ELKHART — Mark Brownlee and Dom Davis were outstanding ... the defense was dominant ... but following Elkhart Central's 41-21 victory over arch-rival Elkhart Memorial on Friday night, Blue Blazer coach Josh Shattuck made sure one other player wasn't forgotten.
"I think our quarterback play from Isaiah Chandler was as good as I've seen since I've been here,'' Shattuck said. "He isn't flashy, but so many of our big plays came from Isaiah tonight, even though the focal point was somewhere else.''
Central's third straight win in the series allows the Blue Blazers to hold onto the Mangy Lion Trophy. And with the schools merging next fall, Mangy will be staying at Elkhart Central for awhile.
The crowd at Central's Rice Field was estimated at 9,000.
Brownlee, a Ball State University commit rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns for the Blue Blazers, while Davis scampered 47 yards for a huge touchdown midway through the third quarter that upped the Elkhart Central lead to 28-14.
Meanwhile, the Central defense held Memorial to just one offensive touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. Junior defensive end Rodney McGraw had two sacks and two forced fumbles, one of which was returned 45 yards for a back-breaking touchdown by senior Jonathan Decker just over a minute after Davis' touchdown.
"I thought Central was just better than we were tonight,'' a disappointed Memorial coach Scot Shaw admitted. "They are really good up front and they can really cover. We just couldn't get anything going offensively.''
The Chargers scored on the game's first possession, when Shaw went for it on a fourth-and-one from his own 24. Junior Derrick Woods got the handoff and broke through the original containment at the line of scrimmage and scampered 76 yards for the season's first score less than two minutes into the game.
"Just a gutsy call,'' Shattuck admitted.
"Well, I would hope we could get a yard,'' Shaw said. "I'm just happy it came early in the game because if were later, I would definitely had punted.''
Brownlee scored the next two touchdowns - one a 30-yard run and the second from a yard out – to give Central a 14-7 lead, before the Memorial defense came up with a huge play.
As the Blazers were driving, Chandler found Brownlee on a screen pass over the middle, but as the senior battled for extra yardage, the Chargers' Dylan Rost came up and took the ball away and took it the distance for a 65-yard touchdown run to tie the game – even though Memorial had recorded just one first down.
But with just 1:45 to play in the half, Chandler saw a blitz coming and changed from a pass play to a run and Brownlee did the rest, beating the Chargers defense to the end zone for a 70 yard touchdown run to give the Blazers a 21-14 halftime lead.
"I thought the big play was letting them come right back down and score after we tied it,'' Shaw said. "It just killed any momentum we had going into halftime being down by seven rather than tied.''
"You have to give Memorial a lot of credit tonight, because we easily could have been up four touchdowns at halftime,'' Shattuck said. "But they made a great play on a fourth-and-one that turned into a long touchdown, then they came up with a fumble for another score and all of a sudden it's 21-14 at the half. We were frustrated, but we also thought we could come out in the second half and do some things.''
Davis' 47-yard touchdown run came on the first play after a punt, as the senior speedster broke through the Memorial line, headed towards the sideline and then outraced the Chargers to the end zone to give the Blazers a two-touchdown lead with 6:40 to play in the third quarter.
But the score that took perhaps the last air out of the Chargers balloon came on their next possession, when the 6-foot-6, 235 pounds McGraw came around Lehner's blindside and hit the quarterback hard, causing a fumble. Decker, who also had an outstanding defensive game, picked the ball up and rumbled 45 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 35-14.
Brownlee would score his fourth touchdown with 10:17 left in the game on a two-yard run that completed a seven-play, 58 yard drive.
With starting running backs Woods and Ivan Soen injured during the game, senior Breydon Weston took over and rushed for the Chargers final touchdown from a yard out with 2:56 left in the game.
"I wasn't happy with the way we finished the game tonight, we need to be a lot crisper with our second unit,'' Shattuck said. "But all-in-all, this is a great win against a quality opponent. Memorial will win some games this year for sure.
"We have nothing but respect for Elkhart Memorial and the way they play the game. "It's been a great rivalry and we've been fortunate to get the last three games. But we know how well coached they are and the kind of athletes they have.''
In addition to Brownlee's 200 yards, Davis added 94 yards rushing, as Central finished with 403 total yards. Chandler was 11-18 passing for 113 yards.
"We have a specific number of touches we want Davis to have every game and we have a chart just for him,'' Shattuck admitted. "Brownlee is a tremendous back, but Dom can really make our offense go with his quickness.''
ELKHART CENTRAL 41, ELKHART MEMORIAL 21
Scoring By Quarters
M — Derrick Woods 76 run; Christian Santiago kick; 10:03.
C — Mark Brownlee 30 run; Elijah Harris kick; 0:40.
C — Brownlee 1 run; Harris kick; 8:17.
M — Dylan Rost 65 fumble return; Santiago kick; 2:42.
C — Mark Brownlee 70 run; Elijah Harris kick; 1:45.
C — Dom Davis 47 run; Harris kick 6:40
C — Jonathan Decker 45 fumble return; Harris kick; 5:01.
C — Brownlee 2 run; kick failed; 10:17.
M — Breydan Weston 1 run; Santiago kick; 2:56.
Team: Rushing — Derrick Woods 11-83, Breydan Weston 7-34. Passing — Tyler Lehner 9-17-75. Receiving — Junior Estrada 2-41, Tyren Mason 4-19.
Central: Rushing — Mark Brownlee 28-200, Dom Davis 4-94. Passing — Isaiah Chandler 11-18-113. Receiving — Brownlee 3-46, Davis 4-19, DuMarion Williams 3-41.