DUNLAP — Jake Field was as quiet as it is on a cold day in January.
With the fate of the game depending on the mark of the football, fans on both sides of the field held their collective breath until the measurement was complete and the referee signaled that Concord had held Warsaw on a fourth-and-two play with just under two minutes left, giving the ball over to the Minuteman.
Three plays out of the Victory Formation later, coach Craig Koehler's Minutemen had beaten Warsaw, 34-28, to earn a share of the Northern Lakes Conference title.
"The NLC is a tremendous conference and they just don't hand you a title,'' Koehler said. "This is just a tremendous win for our kids. They fought like crazy tonight and beat a very good football team with a Hall of Fame coach. I couldn't be more pleased than I am right now.''
Concord, ranked No. 8 in Class 5A, found out they had shared the title with Plymouth, when athletic director Dave Preheim told the team that the Rockies had lost to NorthWood. Both teams finished 6-1 in the NLC, while Warsaw (No. 7 in 6A), finished 5-2.
The Minutemen played perhaps their best offensive game of the year in the first half, racing to a 34-7 lead and dominating both sides of the football.
"We really played well in the first half, but we knew Warsaw wasn't going away,'' Koehler said. "(Warsaw coach) Bart Curtis is a Hall of Fame coach and we knew he'd make some adjustments at halftime. He's a great coach with great players, so we knew they'd make a run.''
Did they ever.
The Tigers scored on their opening drive of the second half, going 60 yards in six plays, with quarterback Wyatt Amiss scoring from a yard out to make it a 34-14 Concord lead.
Following a Minutemen fumble – Concord's only turnover of the game – Amiss surprised the Concord defense with a picture-perfect 57-yard touchdown pass to Mason Martz, to make it a 34-21 game.
The Tigers' defense would force a punt on Concord's next possession, but senior Ariel DeLaPaz's boot was downed at the Warsaw one. Unfortunately for the Minutemen, that didn't deter the Tigers.
With Amiss in control of the offense, Warsaw marched 99 yards in 20 plays – 19 of them runs – with Jaramillo scoring from a yard out with 6:19 to play in the game.
Suddenly it was 34-28.
Concord quarterback Ethan Cain completed three passes on the next Minutemen possession, but they were still forced to punt, giving the ball to Warsaw at their own 31 with 3:04 to play.
Two running plays gained seven yards and an incomplete pass made it third-and-three. Jaramillo got the ball, but a tired Concord defense stepped up and stopped the Warsaw fullback a little less than a yard short to clinch the win.''
"I kinda teared-up when I saw they were short,'' Concord senior Carter Neveraski admitted. "We kept our composure in the second half and we were able to make the stop we needed at the end.
"This team has really come together and I love all the guys on the team. Last year there would have been finger-pointing and I don't know if we would have been tough enough to overcome everything we faced tonight. I'm just so pound to be a part of this team.''
Neveraski rarely came off the field on Friday, leading the team with 128 yards rushing, catching six passes for 57 yards and helping Concord's gritty defensive effort. By the end of the game, the senior couldn't raise his right arm above his head after getting dinged on Warsaw's final drive.
"Just a gutsy performance from Carter,'' Koehler said. "I think our kids got a little tight in the second half, which is natural. But we were still able to get the big stop at the end.''
For the first 24 minutes of the game, Concord was by far the best team on the field, as Cain and the Minutemen's running game was dominant.
With Cain completing all five of his passes, Concord drove 80 yards the first time they had the football to score, with Cain finding Logan Wittmer for a 25-yard touchdown pass just over four minutes in.
Then on Warsaw's second offensive play, Amiss had a high pitch to Blake Marsh, and Concord's Colton Barton recovered the fumble at the Warsaw 15.
Two plays later, senior Jamyris Rice broke to the outside and cruised into the end zone for the touchdown to make it 14-0.
DeLaPaz added a 30-yard field goal a few minutes later, to push the lead to 17-0.
After Jaramillo scored on a one-yard run for Warsaw to start the second quarter, the Concord offensive attack kept the pressure on, as Neveraski scored from three-yards out and then DeLaPaz boomed a 46-yard field goal to push the lead to 27-7.
The Minutemen would complete their nearly perfect half when Cain found a diving Jack D'Arcy in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass with just 22 seconds left in the second quarter.
Cain finished 16-27 for 154 yards and the two touchdowns, while also having a long pass to Neveraski called back by a holding penalty. Concord also finished with 222 yards rushing.
"We've been getting better with our running game all season,'' Koehler said. "We're a good offensive team ... we've got a lot of weapons. But when you can run the football like we did tonight, it makes us even more dangerous.''
The Minutemen, who finish 8-1, will get next week off, before starting the Class 5A sectional against the winner of next week's Elkhart Central-South Bend Adams game. Concord will be on the road for the game.
"We're gonna celebrate this one in the locker room for sure,'' Koehler said. "A week off will give us some time to get a little more healthy and then get ready for the sectional.''
CONCORD 34, WARSAW 28
Scoring By Quarters
C — Logan Wittmer 25 pass from Ethan Cain; Ariel DeLaPaz kick; 7:57
C —Jamyris Rice 15 run; DeLaPaz kick; 6:54.
C —DeLaPaz 30 field goal; 3:30
W — Juan Jaramillo 1 run; Harrison Mevis kick; 11:55.
C — Carter Neveraski 3 run; DeLaPaz kick; 7:52.
C — DeLaPaz 46 field goal; 4:34.
C — Jack D'Arcy 10 pass from Cain; 0:22.
W — Wyatt Amiss 1 run; Mevis kick; 10:09
W — Mason Martz 57 pass from Amiss; 7:34.
W — Jaramillo 1 run; Mevis kick; 6:19
Warsaw: Rushing —Wyatt Amiss 19-95, Juan Jaramillo 17-82, Keagan Larsh 5-55. Passing — Amiss 4-7-93. Receiving — Mason Martz 1-57, Jaramillo 2-26.
Concord: Rushing — Carter Neveraski 18-128, Jamyris Rice 3-50, Ethan Cain 3-38. Passing — Cain 16-27-154. Receiving — Logan Wittmer 5-65, Neveraski 6-57, Amarion Moore 3-14, Jack D'Arcy 1-10.