Warsaw Advances To District Championship With Win Over Rams

Adam Dean Howe
Enterprise Staff
The Wildcats punched their ticket to the program’s first district championship appearance in 11 years with a 26-20 win over the Hogan Prep Charter Academy Rams last Friday night and in front of a much anticipated, large, raucous home crowd at Randy Morrow Field.
Much to the delight of that crowd, it didn’t take Warsaw long to get on the scoreboard.  After receiving the opening kickoff, a great return by the Wildcats Shane Ashlock took the ball across the big “W” at midfield and just a couple of plays later, Warsaw would find themselves at the Rams 28 yard line.  With 10:14 on the clock in the first, Brady Slavens would hit an outstretched Zach Sharp in the endzone resulting in a spectacular and impressive pass and catch for the first score of the night.  The two point conversion attempt was no good, but the Wildcats drew first blood at 6-0.
A ferocious battle along the lines, on both sides of the ball, led to several stale possessions for both teams throughout the remainder of the first quarter as the Wildcats held tight to the 6-0 advantage.  
“Games are won in the trenches and this week was no different,” Warsaw head coach Ryan Boyer commented. 
That gritty offensive line play was no more evident than on the Wildcats first possession of the second period when, with 8:15 left in the first half, Slavens would take advantage of a hole, find daylight and break loose for a 56 yard touchdown run that seemed to take the air out of the Rams defensive front.  The two point conversion attempt was unsuccessful again, but Warsaw took the 12-0 lead.
“We wanted to come out and establish our ground game, and that first drive of the second quarter, we did that,” Boyer said.
Both teams struggled to find any momentum throughout the rest of the first half, but Hogan Prep would manage to penetrate the Wildcats end of the field late in the half only to have that drive immediately halted by Warsaw when Grant Chapman would tip a pass across the middle, it would end up in the hands of Tayten Boyer in the endzone and he juked his way out past the 20 yard line. The Wildcats would run out the clock and take their 12-0 lead into the locker room at the halftime break.
“We made some mistakes on offense early in the red zone that stopped our momentum,” Boyer said.  “But our kids did a great job of handling that adversity.”
That halftime break was productive for the Rams as their staff and team made necessary adjustments to get themselves back into the game.  
After receiving the second half kickoff, Hogan Prep would march the ball down field and cap their opening drive of the third quarter with a 31 yard touchdown run by Trevez Johnson.  Their two point conversion attempt was no good but the score managed to cut the Wildcats lead in half at 12-6.
The ensuing Warsaw possession was stalled and Warsaw would be forced to punt on that drive.  Jack Gardner got off another booming punt but the coverage was absent as the ball barely rolled across the goal line for a touchback that would bring the ball back out to the Rams own 20 yard line where they would start their next drive.  
Another possession of smash-and-grab offense for Hogan Prep led to another Rams touchdown run by Johnson, this time from 16 yards.  Their two point conversion was good this time as the Rams quietly snuck ahead with a 14-12 advantage.
The Wildcats would answer though, and answer fast.  On their next possession, Slavens would get behind that big-bodied offensive line of his once again, exploit an opening and find paydirt for Warsaw again with a 55 yard touchdown run.  The Wildcats had no luck on that two point conversion attempt either but they reclaimed the lead at 18-12.
Unfortunately, the third quarter scoring didn’t end there as it took the Rams just over 2 minutes to retaliate with another touchdown.  With 4:17 left to go in the third, Darrayan Muldrew would connect with J’byron Hollis on a 46 yard touchdown pass to give Hogan Prep a 20-18 lead after another unsuccessful two point attempt and that is how the scoreboard would read at the end of the third period.
With the home crowd on the edge of their seats, a back-and-forth battle began the fourth and final frame.  Hogan Prep would put together a drive that would take them across midfield and the Wildcats hopeful held onto their last breath.  A Rams run by Johnson that was designed to the left, bounced back right as he headed to the far sideline.  However, the Wildcats defense would stand-up Johnson inbounds and Chapman would strip the ball away and glide up the Warsaw sideline before being knocked out of bounds on the Rams side of the field. 
“The turnover battle is something that we always preach to win games,” Boyer commented.  “This week, Grant did a great job in helping to create 2 of those.”
With 8:56 left in the game, the Wildcats would matriculate the ball down to the 1 yard line of the Rams.  Justin Martin would score on a 1 yard plunge, Slavens would convert Warsaw’s first two point conversion of the night as the Wildcats took a 26-20 lead.
The Green and Black defense would tighten up even more late in the game as they kept the Rams in check and held on for the 26-20 win.
“I was very pleased with all three phases of our team Friday night,” Boyer added.
He went on to say, “This was a big win for our program.  It’s the first time in 11 years that we will advance to the district championship and it also provides us an opportunity to create a 3-way tie for the conference championship.”
Slavens led the Warsaw offense with 205 rushing yards on 25 attempts.  He had 2 rushing touchdowns and one 2 point conversion.  He also finished 4 of 6 passing for 53 yards and 1 passing TD. 
Martin added 46 yards on 13 rushes and had 1 TD.
Sharp hauled in 2 passes for 32 yards and 1 touchdown.  Nick Bagley and James Kellner had catches of 14 and 7 yards, respectively.  
Bagley led the Warsaw defense with 5.5 tackles.  Sharp, Tim Burkhart and Garrett McGann all had 3.5 tackles apiece and 3 each were contributed by Kellner and Cameron Seevers.  
Bagley and Chapman both had forced fumbles for the Wildcats defense and Chapman also tallied 1 fumble recovery.
Boyer added 1 interception.  
Warsaw (5-2) will travel to Butler to take on a fellow Ozark Highlands Conference foe in the Bears this Friday night in the Class 2 District 7 title game.  The Bears (10-0) earned their berth in the contest with a 40-21 win over St. Michael the Archangel on Friday night.  That game is slated for a 7:00pm kickoff and the winner will move on to face the winner of the St. Pius X versus Higginsville (Lafayette County) game in the 2020 MSHSAA Class 2 Quarterfinals.  The game will also be broadcasted live on BCE TV.