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City can’t keep pace

November 19, 2018

NEW PALESTINE — Balance is the key to any offense and it was an attribute Michigan City just couldn’t sustain in Saturday’s Class 5A North Semistate.

Ideally, it would’ve kept riding running back Lyric McFarrin, whose early work carried the Wolves to a 10-7 lead, but once City went down 28-10 in the third quarter, M.C. coach Phil Mason felt he had no choice but to pick up the pace on that side of the ball.

“I felt like we could be more physical up front than they were, but we had to play from behind,” Mason said. “Even though they’re a no-huddle offense, they put long drives together. We weren’t going to get the ball. They forced us to go into a little tempo I wasn’t sure I was going to be comfortable with, due to the fact I just wanted to keep it close. I felt like if it’s close, we’ve got a chance to win it.”

Not that the running room was all that great for McFarrin anyway.

“Their coaching adjustments, they’re probably the best coaches of a team I’ve ever played against,” he said. “I felt like wherever the hole was trying to go to, it was filled and where I bounced it to was filled, too. They had it all covered. I would say they’re about the same level (as Valpo). New Pal had a lot of film to look at and I feel that definitely helped them.”

Mutual respect: On the way off the field, Mason stopped to congratulate New Pal quarterback Zach Neligh and wish him well at state. The Wolves coach said it during the week and reiterated it Saturday that he thought Neligh was the key to the Dragons offense, even with 3,000-yard rusher Charlie Spegal. Mason compared Neligh to Matt DeSomer, the quarterback on his state team at Andrean, telling Neligh to look up the name on the web.

“He’s the guy that makes that offense work,” Mason said.

Neligh was equally complimentary of City’s defense.

“Their line reminded me a lot of Center Grove’s,” Neligh said. “They’re very explosive and downhill. They filled up gaps. Just their size in general was unbelievable. I didn’t expect that. Watching them on film, I didn’t think they were that big, then I walk out and they’re huge. Their secondary reminded me more like Zionsville. They had a lot more speed. They had a really good combination on defense. It’s just small things here and there that we picked up on.”

Capital Z: Zennon Wilhelm was one of the big playmakers for either team, catching six balls for 136 yards for the Wolves. On City’s lone touchdown drive of the game, Wilhelm made a bobbling catch on a high rocket off the arm of Hayman for 46 yards to set up a McFarrin touchdown from 2 yards out.

Asked if he was surprised he made the catch, Wilhelm said with a smirk, “Absolutely not. I always expect to catch the ball [laughs]. When I saw the ball in the air and I saw where the defender was, I said, ‘I can make this catch.’ When I caught it, I went to pull it in and it bounced off my helmet. It was almost like, maybe half a second of ‘Oh, crap!’ But then it was like, ‘Where’s the ball?’ So I just put my eyes on the ball and re-caught it.”

That’s my quarterback: Hayman had a rough day at the office with four interceptions, but Wilhelm took a moment to thank him for all of the good times they’ve had as quarterback and receiver over the years.

“I gave him a hug and told him that I’m gonna miss him,” Wilhelm said. “He’s the best quarterback I’ve ever had and probably will ever have. That’s my man. We’ve been teammates for as long as I can remember since we were about 5, 6 years old. I’m gonna miss that dude.”

An even dozen: On City’s initital scoring drive, which resulted in a 22-yard field goal by Riley Shreve, McFarrin was the definition of a workhorse. On the 13-play march that ended when a third-down quick slant sailed just a tad high to Wilhelm, McFarrin carried the ball 12 times in a row. “I was thinking before each play, ‘Call a different play’,” McFarrin said with a smile. “And then I’d get the call and just kinda shrug a bit because I knew I was getting the ball because I was definitely tired, but we just had a lot of momentum going on that drive.”

Big numbers: Spegal’s 189 yards gave him 3,130 on the season with 66 touchdowns.

“He’s a good back, a good player,” Mason said. “I would’ve liked to kept him off the field a little longer, especially in the second half.”

A first for everything: Shreve’s early field goal accounted for the first points New Pal had allowed in the first quarter this season and McFarrin’s touchdown, coupled with three straight three-and-outs, also put the Dragons behind for the first time in 13 games at 10-7.

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