The smile on Kyle Schmack’s face almost looked like it helped dry the tears after the postgame huddle in which the junior quarterback and his South Central teammates lamented their 28-20 loss at Winamac on Friday night in the first round of Class A Sectional 41.
I was trying to provide a little levity so Schmack could see the positives in how he led the Satellites back from a 28-0 deficit as the fourth quarter began.
It was his arm and strong legs that led the comeback, similar to SC’s offense during his sophomore year in which he was a talented, but inexperienced signal caller under previous head coach Eric Stephens. He ran an offense that exploited his talents: an arm that can throw the football 50 yards in the air, mobility and bruising power as a runner in a 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame. (At least that’s what the roster says … he looks bigger in person.)
“We knew we had to push it to go,” he said. “We never stopped fighting.”
South Central’s other offense led to the deficit. Okay, it wasn’t the culprit directly, since three of the Satellites’ four turnovers happening before the fourth quarter had more to do with it. But the “offense-in-a-phone-booth” (that’s how radio announcers described it at least five times) that SC and first-year head coach Buzz Schoff have run most of this season wasn’t exactly tearing it up.
Now part of the reason is that the old-school run-first-run-second-run-run-run offense is similar to Winamac’s offense, so the host Warriors knew how to handle it.
But the Satellites did drive down to the Winamac 10-yard-line early in the game before losing a fumble.
After that, the offense bogged down, the Warriors scored a couple touchdowns and SC was down 15-0 at half.
Two more turnovers early in the third quarter led to two more Winamac TDs and the game was out of hand.
Then Schoff let up on the reins of the offense and opened it up.
Voila! Schmack had just 11 yards rushing on two carries and 50 yards passing through almost three quarters. The offense starts looking like something from this century, Schmack rushes for 104 yards and two TDs in the final 14 minutes, and goes 11 of 17 passing for 107 yards with another TD in a sort of run-option offense that Schmack was probably watching on TV in multiple college football games.
“It was really fun,” Schmack admitted. “The offense rested more on me and I could show what I could do. The wide receivers were getting open. We started running shotgun and everything started clicking.”
The Satellites came up just short in the final seconds. If they had about two more minutes, I believe they would have won.
I also believe if they had started running the more modern offense from the beginning of the contest, SC would have won going away since Winamac had no answer for the bigger, stronger, faster version of Schmack instead of the QB that was mostly handing off to backs Jackson Meloy, Wes Battleday and Jake Osburn — who put up okay numbers, but not enough.
Those three backs will be back next season, even though most of the offensive line is graduating. As a columnist covering high school sports, I’ll rarely criticize a coach about his strategy. They have enough to worry about, and their job is mostly about being mentors by molding young student athletes into better human beings. Winning games should always be secondary.
And Schoff seems to be doing a good job — his athletic director, Tim Scott, told me on Saturday during the New Prairie Cross Country Semistate that he wants Schoff back as head coach.
So I won’t criticize Schoff, who told me back in mid-August after the Satellites’ scrimmage at Knox that his offense would be “four yards and a cloud of dust.”
Let me give him a suggestion, instead. Schmack is a unique talent at quarterback — and he’s smart, too, since he said he loves baseball more than football and wants to play America’s pastime in college (no unnecessary head trauma for him!) — and can lead a team, especially in Class A, to postseason success.
Watch football on the weekends on numerous TV channels, take notes, see how Schmack looks a lot like some of those talented QBs and picture him and his teammates hoisting a sectional trophy next season.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at email@example.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.