Elkhart football played with plenty of toughness on opening night

Central and Memorial didn’t always play well, but each school showed blood and guts

Posted on Aug. 23, 2014 at 9:15 a.m.

ELKHART — A flying helmet and a bloody nose. It was a Mangy Lion moment Issac Barrios won’t soon forget.

On the fourth snap of Friday night’s 28-12 Elkhart Central football win over Elkhart Memorial, manhoods were challenged when the Blue Blazers went for broke on fourth-and-2 at their own 47.

A gutsy call, but a great call nonetheless. It was the ultimate tone-setter.

As Joe Phillips tried to power 2 yards for a first down, a Central helmet bounced forward out of the pile one way and Phillips bounced backward the other. It was a train wreck.

Memorial ball.

As Crimson Charger defenders ran off to the sidelines celebrating, laying face down on the turf was a helmet-less Barrios, Central’s O-line stalwart. As he raised his head, there was blood around his nose.

"I got hit from the right, I think, and my helmet flew off and then the next second, I got hit in the face pretty hard with a facemask,“ said Barrios, a senior and a three-year starter. “They told me to stay down. It didn’t really hurt. I just put my hand to my face and saw the blood.

"I was saying I need to play the game, but the doctor said to go to the ER right away. I was devastated.”

Barrios’ biggest pain, though, was being told he might have broken his nose and ripped apart his septum. As the Blazers battled on, he was taken to Elkhart General Hospital for repairs.

"This is the worst I’ve felt in my entire life,” he later posted to Twitter from EGH. “I wanna be out there with my family.”

By 11:30 p.m. he was ready to be released. He later showed up at the Central Fieldhouse, six fresh stitches on his face, as coaches broke down film. He says he’ll miss a week.

The force of play, the power of the reaction and spirit in the soul epitomized the contest. Central versus Memorial was played as it should be — with toughness and determination.

Not all Mangy Lion games of late have been worth that on the grit scale. This one was.

"What I loved was that offensive line. They didn’t shudder, they didn’t shake,” said Levon Johnson, Central’s head coach. “They lost their leader. I loved that about them. They were question marks for us. Vincent Snipes didn’t practice the last two days, he twisted his ankle Tuesday, we weren’t sure he could play, but he did all the things he needed to take care of it.”

Jack Fann, Central’s other senior returnee on the offense line, said the Blazers then had to care for each other after Barrios exited.

"Issac Barrios is one of the biggest leaders on the line,” Fann said. ”He’s been playing varisty since freshman. We all kind of looked at each other and knew we had to man up. We came out went even harder than before, kept to it. We’re not losing this game. One city, one family. We are Elkhart.

“It’s my senior year, the last time I’ll ever get play in a Mangy game. I knew even though it’s the fourth quarter, I was extremely tired, it would all be worth it to see Mangy back in our hallways every day.”

And while Elkhart football’s prize escaped Memorial’s grasp for a third straight year, head coach Bill Roggeman found plenty of positives.

"I thought we were focused, and we cared about playing,” Roggeman said. “There were so many good things that happened. It’s a mental toughness factor which we’ve tried to work on for three years.

”Hats off to our seniors. They were gassed, but they kept playing, they kept going, they didn’t let down, they didn’t give up. That’s a good thing to build on.”

Despite the 21 penalty flags thrown — and there could have been more — there was plenty to build on for both teams. Each side’s passing games and special teams will be works in progress.

What was refreshing was the level of fight across the board. The Blazers and Chargers smacked each other from the opening kick to the last whistle.

And for that, Mangy would be proud.

Bill Beck is the Elkhart Truth sports editor. Follow him on Twitter @eTruthsports or @BillBeckTruth.



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