DUNLAP — Lost in all the statistics of Concord's 31-18 victory over Elkhart Memorial at Jake Field on Friday night, was a first quarter interception by senior Jacob Creek.
But by the end of the Minutemen's Northern Lakes Conference win, Concord coach Craig Koehler knew exactly how big it was.
"Just a huge play,'' Koehler said. "They're already leading the game and were driving when Jacob came up with the pick. If he doesn't make that play and they go down and score, it could have been an entirely different game.''
Charger coach Scot Shaw agreed.
"We had things going our way early, but after a couple of those turnovers, we just never recovered,'' Shaw said. "But the first one really hurt our momentum
But in the end, the Minutemen had their 20th straight win over Memorial and improved to 2-0 on the year.
Concord sophomore wide receiver Amarion Moore had a huge offensive game for the Minutemen, catching three touchdown passes from senior quarterback Ethan Cain, including a back-breaking 57-yard scored that put Concord up 31-12 with 7:25 to play.
Meanwhile, the Minutemen's defense forced five turnovers, including a pair of interceptions by senior Carter Neveraski.
The Chargers had gone up 6-0 when quarterback Tyler Lehner found Tyren Mason for a 19-yard touchdown less than five minutes into the game. It was the second straight week that Memorial scored on its first possession.
Following a Concord punt, Memorial was once again in enemy territory when Creek stepped in front of a Lehner pass and returned it to the Chargers 46. After a 36-yard run by Jamyris Rice on the first play after the turnover, Cain found Moore two plays later for a five-yard scoring pass and a lead the Minutemen would never relinquish.
"We just keep shooting ourselves in the foot ... it's very frustrating,'' Shaw said. "Some of our seniors have been playing for two or three years and they need to be playing better.
Neveraski's first interception came at his own five-yard-line on Memorial's next possession on what looked like a mis-communication between Lehner and his receiver.
With the aid of a key Memorial penalty, Concord would drive 95 yards in 12 plays, with Cain finding Moore from 15-yards out to push the lead to 14-6.
Senior kicker Ariel DeLaPaz would add a booming 46-yard yard field goal with 4:40 left in the half, before Neverarski added a 22-yard run just over a minute later to give Concord a 24-6 halftime advantage.
The lead held until early in the fourth quarter, when Lehner began to find his rhythm with the help of running back Derrick Woods Jr., who was injured in the Chargers' loss to Elkhart Central last week.
With starting halfback Ivan Soen hobbled in the pre-game, Woods came on to rush for 67 yards in the second half and caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Lehner with 10:03 to play in the game to cut the Concord lead to 24-12.
But Cain immediately went back to work, leading Concord on an 83-yard drive to all but clinch the game. Cain found Moore on a quick slant pass and the sophomore did the rest, outracing the Chargers' secondary for a 57-yard scoring pass and a 31-12 advantage.
"Amarion is going to be a good one ... he already is really,’’ Koehler said. “He’s got the length and the size to be a recruitable player and that new weight room we have is going to make him even better in the future.’’
Memorial would add a touchdown on another Lehner-to-Woods Jr. scoring pass, this one from four-yards out with 3:51 to play.
“I would like to have seen us come out with more urgency in the third quarter, but Memorial had a lot to do with that,’’ Koehler said. “Their coaches were telling their kids at halftime that they were still in this game and they came out and really played hard. That’s a very good football team that we beat tonight.’’
"We definitely challenged them at halftime,'' Shaw said. "I thought we played better in the second half, but it's tough when you're down three scores and you keep making the mistakes we made. We have to find a way to clean that up.''
After rushing for negative yards in a win over South Bend St. Joseph last Friday, Concord ran for 227 against Memorial, led by 75 yards from Rice and 68 more from Neveraski. Cain completed 10 of his 16 passes for 118 yards and the three touchdowns to Moore.
In addition to his 68 yards rushing, Woods Jr. added 62 through the air, while Mason caught six balls for a team-high 79 yards.
"We knew Derrick (Woods) would be able to play tonight, but he didn't practice all week, so we were careful with him in the first half,'' Shaw said. "When we let him loose after halftime, he did a good job of running the football and our offense ran smoother.''
The 2-0 Minutemen will host NorthWood next Friday in a key NLC matchup. Memorial, now 0-2, will travel to Goshen to face the winless RedHawks.
CONCORD 31, ELKHART MEMORIAL 18
Scoring By Quarters
M — Tyren Mason 19 pass from Tyler Lehner; kick failed; 7:38
C — Amarion Moore 5 pass from Ethan Cain; Ariel DeLaPaz kick; 3:27
C —Moore 15 pass from Cain; DeLaPaz kick; 8:00.
C —DeLaPaz 46 field goal; 4:40.
C —Carter Neveraski 22 run; DeLaPaz kick; 3:10
M — Derrick Woods Jr. 11 pass from Tyler Lehner; pass failed; 10:03.
C — Moore 57 pass from Cain; DeLaPaz kick 7:27.
M — Woods Jr. 4 pass from Lehner 3:51.
Team: Rushing — Derrick Woods Jr. 9-68, Tyren Mason 1-17, Breydan Weston 9-16. Passing — Tyler Lehner 12-21-185, 3 int., D'Arjon Lewis 2-3-10, 1 int. Receiving — Tyren Mason 6-79, Woods Jr. 6-62, Ivan Soen 2-29.
Concord: Rushing — Jamyris Rice 6-75, Carter Neveraski 11-68, Ethan Cain 14-42, Roemello Moon 4-34. Passing — Cain 10-16-118. Receiving — Amarion Moore 4-79, Neveraski 3-12. Interceptions — Neveraski 2, Moore, Jacob Creek.