WALKERTON — What goes around, comes around.
The past two seasons, John Glenn has seen its season end with sectional semifinal games at Mishawaka Marian. So when the Falcons drew Marian on the road in their 3A Sectional 25-opener last week, they were ready for a reprisal.
That’s just what they got as they jumped out to a 16-7 lead in the first quarter and never looked back on the way to a convincing 37-21 win over the Knights.
Glenn thus earned the right to advance to this week’s semifinal at Hammond.
“A lot of these seniors played at Mishawaka Marian their sophomore and junior years and saw games that they were in to the very end,” said Glenn coach Dave Sharpe. “So when we drew Marian in the sectional, the kids were very excited. They were pumped because this is the team that had knocked them out at Marian the previous two years. Our week of practice was just totally focused, and we came out and I couldn’t have been happier for a group of kids for all the adversity they’ve faced this year to go out and play the game of their life when it mattered most. It was just awesome.”
The Falcons have had their fair share of travails this season. Friday’s win should’ve pushed Glenn out to a 5-5 record, but revelations of a player ineligibility in Week 8 reversed wins over Knox, LaVille and Triton, and the Falcons entered the penultimate week of the regular season with a winless 0-7 record.
Glenn rebounded with a big 46-14 win at Culver Community but followed up with a disappointing 42-14 setback at Bremen in its regular-season closer. The Falcons didn’t have long to right the ship, but they got things turned around just in time for a big game at Marian last week.
“We kind of gathered all our seniors together, we said ‘This is it; we’ve got one last chance to prove to everybody that we’re a good team,’ and they came out and just played the game of their life,” said Sharpe. “Our offensive line was able to get a push all night long, and we ran the ball quite effectively, and it was just an awesome experience for our seniors to get a big win at Marian.”
Key to that win was establishing a ground game. The Falcons chewed up 310 rushing yards — led by junior Zach Combes’ 164 yards in 30 carries and senior Michael Schmeltz’s three touchdown carries — to control the clock against the Knights.
“We were able to kind of bleed the clock and keep gathering up first downs. We didn’t throw the ball a whole lot. We had a lot of good things go in our favor, and it was one of those things where before you knew it, the game was over because we had success milking that clock all night long,” Sharpe said.
The Falcons hope to milk the clock again in this week’s match-up at Hammond. The Wildcats (4-6) enter the game on a three-game win streak during which they’ve put up 145 points utilizing a pass-oriented attack. The game could boil down to which will control the tempo — Hammond’s passing game or Glenn’s ground and pound. Defensively, the Falcons will be without the help of their leading tackler, sophomore linebacker Colton Taylor, who suffered a spiral fracture in his hand last Friday.
“They’re extremely athletic. They’re shotgun spread. The quarterback is the coach’s son, and he has a cannon, and they’re going to probably throw the ball 40 to 50 times on Friday night. We’ve been going over a lot of different coverages to run against them, and it’s going to be a very tough match-up for us when their offense is on the field,” said Sharpe. “Defensively, They’ll give us multiple different fronts, and it’s going to be tough for us to kind of sustain the line of scrimmage, but our kids are up for the challenge. We’ve had a great week of practice so far, and I’ve got all the confidence in the world that they’re going to execute our game plan and Friday night is going to be fun.”
Long bus rides often present challenges to young players’ focus, and with roughly two hours separating Walkerton and Hammond, this Friday’s journey to the home of the Wildcats will be a long one. Nevertheless, Sharpe says he’s not concerned with his Falcons’ mental approach, and he expects them to be ready at the outset.
“The finality of the tournament is a great motivator in knowing that this is for our great group of seniors, for most of them if they get beat this is the last time they ever get to strap it up. That is motivation enough,” said the Glenn boss. “It was just such a fun game at Marian, and these kids want to keep this thing going as long as we possibly can.”