By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ELWOOD, Ind. — Following his 91-yard sprint to the end zone late in the second quarter of Friday night's win against Frankton, Elwood senior Sammy Mireles did something he'd never done before in his high school career.
He took himself out of the game.
In nervous anticipation of the senior night contest, Mireles didn't eat throughout the day. With temperatures well above seasonal norms, the heat got to the running back after he scored on three consecutive plays from scrimmage.
He felt a little dizzy on the sideline and was treated for dehydration in the locker room at halftime.
But Mireles still finished the game — won by the Panthers 66-6 — with 301 rushing yards and five touchdowns on just 12 carries. With Friday's road game against Central Indiana Conference rival Alexandria and at least one postseason game remaining on the schedule, Mireles needs 210 rushing yards to match former Cathedral star Otis Shannon's 13-year-old state record of 7,560 career yards.
"(Friday) night was the first time he's shown he's getting close (to the record)," Elwood coach Marty Wells said. "He made a couple reads, made a couple cutbacks he didn't need to."
With an Indianapolis television news crew on hand to chronicle his every move, Mireles had "just" 47 rushing yards in the first quarter against the Eagles. It was a departure from his usual quick start and a result — Wells believes — of the running back and his offensive line needing a little time to adjust to an inspired Frankton defensive effort.
Mireles found his footing in the second quarter — breaking off scoring runs of 59, 65 and 91 yards on consecutive carries — and the Panthers opened up a 41-6 lead. His night could have been even bigger if not for 85 additional yards called back because of penalties.
The contest — which marked the sixth-highest single-game rushing total of Mireles' decorated career — answered any questions about how the running back will handle the spotlight as he closes in on arguably the state's most prestigious high school football record.
"He's the most even-keeled kid I've ever been around," Wells said.
He'll need to be as the hype machine revs up this week.
Waiting at the end is a 6-2 Alexandria team that can match its highest win total since 1998 with a victory. The Panthers (5-3) need a win to lock up second place in the CIC, and the game takes on added importance with both schools playing in the same sectional this year.
Toss in Mireles' pursuit of the rushing record, and an overflow crowd could descend on Small Town, USA.
"I would anticipate it being a playoff atmosphere," Wells said.
And the pressure will be turned up for Mireles another notch.
Led by junior quarterback Blaize Kelly, the Tigers average 31.9 points per game and have scored 34 or more in four of the past five weeks. Elwood will need Mireles to be in top form to keep pace.
The 5-foot-8 running back needs 41 yards to reach 2,000 yards for the third consecutive season — a feat believed to be unmatched in state history.
And, of course, the grand prize still looms.
With all due respect to Alexandria, the numbers are in Mireles' favor.
He's topped the 200-yard mark 18 times in his 39-game high school career, and he's averaging 244.9 yards per contest this season.
Last year, he amassed his second-highest single-game total — 385 yards on 31 carries with four touchdowns — against the Tigers.
With one more big night, Mireles can make history.
"I would never have imagined it," Wells said. "And I don't think anybody in the program would have imagined it. But he's worked his tail off to get to this point. It's very surreal."