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Kelsheimer snaps Apache losing skid in dominant performance

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

WABASH - Wabash football coach Adam Handley came into Friday’s contest knowing the first drive would be particularly important. After consecutive blowout losses to county rivals in preceding weeks, Handley’s side needed to prove to itself as much as anything that they could hang with visiting North Miami.

An 11-play, 70-yard scoring drive set the tone for Wabash as the Apaches turned three Warrior turnovers into 20 points on the night, coming from behind in the second half for a 32-27 win.

“That drive, our first offensive drive, was going to be the make or break of the game,” Handley said. “We knew if we could come down and score or just move the ball that we would be able to play with these guys tonight. Our kids knew that and once we started executing the game plan and started moving the ball, I think our kids were like ‘Alright we can play. We can play football with these guys.’ I think if that drive goes differently, I think it’s a long night. Our kids believed in themselves and fought to the very end.”

North Miami needed just seven plays to go ahead as Darian Hanley scored from 34 yards out just over 100 seconds into the game. Wabash, though, responded with a methodical drive that saw Payton Sodervick complete all four of his pass attempts before Kallen Kelsheimer punched in from eight yards out for the first of his four rushing scores on the evening.

“The first play of the Northfield game, we ran a play for 37 yards and I thought ‘This is fantastic.’ The very next play was a false start,” Handley said. “We did better tonight. There were still some stupid penalties and I think that once we figured out where they were going to line up and how they were going to block everything, our linemen made plenty of holes for our running back and it was great to see.”

After alternating fruitless drives, Kelsheimer would pick off Tristan Working on a second-down pass near midfield before returning it to the Warrior 29-yard line. Seven plays later, Kelsheimer punched it in from seven yards out to give the hosts a 12-7 lead.

North Miami would move ahead on its final drive in the half as Working orchestrated an 80-yard drive over 10 plays as the senior quarterback accounted for every yard on the drive either through the air or on the ground. Working would find Greg Sonafrank for one of their three scoring connections on the night with just six seconds left in the half to send the Warriors into the locker room up 14-12.

While the Warriors continued moving the ball with relative ease, racking up 384 yards of offense on the night and nearly 100 more yards than Wabash, turnovers would prove to be their downfall.

Kallen Kelsheimer gave Wabash the lead back at 18-14 by rushing five-straight plays for 15 yards before scoring from three yards out midway through the fourth quarter. On the third play play of the ensuing North Miami drive, Working would bobble the snap and Chad Wyatt would recover for the Apaches.

Handley and the Apaches went for broke on the next play as Keegan O’Neill took a reverse handoff before planting his feet and launching an inch-perfect 42-yard pass to Bryant Boggs for a score 55 seconds after taking the lead.

“They give us an opportunity when they run their zone-read stuff, they’ll put the ball on the ground sometimes,” Handley said. “We had to be able to execute and make them pay for the turnovers they do have and our kids knew it. We had a couple of short fields and the trick play we had to go over the top, it was a change of momentum so (I said) let’s give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, it’s an incomplete pass. We told Keegan ‘Don’t underthrow it’ and...he made a great throw and it was great to see the play executed like we’d drawn it up all week.”

Still, North Miami had its chances as the Warriors drove 62 yards in 2:21 to tie the game on a 13-yard pass from Working to Sonafrank to pull back within four at 24-20. After a Wabash three-and-out, North Miami took over the ball at its own 35-yard line and drove to midfield.

But for one last time, the Warriors shot themselves in the foot as Working’s pass deep down the right sideline was tipped and intercepted by Boggs at the Wabash 40-yard line and returned to the Warrior 13-yard line. Kelsehimer needed just one rush to open the lead up once more at 32-20.

On the night, Kelsheimer finished with 28 carries for 145 yards and four touchdowns to go with his interception defensively.

“He’s the workhorse,” Handley said. “He doesn’t come off the field. He starts at outside linebacker for us. He’s all over the field. I don’t how he doesn’t cramp up. I don’t know how he’s never tired. We talked all week that we need to be able to run the football. We had to be able to run especially because we knew they were going to give us a three front (on the defensive line) and there are fewer linebackers and lineman down in the box.

“The game plan was executed as we asked and that’s all we can ask for.”

North Miami had one last gasp on the night as Working and Lincoln Wildermuth hooked up three times in the next drive for 59 yards before Sonafrank caught his final touchdown from one-yard out with 25.8 seconds left.

The ensuing onside kick from North Miami, though, would be recovered by Wabash and a kneel ran the clock out.

Working finished 15-of-31 through the air for 226 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions to go with 101 yards on the ground on 21 carries. Hanley had 60 yards on the ground on 13 carries with a score and caught three passes for 47 yards. Sonafrank caught seven passes for 89 yards and three touchdowns.

Sodervick was 11-for-16 for Wabash for 79 yards while O’Neill attempted just the one pass for 42 yards and a score. Sodervick also rushed for 22 yards while O’Neill caught four passes for 30 yards and rushed three times for eight yards. Boggs caught five passes for 66 yards and the touchdown.

Wabash improves to 3-4 on the year and 2-4 in the conference while North Miami is now 3-4 overall and 2-4 in conference play.