REGGIE HAYES: Mishawaka Marian’s power sends Bishop Luers to football playoff sideline
After Mishawaka Marian’s pushed Bishop Luers around and out of the Class 3A high school football playoffs, I went looking for a reason why.
Nick Crites looked like a good place to start.
Crites is 6-foot-1, 319 pounds and held down the right guard spot as Mishawaka Marian beat Luers 30-7 in the Class 3A regional championship Friday at Luersfield.
When I say he “held down” the right guard spot, I mean he crushed any Luers defender who happened to be in his way as he helped free running backs Zack Whitfield and Michael Hemingway and quarterback John Brach to run wild.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game going in,” Crites said. “We kept driving and driving and pounding it down their throats. That’s what we practiced all week. We run the ball 90 percent of the time, and that’s what we knew we had to do.”
It looked as easy as 1-2-3:
1. Mishawka Marian drove 76 yards on 10 plays, with Brach scoring on a 3-yard run to put Marian up 7-0. Whitfield accounted for 49 of those yards.
2. After Luers tied the score on a 73-yard screen pass touchdown from Norman Knapke to Jordan Presley, Marian turned around and marched again, going 75 yards on 15 plays, eating nearly eight minutes off the clock in the process. Whitfield scored to make it 14-7.
3. Marian went up 21-7 in the final three minutes of the half, marching 80 yards on eight plays, with Brach hitting receiver Trevor Teumac for a 15-yard score.
“The pounded us,” Luers coach Kyle Lindsay said. “They dominated the line of scrimmage up front on that side of the ball.”
The Mishawaka Marian offensive line provides a mixture of speed and size. Crites is joined on the right side by tackle Atanasio Sete, who is 6-foot, 339 pounds. Alec Mishler (5-9, 257) is at center and the left side – smaller and quicker – includes guard Bransen Bonell (5-8, 190) and tackle Kurt Anderson (5-7, 179).
The quickness on the left and power on the right worked to keep Luers off balance with Marian’s option attack. Whitfield rushed for 127 yards, Brach 65 and Hemingway 34.
“They’re massive on one side of the line and they have another side that’s quick,” Lindsay said. “They move those guys around. They run to that smaller side just enough to keep you honest. And their quarterback does a heck of a job on their option. It’s not an option we see over the course of the year.”
Mishawaka Marian’s offensive line was missing Crites for more than half the season as he suffered a torn MCL in Week 4.
“If I would have torn it any more than I did, I would have been out for the season with surgery,” Crites said. “I kept pushing through rehab and my team had my back to push me to get back.”
Mishawaka Marian (9-4) will host Brebeuf Jesuit (9-4) in the Class 3A semistate next Friday.
Luers (8-5) will turn in their uniforms and say goodbye to 12 seniors.
In addition to its difficulties with the Mishawaka Marian offensive line, Luers lost Presley to an injury on its second offensive possession, one that eventually resulted in a missed field goal.
Presley was tackled hard and appeared to suffer a shoulder injury and possibly a blow to the head. He did not return to the game, although Lindsay was optimistic that his injuries will not be a long-term problem.
“Emotionally, you could tell it took a little bit out of us right before the half,” Lindsay said. “Jordan is a big playmaker and a big part of this team. He has a bright future ahead. But anytime you lose a kid like that, you’re going to take a step back.”
Would Presley’s presence have made a difference in the final score? Possibly. Would his presence have been enough to close the 23-point gap? That seems less likely.
As Lindsay acknowledged, Mishawaka Marian set the tone, and controlled it.
“They came out and they took it,” Lindsay said. “They won. They had a good blend of upperclassmen and underclassmen they play. But the meat of that team was its senior class. We score (to make it 7-7), and they take it right down the field and score again. That’s what an experienced team can do.”
The third touchdown of the half was probably the true backbreaker. A two-touchdown lead seemed fairly insurmountable considering the style Mishawka Marian displayed.
“We kept pounding it,” Crites said, “and we were good to go.”
They are, indeed, good to go on to the semistate after running over Luers.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.