If losing its first three games of the season didn’t light a fire under the Whiteland football team, falling behind early against county rival certainly did.

The Warriors beat the Friday night storms with one of their own, unloading on the visiting Grizzly Cubs for a 51-21 victory in Mid-State Conference play.

“We needed one,” Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher said. “We’re so beat up mentally and physically, just beat up by the last three weeks.”

Preston Phillips keyed Whiteland’s dominating ground game, carrying 11 times for 195 yards and three long touchdown rushes. The Warriors totaled 489 yards rushing on the night.

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Franklin (0-4) marched 80 yards on the game’s opening possession, taking a 7-0 lead at the 6:35 mark of the first period. Tyler Fromer got the visitors on the board with a 1-yard plunge.

The Grizzly Cubs held that advantage for all of 17 seconds.

On Whiteland’s first play from scrimmage, Phillips got loose down the left sideline for a 62-yard touchdown run.

The Warriors’ third possession of the night belonged to Charlie Ogega. The sophomore toted the ball six times for 82 yards on a 78-yard scoring drive, capping it with a 29-yard burst at 9:45 of the second quarter.

Ogega finished the night with 161 yards on 15 carries — almost all of that, like Phillips, to the outside.

“Franklin did a great job of defending some of our game,” Fisher said, “but the thing we always try to do is, if you take something away, you’re going to give us (something else).”

Franklin went three and out on its next possession, and Whiteland came back with another big play, a 31-yard TD rush by Ryan Hammond. Just like that, it was 21-7 with 5:40 to go in the half.

Jacob Ballain added to the cushion with a 40-yard field goal on the final play before intermission.

Phillips struck again on the first play of the second half, going 65 yards up the left side to make it 31-7 with his second touchdown of the night. The Grizzly Cubs finally had an answer, bouncing back when Jake Moore hit Riley McCann for a quick 44-yard scoring slant.

The teams traded third-quarter touchdowns again, with Whiteland quarterback Jace Carpenter scoring on a 1-yard sneak and Moore answering with a 64-yard keeper. Phillips then opened the fourth period with a 44-yard TD to bump the Warrior lead to 45-21.

Ryder Emberton iced it less than a minute later when he scooped up a Franklin fumble and took it 75 yards to the house.

Moore passed for 185 yards and added 114 more on the ground for the Grizzly Cubs.

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.