While Warsaw fell short of its second sectional title in as many years in 2020, last season went a long way towards earning the Tigers some respect in the area.
While knocking off Chesterton and Penn to win a sectional in 2019 was impressive, it didn’t resonate in northeast Indiana. But beating Carroll and pushing Homestead to the brink last year in the playoffs sure did open some eyes and proved that Warsaw is not just that “other” Class 6A program in the area that plays second fiddle to the likes of the Chargers and Spartans.
And with significant pieces back on offense and a youthful defense that is one year older and wiser, do not expect the Tigers to take much of a step back in 2021 under Coach Bart Curtis.
Offensively, Warsaw returns a trio of starting linemen in seniors Trace Stookey, Noah Chew and Isaiah Courtios. That is good news for senior Julius Jones, who averaged 10 yards PER CARRY a year ago, finishing with 871 yards and and six touchdowns. Jones will see a significant amount of carries in 2021 with the graduation of Juan Antonio Jaramillo (990 yards, 15 TDs.
Losing quarterback Aaron Greene is a hit, but Jackson Dawson’s move to Florida was unexpected, leaving Warsaw without a natural successor at the position. Enter junior Tucker Curtis, who will have the benefit of that veteran offensive front, as well as Jones, to help him settle in at the position.
The flexbone of “Bart Ball” doesn’t see much in the way of a passing game, as long as things are going well on the scoreboard. That said, Warsaw will miss split end Luke Adamiec, who graduated after leading the Tigers with 11 receptions for 242 yards and five scores.
Warsaw’s defense saw as many as eight sophomores start at once last year. Certainly some growing pains were seen as the team allowed 28 points or more in six games and allowed double-digit scoring in all 11 contests of 2020.
The priority for the defense, which brings back three starting defensive linemen in Kyle Dawson, Luke Anderson and Russ Winchester, is to cut down on the chunk plays given up to offenses.
“We gave up too many big plays last year,” Coach Bart Curtis said. “We have to get some three and outs or four and outs starting at the beginning of the year. We got the ball thrown over our heads a bit last year, but we should be better at defending that this year.”
Adamiec and Caden Silveus led the team with three interceptions apiece last year. Both are gone as well as Mason Martz. Theodore Katris will ascend to a key safety spot, while senior Dane Koontz and junior Trey Koontz will be ones to watch in the secondary.
Linebacker may be the strongest unit on the team outside of the offensive line. Middle linebacker Zack Diecks and outside linebackers Aiden Binkerd and Nicholas Katris are all experienced and adept players at the middle level of the defense.
Coach Curtis says that numbers have never been better during his time at Warsaw. And why shouldn’t they be? Between 2010 and 2017, the program met or exceeded the seven-win mark just once. Since Curtis took over in 2018, the team has won seven, nine and eight games.
Last year’s Northern Lake Conference title was Warsaw’s first since 2002. Back in 2002 was also the second of back-to-back league championships for the Tigers. Can they replicate that feat nearly 20 years later?
Warsaw showed that it can hang with Fort Wayne 6A powers last year in the playoffs. The combination of a difficult offense to prepare for and a wealth of talent has pushed the Tigers to a new level under Coach Bart Curtis. While key pieces have moved on, this program is beginning to reach the point of reloading instead of rebuilding.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Coach Curtis himself would admit that his team still has another step or two to go before it can challenge the best of the best in northeast Indiana. The 30-22 Homestead loss last year in the postseason showcased where the team has some strides to make, particularly defensively when it comes to limiting big plays.
August 27 at Michigan City
While not an NLC game, this one still looms large for Warsaw. After kicking off the season against Dublin Coffman out of Ohio, the Tigers will travel to Michigan City one year after losing by 20 to the Wolves, who dropped 41 on Coach Curtis’ team.
With the defense needing to improve for Warsaw to go to the next level, this will be the first test against a previous opponent that will give us a look at where the defense is in 2021.
Theodore Katris, junior, free safety
Katris returns as the only player back from last year that notched multiple interceptions over the course of the season. Teams were able to beat the Warsaw defense over the top way too much a year ago. With Katris at free safety, he will not only be the primary player defending those long pass attempts, but will also be in position leadership-wise to direct the secondary as a whole.