WINAMAC | As tears streamed down the faces of Bishop Noll players following a season-ending loss on Friday night, coach Mike Juscik took a moment to look at the bigger picture.
Bishop Noll nearly earned the right to play for a sectional championship, but couldn’t stop a bruising ground attack as Zach Shidler capped off a 12-play, 78-yard drive with less than six minutes remaining to give Winamac a 14-10 victory.
“Yes, we care about winning football games, but what I really want is for these guys to grow up and be good young men,” Juscik said. “Our motto was ‘Play hard for 48 minutes for the man next to you,’ and we did that. I’m very proud of these guys and their effort tonight.”
Bishop Noll got the ball back with 5:43 left in the game and started to march downfield, hoping for a game-winning touchdown. Senior quarterback Austin Solis hit Frankie Noriega for nine yards on a third down to prolong the drive and then connected with Jordan Taylor for 20 yards on fourth down to get to the Winamac 27-yard line.
The drive stalled four plays later when a fumble less than a yard from the first down marker gave the ball back to Winamac with 1:13 remaining. The hosts ran out the clock, ending Noll’s season at 5-6.
“It just wasn’t meant to be for our guys,” Juscik said. “Their effort was phenomenal. It was a 14-10 playoff game, tough football. These guys fought their hearts out.”
Solis put Bishop Noll ahead 10-7 with 10:57 left in the game on a tipped touchdown that fell into the waiting arms of Noriega. Solis was trying to hit Taylor on the play, but Winamac defender Levi Schultz got his fingers on the ball. Noriega’s eyes widened in the end zone as the senior hauled in what Noll’s biggest touchdown of the season.
Winamac running back Tyler Katschke (128 yards) chewed up the field on the next drive which ended with Shidler’s touchdown run.
“I looked at our offensive coordinator and told him that we should play some power football,” Winamac coach Tim Roth said. “We wanted to run down the clock while getting chunks of yards. I thought we actually gave them too much time at the end.”
The loss ends a season in which Bishop Noll equaled its highest win total since Juscik took over the program in 2007. Last week’s 35-6 victory over South Newton was Noll’s first sectional win in Juscik’s six-year tenure.
“We had 20 seniors, been with them for a long time,” Juscik said. “A lot of these guys didn’t play another sport. They were weight-room guys; they worked hard, worked together. We wanted them to leave it all out on the field and they did.”