ELKHART — The best takeaway from Elkhart Memorial's season-closing loss may have been just that, the takeaways.
The Crimson Chargers managed six of them against unusually sloppy Mishawaka, but the No. 6-ranked Cavemen were still good enough to win 42-13 in a Class 5A sectional opening-round football game Friday night at chilly Charger Field.
"They did go after the ball," Memorial coach Scot Shaw said of his defense. "They made some plays, caused some turnovers. It helped keep us in it early."
Junior defensive back Nolan Grose picked off two first-half passes and added a second-half fumble recovery. Senior linebacker Shawn Cameron returned a late Mishawaka fumble 41 yards for the Chargers' lone second-half touchdown.
Memorial (2-8) trailed just 7-6 after the first quarter, but the Cavemen running game shifted into overdrive in the second period with 28 points for a 35-6 halftime advantage.
Mishawaka's Vernon Daniels (seven carries, 144 yards, three TDs), Austin Faulkner (11-89, two) and quarterback Ryan Wroblewski (8-83, one) combined for 316 yards and six TDs — and none of them ever touched the ball after the Cavemen went up 42-6 by the third minute of the third quarter.
"I was pretty pleased with the way we played early, but we just made too many mistakes," Shaw said of his club, which had three turnovers of its own. "We made a run at it, but they're a very good team. We do score to almost make it 7-7, but we get the extra point blocked. For some reason we just can't recover from that kind of stuff, and we need to."
The Chargers blended their personnel, looks and play selection, some of that to try to throw off Mishawaka (8-2), but some of it by necessity.
"We had some plays because we dipped into our trick bag, but we also didn't have school this week (due to fall break) and that really hurt us because our attendance (at practice) wasn't the greatest," Shaw said. "We had to shuffle people all around. We had new kids playing tonight who have almost never played before."
One alteration involved Grose, who had never played varsity quarterback, sharing QB duties with senior Nathan Williams. The latter wound up being ready after being injured last week, but he also wound up suffering a possibly broken ankle early in the fourth quarter.
"On Tuesday, we still didn't know if he was going to play," Shaw said of Williams. "At best it was a hodge-podge week for us."
The coach praised the ever-game Williams, who did not want to leave the sideline until after the contest to have his ankle examined more thoroughly.
"I can't say enough about his courage and leadership," Shaw said. "He's a great kid and been a great kid all year for us. And it really matters to him out here."
Promising Mark Brownlee rushed for 105 yards and Memorial's first TD on 16 carries to finish his freshman season at a team-high 753 yards on 125 tries for a 6.0 average and eight TDs.
The Charger program, in its second year under Shaw, finished with two or fewer on-field wins for the fifth straight season.
"We hope to be better," said Shaw, a Mishawaka alum who owns a 202-84 career record overall. "I thought our kids played a little bit harder tonight, so that was a step in the right direction and probably the best way we could've finished."
MISHAWAKA 42, ELKHART MEMORIAL 13
Scoring By Quarters
Mi — Vernon Daniels 26 run; Ben Kozlowski kick; 9:21.
Me — Mark Brownlee 8 run; kick failed; 0:33.
Mi — Ryan Wroblewski 51 run; Kozlowski kick; 10:16.
Mi — Daniels 33 run; Kozlowski kick; 7:41.
Mi — Austin Faulkner 58 run; Kozlowski kick; 5:49.
Mi — Faulkner 2 run; Kozlowski kick; 1:44.
Mi — Daniels 22 run; Patton Snyder kick; 9:38.
Me — Shawn Cameron 41 fumble return; Austin Arbaugh kick; 3:48.
Mishawaka: Rushing — Vernon Daniels 7-144, Austin Faulkner 11-89, Ryan Wroblewski 8-83, Sam Shively 3-37, Isaiah Evans 3-25. Passing — S. Shively 1-2-4 (0 int.), Wroblewski 0-2-0 (2 int.). Receiving — Thomas Dean 1-4. Interceptions — Lucas Shively 2, Kevin Banks.
Memorial: Rushing — Mark Brownlee 16-105, Austin Scott 10-28, Nathan Williams 5-17, JaShawn Echols-Adell 3-16. Passing — Williams 7-17-77 (3 int.), Nolan Grose 0-5-0 (0 int.). Receiving — Echols-Adell 1-35, Grose 3-29, Devon Billings 2-12. Interceptions — Grose 2. Fumble recoveries — John Kelly, Brownlee, Shawn Cameron, Grose.