Whiteland jumped on Bloomington South early, scoring 10 points before the hosts ever got a chance to touch the ball on offense.
But that early momentum didn’t last for the Warriors, who relinquished the lead in the second quarter and ended up on the wrong end of a 42-37 score in the opening round of a Class 5A football sectional Friday.
“We weren’t going to quit early before we got to the finish line. I knew we would come out and give a good effort,” Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher said. “We came up with some big plays when we needed them. It was just a good high school football game.”
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Two successful onside kicks staked Whiteland to that early lead. Kicker Dalton Spangler hit a 32-yard field goal for the Warriors’ first points and Ryan Hammond scored on a 1-yard dive to give Whiteland a 10-0 lead.
Those two early scores were exactly what Whiteland needed if it wanted a chance to pull out the win.
“We needed to steal possessions. We really needed to steal one more,” Fisher said. “We were trying to steal possessions any way we could, whether it was making a stop before the half and getting the ball in the third quarter, going for two or whatever it could be. We just needed to steal possessions.”
South (5-5) finally got a chance to run a play with 5:32 left in the first quarter and responded with a long scoring run, capped by Jake Johnson’s 4-yard quarterback keeper to cut the lead to 10-6.
Whiteland (2-8) responded with another touchdown to push its lead to 11, its largest of the game. Using its multi-headed running attack, the Warriors marched down the field and scored on Jake Perry’s 1-yard run.
South closed the half with back-to-back scores. Kristian Pechac ripped off a 41-yard touchdown run and Johnson saved a bad snap on the extra point by running it in for two to close the gap to 17-14. A 2-yard run by Maveric Thiery gave the Panthers a 20-17 lead at the half.
The teams traded long touchdown runs to open the third quarter. Whiteland got a 65-yard scoring sprint by Perry to go back on top 24-20 and South answered with a 47-yard burst by Thiery to retake the lead.
Whiteland could muster little after that. An interception set up South’s next score, a 13-yard run by Johnson, who then added a fourth score on a 9-yard run to give his team a 42-24 lead.
Whiteland tacked on a pair of scores late, getting a 1-yard touchdown run and a 14-yard reception by Hammond for the final margin. The last score came with just 43 seconds left in the game, and although the Warriors recovered the kick — their third of the night — they were unable to get the winning points.
Whiteland finished the game with 415 total yards, 333 on the ground. The Warriors had two players go over the century mark in rushing, with Hammond getting 122 yards and scoring three touchdowns and Perry finishing with 116 yards and two scores.