By George Bremer The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ELWOOD — Even in his senior season, Elwood running back Sammy Mireles is capable of surprising his head coach.
During a 321-yard performance last week against Blackford, Mireles bounced a few runs to the sideline by leaving defenders grasping at air. It’s not so much his elusiveness that caught Panthers coach Marty Wells’ eye as the creativity involved in the process.
“Every once in a while, it’s just jaw-dropping,” Wells said. “It makes you wonder how many moves he’s got to make people miss.”
Madison-Grant (1-2) is likely to see a few tonight when Elwood (1-2) visits for a key early Central Indiana Conference matchup. The Panthers are the reigning league champs, and their title defense began last week with a 66-20 demolition of Blackford.
Mireles had 302 yards at halftime against the Bruins and finished with five touchdowns on just 17 carries. But he and his teammates are likely to see far more resistance on most nights.
“Last year, we snuck up on a lot of people,” Wells said. “We’re not sneaking up on anybody this year. We’ve got the biggest bull’s-eye you ever could put on your back. Everybody wants a piece of that, and we’re going to get everybody’s best show. We struggle with that sometimes.”
The Argylls are hoping tonight is one of those nights.
Under new head coach Craig Barr, Madison-Grant has proven to be a tough out. The Argylls boast three of the top 10 rushers in the CIC and five of the top 20.
Cam Myers leads the way with 350 yards and three touchdowns on 52 carries, Luke Stroup adds 269 yards and four scores on 44 attempts and Hunter Tobey has 205 yards and two touchdowns on 36 tries.
Austin Purkey (22 carries for 152 yards) and Travis Rogers (27 for 130 and one score) also will get the football in Barr’s tight formations.
The Argylls pack their backfield closely together and use misdirection and backside pulls by the offensive lineman to keep opponents guessing.
“It’s like offense in a phone booth,” Wells said. “In the three games they’ve played, they haven’t been stopped on offense yet. The only way they’ve been stopped is by themselves. That’s going to be a huge challenge for our defense.”
Wells also is wary of Madison-Grant’s 3-3-5 defensive scheme. It’s a formation the Panthers haven’t faced since the preseason scrimmage against Shenandoah.
Motivation shouldn’t be a factor. Elwood beat the Argylls twice in 2012 but needed big plays late in both games to pull away.
This time around, the Panthers also are defending the traveling Milk Can trophy that is awarded only during games between CIC teams.
“Our kids have become somewhat partial to the Milk Can,” Wells said. “We’ve had it since last October, and they’d kind of like to keep it around for awhile longer.”
The other big storyline, of course, is Mireles’ pursuit of the state career rushing record. He’s racked up 703 yards and seven touchdowns on 59 carries thus far.
Mireles needs 1,467 more yards to surpass former Cathedral star Otis Shannon’s state mark. The Panthers are guaranteed seven more games — counting a first-round sectional contest — meaning the running back must average 209.6 yards the rest of the way.
He’s currently averaging 234.3 yards per game.
“He plays hard, he practices hard,” Wells said. “He’s just a good football player, and he does what he’s supposed to do.”