomon. "You just can't depend on fake punts, onside kicks and grab into your bag of tricks to get the job done. Right now, we can't establish drives offensively. It just wears on you.
"Credit to Memorial. They began to wear us down. You could see that our guys defensively we're getting really tired. (Memorial) got in a real simple formation and just kept pounding us. That's kind of what we want to try to do."
The Crimson Chargers got off to a great start in the game, with Clayton Lundy recovering a Northridge fumble on the opening kickoff. On the next play, Woods scored on a 24-yard run to give Memorial an early 6-0 lead. The extra-point was missed.
Memorial missed on an opportunity to add points in the second quarter, as Northridge's Jadan Bourne came up with an interception in the end zone with :22 left before halftime.
"I think overall we played the same way the entire game," Shaw said. "We cut down on our mistakes in the second half, which cost us in the first half."
The Crimson Chargers felt the loss of kicker Christian Santiago, who's out for the season because of personal reason. The kicking duties on Friday were handled by freshman Rodney Gates, who played in his first game on Friday.
"I was really surprised by his depths on kickoffs," Shaw said about Gates. "We didn't know he could kick until Thursday. He didn't even kick for the JV."
Memorial (3-6) visits No. 7 ranked Mishawaka (6-3) in Class 5A sectional play on November 1st. Northridge (4-5) hosts No. 3 East Noble (9-0) next Friday in Class 4A action.
ELKHART MEMORIAL 24, NORTHRIDGE 13
Scoring By Quarters
E — Derrick Woods 24 run; kick failed; 11:45
N — Cameron Graber 43 field goal; 5:24
N — Caid Lacey 2 run; Graber kick; 1:56
N — Graber 35 field goal; 8:46
E — Woods 27 run; pass failed; 3:44
E — Tyren Mason 54 pass from Tyler Lehner; run failed; :40
E — Lehner 1 run; run failed; 1:28
Northridge: Rushing — Caid Lacey 15-42, Oliver Eveler 15-27. Passing — Eveler 8-18-102 (1 int.). Receiving — Breckin Judd 3-45, Jett Gott 3-35, Josh Beard 2-22. Interceptions — Jadan Bourne. Sacks — Tanner Baber, Zack Howey.
Memorial: Rushing — Derrick Woods 17-109, Tyler Lehner 9-14. Passing — Lehner 8-13-145 (1 int.). Receiving — Tyren Mason 4-102, Damien Funnell 3-29, Woods 1-14. Interceptions — Lashawn Whitener. Fumble recoveries — Clayton Lundy. Sacks — Graham Elli 2, Reniko Stout.