Gorch on the Porch: Overcoming elements

Photo by Robb QuinnMichigan City assistant coach Ken Bye holds up the regional champions placard after the Wolves defeated Concord 21-7 last Friday.

On Friday night when the News-Dispatch contingent (myself, Adam Parkhouse and photographer Robb Quinn) arrived early, Concord athletic director David Preheim quipped, “Welcome to the 1990s” in answer to a question about whether there was WiFi on the premises.

That’s not the only aspect of Concord that goes back to the 90s, or even further.

And I’m not talking about the lack of hospitality food for the media, though that was an issue for a food hound like myself.

You see, Concord’s Jackowiak Field still has grass.

What’s that, you say? You’re an old-school football fan who prefers grass to FieldTurf, even though the latter has been proven safer and cheaper to maintain over the course of a decade or more? Well then, you must not be a fan of Michigan City … or La Porte … or any Duneland Conference school, for that matter, since all of them have installed safer, softer turf.

You do realize you can be a fan of a grind-it-out, running style of offense (like the Slicers, for example) and still be okay with turf since they seem to do fine on it.

And even though the Wolves have an open, speed-oriented offense, Daelon Wren did set a school record for rushing yards in a game earlier this year (369 yards against Merrillville) on the Ames Field turf, and he can grind out yards with the best of them.

It was the first game on turf all season for City, whose only non-DAC road game was at Homewood-Flossmoor, which has some mighty fine turf (though it’s not being used anymore until the spring since the Vikings, which throttled the Wolves 63-21 in Week 2, lost in the second round of Illinois Class 8A playoff bracket).

Couple playing on ugly grass with the game-time temperature of 25 degrees that dropped a little as the night wore on, and City was out of its element, per se.

“Concord has a good front, and the surface and cold shook the kids up a little,” City head coach Phil Mason said. “Once we got into a groove, we were in good shape. It won’t be an issue anymore.”

Quarterback Michael McCullough wore gloves and looked like he needed at least a quarter to get used to throwing with them on. Heck, us reporters tried to write notes with gloves on after the game and couldn’t, so I get it.

“McCullough had some great reads and our offensive line has gotten it in gear lately,” Mason added.

It’s only the second time most of the Wolves played a meaningful game on grass. Last year City lost at Mishawaka in the sectional on another ugly grass field that should be switched to turf.

As for the cold, it could be the coldest temperature in which any high school football team in Michigan City history played. The latest the Wolves have played a game is Nov. 3 — a loss to Penn in the sectional final in the school’s first season (1995). The latest any other city team played was Nov. 15 (Elston at La Porte in 1940), which will be topped this week. Elston also played three games as late as Nov. 12.

As for the game-time temp this week in Kokomo, it’s forecasted to be warmer than the below-freezing temps in Concord, and Kokomo is also a turf field.

Oh yeah, it also has Wifi, so Kokomo has arrived in the 21st century.

• Very superstitious: It sounded like Mason was delving into a variation of hockey superstition after Friday’s 21-7 win at Concord.

In case you aren’t a fan of the National Hockey League, when a team wins the conference title, the players rarely, if ever touch the conference trophy out of superstition because the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal.

So when Mason addressed the team after the game, he was holding the regional champions placard that goes on the trophy won at sectional.

“I don’t want you holding this, because the one you get next week will say regional and semistate champion,” he said.

Of course, if the Wolves play 48 minutes of good football at Kokomo, he could say the same thing since the following week would be the state final at Lucas Oil Stadium.

CLASS 5A SEMISTATE

MICHIGAN CITY (9-3) at Kokomo (8-4)

Friday, 7 p.m., at Cross Field

Series over last 30 years: No meetings

Skinny: Again, it’s not a surprise these two teams have never met, though City coaches Phil Mason and Roydon Richards have been to Kokomo before. Mason was an assistant under Richards when the latter was head coach at East Chicago Central in 1995. They played a non-conference game at Kokomo and lost 36-21. The records may say these teams aren’t as good as others, but the schedules show different. City, of course, plays in the tough Duneland Conference and also had a tough non-conference game at Illinois power Homewood-Flossmoor. The WildKats play in the North Central Conference, losing to Lafayette Jeff, which was undefeated before losing at Carmel (who is still playing in Class 6A) in the sectional final. Kokomo also lost to Hamilton Southeastern, which is one of the biggest schools in the state. The WildKats are balanced on offense with senior QB Kyle Wade passing for almost 1,400 yards with a .582 completion percentage, while four different players have more than 300 yards rushing, including Wade with 477. McCullough is also a double threat for City, but way more prolific. He has 2,163 yards passing at a 52.9 percent clip with 17 touchdowns, and has rushed for 557 yards and nine more TDs. One issue with the senior is hanging onto the ball. He’s lost nine fumbles on the season, including one in the cold at Concord. Daelon Wren leads the Wolves with 1,117 yards rushing and 12 TDs, while Keyshawn McGill has 927 yards receiving and nine TDs.

Prediction: Michigan City 35, Kokomo 34

Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at sgorches@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.

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