Gorch on the Porch: Save big plays for bigger game

Photo by Robb QuinnMichigan City's Kameron Muhammad (right), Keyshawn McGill (middle) and Royce Robinson Jr celebrate after McGill scored a late touchdown on Friday in the Wolves' 28-14 victory at Munster.

On Friday night in Michigan City’s 28-14 victory at Munster in the Class 5A Sectional 9 semifinal, the host Mustangs had just two plays of 20 yards or more.

They were both ground gains by running back Michael Dywan, and neither was a touchdown.

The Wolves, on the other hand, produced seven plays of 20 yards or more — six of them were passes from the arm of quarterback Michael McCullough Jr.

Those six passes were the senior’s only completions, and they went for 20, 22, 28, 28, 34 and 65 — the last was his first of the game to Keyshawn McGill for a quick touchdown — for 197 yards total.

One of the completions to McGill came after McCullough made a couple hand signs to his receiver — tap of the right arm, then swiping his left shoulder. It was their unspoken language on the field.

“He just looks at me and I know what he wants on that play,” McGill said.

It’s been the theme of City’s offense for most of this season. As the big plays go, so do the Wolves’ chances of winning.

“It’s kind of who we are,” City coach Phil Mason said. “We’re a big play offense. Munster has a good front (on defense); it had us concerned. We didn’t do a good job up front.”

So when the running game isn’t working as well as Mason would prefer, pass away I always say.

You see, Mason has admitted he’s an old school run-first guy.

Of course, when he told me that early in the season, I rolled my eyes metaphorically since I did cover Mason’s Andrean teams and know he likes to pass as much as the next guy who lives in the 21st century of football, not the 1980s.

Music in the 80s … great. High school football philosophy in the 80s … not so great.

Okay, before the football fans who are as old as my dad start calling or emailing me, I’m not completely discounting the run-first mentality. After all, City did beat Merrillville with running back Daelon Wren rushing for a school-record 369 yards and six touchdowns.

And then the following week, McCullough broke a school-record with six passing TDs.

Now the big-play offense does have it’s drawbacks. Before Friday’s La Porte County Game of the Century at Ames Field between the Wolves and Slicers, City is going to need to cut down on the giveaways.

“We had three turnovers,” Mason said about Friday’s win over Munster. “We can’t do that (against La Porte). We know what’s ahead of us.”

All they have to do is look back at the tape of the instant classic between the rivals in the regular season.

The teams combined for 114 points, 16 touchdowns and 1,020 total yards. Out of those 16 TDs, 10 of them were 24 yards or longer — five from each squad — which shows that both sides are equally explosive in their own way.

In the first matchup, La Porte’s 500-plus yards of rushing outlasted City’s prolific passing attack, 58-56. Ironically, the Slicers won on a last-second passing TD. Expect more craziness in a few days.

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

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