The Herald Bulletin

September 6, 2013

Game of the Week: Wounded Tribe prepares for NCC opener

By George Bremer The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — For the second straight week, running back Tyler Welch stepped up to the challenge for the Anderson football team.

The junior speedster carried the ball 25 times for 195 yards and one touchdown in a 34-12 loss against Pendleton Heights last Friday. He also rushed for 196 yards in an opening week loss at Fort Wayne Wayne, and the strain of the workload is showing.

“He’s done a good job. He’s just not in shape for us,” Indians coach Randy Albano said. “We felt he had a couple more runs that he should’ve scored on (against the Arabians). But he was tired, and he didn’t finish them.”

Welch never expected to see so many carries this season. Senior Jerian Beard was supposed to be the workhorse back. But he likely will miss his second straight game with knee and ankle injuries tonight when the Tribe (0-2) opens North Central Conference play against Richmond (1-1) at Collier Field.

Beard was injured during the first quarter at Wayne, and he is far from the only key Indian missing in action. Fullback Jarmel Graves also went down in the opener, and cornerback Nigel Simmons has yet to suit up this year. Safety Alonzo West suffered a broken ankle this week and will be added to the inactive list tonight.

Three of those four players were expected to start on both sides of the ball, increasing the impact of their absence.

“We’re playing with a lot of kids that wouldn’t normally be playing out there,” Albano said. “And we’ve played some pretty good teams. I think that’s going to help us.”

The NCC race appears to be wide open in the early going. Only Richmond and Muncie Central (1-1) have a win so far this season.

The league had been dominated in recent seasons by Kokomo, but the Indians upset the Wildkats in the final game last year. That victory, and the apparent parity currently engulfing the conference, has Anderson dreaming big.

“I think win or lose (tonight), we’re still going to have a shot at the conference (title),” Albano said.

That will rely in part on how much this inexperienced team can grow in the next few weeks. Beard, Graves and Simmons are expected to return before the season ends.

If the Indians can stay afloat in the NCC race until that trio gets back, the depth created by their absence could become a major strength. And the Tribe already is taking steps in the right direction.

Albano said there was notable improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, particularly in pass protection. The offense has moved the ball well in both contests.

In addition to Welch’s heroics, senior quarterback Gaven Owens completed 10 of 19 passes for 159 yards against Pendleton Heights. The highlight was a 49-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robbie Peal in the fourth quarter.

But Anderson also has been its own worst enemy at times, coughing the ball up three times against the Arabians and five times at Wayne.

Albano credits the inconsistency to the team’s lack of two-a-day practices and a scrimmage in the preseason. But he’s seen positive signs of late.

“(Pendleton Heights) knew we were going to run,” he said, “and they still had trouble stopping us.”

Richmond had trouble of its own last week in a 46-2 loss against New Palestine. The Red Devils won their opener 23-7 against Connersville at home but could not translate that momentum on the road.

“I watched the film, and they took a step backward from the first game,” Albano said. “They didn’t look like the same team. I hope they take one more step backward against us.”