Clawing it out
Oct 06, 2012 (Menafn - The Herald Bulletin - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --FRANKTON, Ind. -- For all intents and purposes, Elwood clinched a share of its first Central Indiana Conference title in 12 years on the second play of the game Friday at Frankton.
With a driving rainstorm just building momentum and temperatures falling, quarterback Austin Dauenhauer faked a handoff to running back Sammy Mireles and rolled out to his left. He looked downfield and found wide receiver London Leavell running alone down the sideline.
Dauenhauer floated a perfect strike to Leavell in stride, and the Eagles' defense eventually dragged the receiver down 70 yards later at the 2-yard line. Mireles scored on the next play, and the Panthers were off and running for an ugly 18-0 victory.
"If the rain would have stopped or let up a little bit, we showed on the second play of the game that we could throw the ball," Elwood coach Marty Wells said. "Sometimes people say the advantage goes to the offense when you're throwing the ball on a wet field like this because you know where you're going. But it was miserable."
The rain ebbed and flowed throughout the game, sometimes letting up and sometimes coming down in sheets, but it never stopped. As a result, the surface at Otis Cress Field took a pounding.
By the fourth quarter, the gridiron had become a marsh between the 40-yard lines and moving the football became a nearly impossible chore.
That was to Elwood's advantage after the Panthers (6-2, 6-0 CIC) added a 5-yard touchdown run from Mireles with 1:01 remaining in the first quarter and took what proved to be a commanding 12-0 lead.
The game's final score came on a 49-yard run by Bryce Graves with just 11.1 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"In the second half, we basically just tried to run right at them," Wells said. "Run some clock and just run right at them."
Frankton (5-3, 3-3) had its chances early but fell to mixture of bad luck and poor execution.
The Eagles had a big gain on a fake punt attempt negated by a holding penalty and lost another potential first down on a fourth-down attempt when they were called for aiding the runner.
"Aiding the runner, I've never seen that called at any level," Frankton coach Cress said. "They all do it. Everybody does that. I've seen them grab and drag them."
The Eagles also lost a fumble deep in their own territory to set up Mireles' second touchdown run and threw an interception to kill another first-half drive.
"In weather like this, one or two plays turn the game," Cress said. "That's basically what happened."
Mireles, who already holds the school record for career rushing yardage and is closing in on 2,000 yards for the second straight season, was relatively held in check with 155 yards on 38 carries.
The muddy conditions made it difficult for Mireles to use the quick cutbacks he normally turns into big gains, and a physical Frankton defense made him earn every blade of grass.
"He got a little frustrated, I think, plus he got a little cold, too," Wells said. "Some of these guys, I don't know why they don't have long sleeves on."
The irony of that statement was the Wells made it while sporting a pair of shorts.
But it likely felt warmer on the Elwood sideline after the Panthers held on for the victory.
They can clinch the championship outright with a win next week at Alexandria. Frankton closes the regular season at Eastbrook next week.
The Tigers (3-5, 1-5) picked up their first CIC victory of the season Friday against Blackford. But Wells said there's little chance the Panthers will be caught looking past next week's game.
Elwood dropped a 42-24 decision at Alexandria last year, and it's a memory still forged in Wells' mind.
"365 days ago, the Alex game about ran me out of coaching," he said. "I'll remind them of that daily next week. We're not going to give (the outright title) up. We won't give it up."
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