ELKHART — Eliseo Guerra took the football away on two occasions. But Elkhart Central was not able to come away with a victory Friday, Sept. 27, which was homecoming at Rice Field.
Despite causing three turnovers — including two fumble recoveries by junior defensive lineman Eliseo Guerra — and leading 7-6 at halftime, the Blue Blazers went on to fall 28-13 to Northern Indiana Conference for Mishawaka (4-2, 3-0).
“Eliseo’s a strong guy,” said Central coach Levon Johnson. “He’s a state qualifier in wrestling. He definitely knows how to move.”
Mishawaka wound up with 269 rushing yards on 59 attempts and 22 of the Cavemen’s 24 first downs came on the ground.
“They do a good job of adjusting to what you are trying to do,” said Johnson of defending a triple-option attack which has elements of wishbone, veer and wing-T. “There are things that we try to take away and they adjust their blocking.”
Johnson said his Blazers were able to take Mishawaka out of its comfort zone a little when they had the visitors behind.
But when the Cavemen regained the lead, they were able to resume their ground-and-pound possession game.
After going mostly between the tackles in the first half while gaining 131 rushing yards, Mishawaka went outside more in the second half with the option.
“Our quarterback (Darian Phillips) read the plays a little bit better in the second half and we were able to get outside with the pitch,” said Cavemen coach Bart Curtis, who saw his team cling to a 7-6 lead at halftime then watched Phillips run for two second-half TDs and pass for a third (to Adam Heatherly).
“As careless as we were with the football in the first half, we feel fortunate to have had the lead and that’s a tribute to our defense,” said Curtis.
Central (2-4, 0-4) scored on the game’s opening drive with Joe Phillips breaking loose for a 51-yard scoring run and Mishawaka blocking the extra-point attempt.
Blazers quarterback Vinny Schnell completed 18 passes (11 in the second half) for 174 yards (with two interceptions — both by James Alexander). He connected 10 times with Tre Taylor for 117 yards.
Schnell marched Central down the field by flinging passes to Taylor, Phillips, Antwaan Allen and Blake Faus in the final two minutes of the game then scored on a 3-yard QB keeper with 5.2 second remaining.
Mishawaka beat Central for the ninth straight time. The last Blazers’ win against the Cavemen came in 2004.
Next Friday, Oct. 4, Fort Wayne Snider plays at Central (7:30 p.m. kickoff) while Mishawaka plays host to NIC opponent South Bend Adams.