By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ELWOOD — If Hollywood was writing the script, Friday night would be epic at Elwood High School.
Senior running back Sammy Mireles needs 511 yards to eclipse Otis Shannon's 13-year-old state career rushing record. And the contest against Central Indiana Conference rival Frankton is the final scheduled home game of Mireles' career.
The Panthers close the regular season at Alexandria on Oct. 18, and they won't find out their sectional opponent — or where the game will be played — until Oct. 13. So Mireles' best chance to set the record at home likely will come Friday against the 1-6 Eagles.
The star running back has recorded at least 370 yards in the first half twice this season, but he'd need to surpass his career high of 429 yards to catch Shannon — who ran for 7,560 yards from 1997 through 2000 — this week.
Even for a player as talented as Mireles, it would likely take something akin to movie magic to accomplish that feat. And it's not as though Frankton will be a willing accomplice.
The Eagles made Mireles fight for 156 yards on 37 carries last season and will be highly motivated not to allow him to reach the record Friday.
"I don't care what their record is," Elwood coach Marty Wells said. "They're still our arch-rival, and they're still going to come ready to play."
The Panthers (4-3, 4-1 CIC) will have more than the rushing record on their mind. They've needed comebacks the past two weeks to win at Mississinewa and Oak Hill, respectively.
Elwood trailed the Indians 28-26 late in the fourth quarter two weeks ago before an interception return for a touchdown and a Mireles scoring run led to a 38-28 victory.
Against Oak Hill last Friday, the roles were reversed. The Golden Eagles rallied from a 21-7 deficit to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, then scored on the first possession of overtime for a 28-21 lead.
Mireles scored on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line on Elwood's possession in the extra period, and Wells didn't hesistate to call for the 2-point conversion. When Mireles again went in from 3 yards out, the Panthers escaped with a 29-28 victory.
"I think everybody in Grant County knew who was going to get the ball," Wells said of the final play. "There wasn't any doubt in my mind what we were going to do. We knew that going into overtime."
The teams could meet again during a sectional that is shaping up as one of the more interesting tournaments in years. In addition to Elwood and Oak Hill (6-1), the field includes Lapel (2-5), Alexandria (5-2), Eastern (1-6), Madison-Grant (2-5), Bluffton (4-3) and Frankton.
All of the teams except Bluffton are either county or conference rivals, and each school is close enough to bring strong crowds on the road. All the ingredients are there for a classic postseason event.
"I think if you talked to any of the seven other coaches in the sectional," Wells said, "they all think they can win it."
Of course, the Panthers have some business to attend to first.
Counting a first-round sectional game, Mireles must average 170.3 yards per game the rest of the season to surpass Shannon. He enters play this week averaging 181.3 yards per game.
As Mireles closes in on the record, Wells and his coaching staff will have some difficult strategy decisions to make. But, as they have since the season began, the Panthers are making their goal clear.
"I'm not out to embarrass anybody," Wells said. "But we are out to break a record. I'm sure (Mireles) will get a healthy workload this week."