Top-seed Washington started slow against Watertown in the Class 11AAA playoff opener, but the Warriors never ceded control in a one-sided 37-6 win at Howard Wood Field.
“I think we had a little bit of a hangover yet from last week,” said coach Chad Stadem, referring to the Washington’s battle with Roosevelt last Thursday for the No. 1 seed.
“We came out a little flat, and the Watertown guys did a nice job. They made a couple big plays, but once we got going they couldn’t stop us.”
After punting on their first possession, the Warriors put together a 10 play, 80-yard scoring drive. A 28-yard Jack Schelhaas run set up his touchdown scamper from five yards out.
Facing fourth-and-3 from just past midfield in the second quarter, running back Chayden Fitzsimmons knifed through the left side of the Arrow defense for 14 yards. A few plays later Schelhaas connected with his favorite target and the team’s biggest red zone threat, 6-foot-4 Ty Smith, on a 21-yard fade route for the Warriors’ second score.
After both early Washington touchdowns, Watertown’s Nate Davis returned the ensuing kickoff into Warrior territory, the first going for 48 yards and the second for 52. Davis converted a pair of third-and-long situations, on a scramble and 34-yard dart to Cade Cummings to get the Arrows knocking from the 3-yard-line.
“Our back was against the wall a few times, but these guys rally around each other on defense,” said Smith, who lines up at outside linebacker on that side of the ball.
The Warriors took advantage of a holding penalty by adding two sacks over the next three plays to set up Mitch Tschakert’s 38-yard field goal that made it 14-3.
Frustration, elation and the occasional lapse got the best of the Warriors at times, but their talent was great enough to cover their blemishes. Watertown didn’t threaten to score again until the final minutes.
“It got a little sloppy at times, and when you get it games like this it does that and we understand that,” Stadem said. “I think we’ll clean it up, get back into and I think we’ll have big game.”
Jared Gully booted the ball in frustration after nearly hauling in an interception. Joey Wehrkamp recovered a fumble in Arrow territory, but a Warriors player came off the sideline and onto the field. Both plays resulted in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Later in the third quarter, a 54-yard Ty Smith touchdown catch was negated by a holding penalty.
For every one of those negative plays, there were a handful of positive ones. Fitzsimmons punched out in the second half with just one carry for four yards after 18 first-half attempts went for 133. Schelhaas took off eight times, with three of those going for scores, the last on a hard-nosed 3-yard rumble with a pair of Arrows hanging off him. That put Washington up 30-3.
Left-tackle Matt Farniok could often be seen making blocks eight to 10 yards downfield, and the Warriors piled nearly 300 yards on the ground before the start of the fourth quarter. By then, most of Washington’s starters were watching from the sidelines. The Warrior line, as it has been all season, was in command.
“It’s been getting better and it’s a huge role in our offense,” Farniok said of the O-line. “When we come out and play physical it really helps our offense. We’re able to do what we want to do and control the game.
The passing game was more than complementary, Schelhaas going 10-for-17 for 178 yards and a touchdown. Smith grabbed three passes for 74 yards and a score; sophomore Logan Uttecht had five catches for 67.
Defensively the unit continued its streak of dominance. The Warriors have allowed an average of 10.8 points a game this season, and since defeating O’Gorman 39-23 on Sept. 18, Washington has pitched two shutouts and held opponents to a single score four times.
Next week, Washington takes on the Brandon Valley/Lincoln winner. The Warriors feel that maintaining their physical style of play in that contest will be crucial.
“That’s going to be the whole game, really,” Farniok said. “It’s going to be a battle, plain and simple.”
SFW – Jack Schelhaas 5 run (Brock Walker kick), 6:17
SFW – Ty Smith 21 pass from Jack Schelhaas (Walker kick), 11:37
WAT – Mitch Tschakert 38 FG, 2:10
SFW – Schelhaas 3 run (Walker kick), :50
SFW – Walker 31 FG, 0:00
SFW – Schelhaas 3 run (kick failed), 6:12
SFW – Josh Thomas 3 run (Walker kick), 1:18
WAT – Mitch Tschakert 21 FG, 3:26
RUSHING – WAT: Nate Davis 12-48, Cade Cummings 1-9, Noah Spartz 7-3, BRennan Gabriel 2-3, Mason Wickherst 4-(-1), Ezekiel Gutierrez 1-(-3), Taylor Ragels 2(-5). SFW: Chayden Fitzsimmons 19-136, Tupak Kpeayeh 6-83, Josh Thomas 6-50, Jack Schelhaas 8-43, Logan Eckhoff 2-19, Mitchell Waddell 2-12, Trevor Schmidt 1-2, Team 2-(-2).
PASSING – WAT: Nate Davis 8-22-1-71, Brennan Gabriel 1-3-0-26. SFW: Jack Schelhaas 10-17-0-178, Jayden Johannsen 1-2-1-14.
RECEIVING – WAT: Cade Cummings 1-33, Nate Davis 1-26, Michah Kauffman 1-18, Macen Andrus 1-14, Brent Schulte 4-5, Marcus Haggelund 1-1. SFW: Ty Smith 3-74, Logan Uttecht 5-67, Jack Brent 1-28, Zach Heins 1-14, Logan Eckhoff 1-9.