Jake Gutwein wasn’t discouraged by the results as much as he was encouraged by teammates that he’ll have more opportunities like the ones he had Friday night.
During the summer, Gutwein attended kicking camps, worked on his game and, like all kickers, visualized being in a situation to win the game for his team.
The West Lafayette junior kicker missed field goals of 33 and 35 yards and a pair of extra points, including one to end the game.
“I think it’s really good for me to get this experience with this game-winner stuff,” Gutwein said. “This is my first year as a varsity player. This is all new to me. Yeah, it’s tough, but I need to learn from that.”
That was the message for the Red Devils after their 27-26 overtime loss at Central Catholic, a game in which the missed 35-yarder with 1.5 seconds left forced overtime.
Gutwein’s other miss came after West Lafayette had two penalties inside the 10 on the first drive of the game. In all, the Red Devils had eight penalties and the defense struggled getting off the field on third down in the second half.
“We’ve had little mistakes all year, but they haven’t killed us by too much because we’ve been up by so much,” said WL running back Maurice Woodard, who rushed for 274 yards and three touchdowns. “Now we know when we are playing a team just as talented as us, just as good as us, we can’t let that happen. It could go either way in the end, and it is not always going to go our way.”
Linebacker Everett Gorup was quick to defend his kicker after the loss, citing other deficiencies that could have kept Gutwein out of pressure situations, such as better blocking and keeping Central Catholic out of the end zone.
Central Catholic converted seven third downs after halftime against a defense allowing less than 14 points per game. The long drives kept West Lafayette’s high-powered offense on the sidelines. It’s a formula fellow Hoosier Conference rival Rensselaer has tried to perfect.
West Lafayette (8-1) was able to beat the Bombers 20-14 on Sept. 27. The Red Devils now have to recover with a sectional game against a 6-3 Delta team that plays mostly Class 4A schools.
“We’ve known we were beatable all year, but now that it’s happened, we have a chip on our shoulders,” Gorup said.
Gutwein was 35 of 39 on extra points and 3 of 6 on field goals entering the Central Catholic game. As he walked off the field Friday night with Central Catholic celebrating another Hoosier Conference title in the background, he was approached by senior defensive lineman Jade Doty.
Doty wanted to be sure that Gutwein knew how important his role was for the Red Devils and how much confidence the team still had in him.
Gutwein is already awaiting his next chance to kick with the game on the line.
“You can’t just go back and reverse time. I’ve got to take my next opportunity and grab the bull by the horns,” Gutwein said.