Martinsville made its first-ever victory at Sleighter Field as a member of the Mid-State Conference historic in two aspects.
First the visiting Artesians spoiled senior night in the Warriors’ last regular-season home game.
Second, Martinsville ended Whiteland’s two-game winning streak and possibly closed the door for the Warriors to win back-to-back Mid-State Conference championships.
The Artesians (2-4, 2-2), who normally run their offense with the arm of quarterback Hayden Northern, went to a ground attack against Whiteland (2-4, 1-2). Martinsville rushed for 335 yards and five touchdowns against the Warriors defense. Artesian running back Hunter Smith led the barrage with 180 yards on his own and three touchdowns.
“Martinsville ran the battle up front with its offensive line,” Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher said. “We wanted to make them one-dimensional and have them throw the ball more. They also executed in crucial situations when we didn’t.”
Trailing 21-7 at halftime, the Warriors looked to have made the key adjustments in the locker room during the intermission.
Whiteland found the necessary holes in the Martinsville defense to begin the second half to put momentum on its side.
The Warriors capped off the just-over three-minute drive with a 41-yard touchdown by Aaron Harris. The junior running back led Whiteland with 128 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Harris’ other touchdown was for 47 yards early in the second quarter.
After forcing Martinsville to punt on its next possession, the Warriors took the ball down to the Artesians’ 15-yard line only to have the drive stall, and Lefevers’ 35-yard field goal attempt not connect to cut more into the deficit.
The Artesians answered with two more touchdowns after the missed attempt to put the game out of reach.
“They (Martinsville) just made the big plays that they needed to and we didn’t,” Fisher said. “They took advantage of some key opportunities. I think there were a few plays here and there had we made would have kept us in it from an emotional standpoint.”
With the two losses in the conference with three to play, the Warriors find themselves in a must-win situation for the rest of the season. Whiteland also will need some help from the other Mid-State teams to have any chance of wining the conference.
The Warriors look to rebound from Friday’s loss next week in another Mid-State showdown at Mooresville. Fisher believes his team will respond to the challenge just as it did in winning against Franklin and Connersville the two weeks prior to the defeat by Martinsville.
“We know what we have to do to get better and fix things,” Fisher said. “You can’t change things at this point in the season and we aren’t pushing the panic button by no means.”