By Heather Bremer
For The Herald Bulletin
INDIANAPOLIS — “Man, he’s fast.”
That was the impression Elwood senior running back Sammy Mireles left on one Scecina High School official in the press box at Samuel T Keller Athletic Field at Howe High School on Friday night.
But Mireles, starting his hunt for the state career rushing record, and the Panthers weren’t fast enough to outdistance the Class 2A No. 5 Crusaders, who rallied to beat Elwood 29-13.
“We had our chances to put them away and just didn’t get it done,” Elwood coach Marty Wells said.
Elwood jumped out to an unexpected lead in the first quarter, capitalizing on the first of six Scecina fumbles. Quarterback Alex Mireles, Sammy’s younger brother, hit senior London Leavell on a 17-yard route for a touchdown. Senior Anthony Bennett nailed the PAT to put the Panthers ahead 7-0.
On the ensuing drive, Scecina was moving the ball nicely, helped by two of 15 Elwood penalties, when the Crusaders’ back put the ball on the ground again. This time, the Panthers recovered at their 28-yard line. On second-and-3 at the Elwood 35, Sammy Mireles bounced it to the outside and streaked down the field to the 2-yard line. It took a couple of tries and a pass interference penalty on Scecina, but Sammy Mireles finally reached the end zone on a 1-yard run to give the Panthers a 13-0 lead with nine minutes left in the second quarter.
Mireles ended the night with 154 yards on 15 carries, a good though off-pace start to his record-seeking season. The senior needs to average 217 yards to pass Cathedral’s Otis Shannon for the top spot.
Still, his ground-churning speed impressed.
“Probably 140 (of those yards) are all him,” Wells said. “That one in the second half, that was a 6-yard loss, and he gets 20 yards on it probably. And he had a couple runs get called back on penalties.”
Scecina began its rally with a big return following Mireles’ touchdown. Starting from the Elwood 40, it took the Crusaders just seven plays to reach the end zone. A 13-yard touchdown run by Jordan Brown, who also had more than 100 yards on the ground, cut the Panthers’ lead to just six at halftime.
Scecina erased it completely with an 84-yard kickoff return for a score to start the second half and never looked back.
The poor kick coverage was just one of the many things Wells said his team simply cannot do against a good team. The Panthers also can’t afford to be careless with the ball, and on Friday they committed seven fumbles, losing two. Penalties cost Elwood as well -- 15 for 115 yards.
It’s all evidence of the Panthers’ inexperience and lack of depth.
“We had to replace three guys up front, and that showed at times. There were also times where there were some holes, but we didn’t particularly run it very well either,” Wells said. “So it was a combination of when we did have some success up front, the backs wanted to push it too far wide. And when we didn’t have any success up front it showed.”
Next week doesn’t get any easier for Elwood. The Panthers host fourth-ranked Tipton. Wells thinks the team’s issues are fixable, but it’s going to take some commitment from the entire squad.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do and a short time to do it. We talked at least twice that’s it’s gotta get fixed on our practice field,” Wells said. “It’s gonna be a good football team coming in. The team that’s gonna come to town next week is going to be better than the team we played tonight.”