Can 2016 Wolves make history?

Photo by Scott AllenMichigan City running back Markice Hurt sprints around the end at Chesterton last week. The senior is averaging almost 130 yards rushing per game this season.

In my time covering Michigan City football, I saw more than my share of losses.

I was the primary "beat" guy for the team for 11 seasons, covering all games during those seasons. The combined record: 34 wins, 77 losses. In only one of those seasons did the team advance past the first game of the postseason, and that team lost in the second game.

Of those 34 wins, almost a third (11) were in Week 1 against the hapless Gary Roosevelt Panthers. So, take those "wins" away, and the City teams I covered won only 23 percent of the time.

This is the first time I've ever done the math on that stretch of time in my life, and I think I'm going to become ill.

It wasn't all bad, though. During that 11-season stretch, which included six seasons with two wins or less, there was 2005 and 2009. You'll look through your local high school football books (they don't really exist) and note that those teams went 6-5 and 6-4, respectively. Not awful, but nothing to write home about.

I'm hear to tell you, though, that those seasons — for at least a period of time — delivered on the promise that is Michigan City football.

Sports Editor Steve T. Gorches remarked at the size of City crowds at two road games already this season, shaking his "MC is a basketball town" belief to its very core.

But I was there in 2005 and 2009, so I know how this community feels about winning football. Call it bandwagon jumping if you want, but those seasons were fun and fans were along for the ride.

Those seasons are much like the current 2016 one in that the Wolves started 3-0, the only 3-0 starts in school history. The 2009 crew actually started 4-0. More on that in a moment.

The thing about only covering wins 23 percent of the time — yes, I'm disregarding the Roosevelt games; if you were there, you'd understand why — is that the wins stand out.

In 2005, I remember Ryan Fics shooting out of a cannon for a 98-yard touchdown run in Week 3 against Chesterton at Ames Field. Fics had six touchdowns and 368 yards rushing on that night alone, on his way to a 2,000-yard season. His spectacular campaign, during which that 5-foot, 7-inch, 170-pound ball of heart and desire left everything he had on the field, cemented his status on my Mount Rushmore of favorite City athletes.

In 2009, I remember the great Adam Harmon barrelling through Valparaiso's defense on the road in a Week 4 win, running the gimmicky Wildcat offense to perfection under coach Craig Buzea. The Wolves went to Harmon and the Wildcat in the second half, and the Vikings were powerless to stop it, though they knew what was coming.

Unfortunately, in both of those cases, the Wolves lost their next game. The 2005 team finished 5-4 before beating East Chicago in the sectional's opening round and then getting blown out by Merrillville in the sectional semifinal. In 2009, a nasty flu bug ripped through the team sidelining a boatload of starters and the Wolves never got going in a 23-0 loss at home to Elkhart Memorial following a 6-3 regular season, tied for the best regular season mark since the consolidation.

Those seasons, though, especially the first parts of both of them, were among the most fun I had following any team, ever. There's something about winning football that just captures people.

As far as the 2016 squad goes, these Wolves actually have a leg up on the 2005 and 2009 versions. This team has three "real" wins, with Roosevelt now being off the schedule. This year, City went on the road in Week 1 and got a good win against Griffith before taking apart Northridge in Week 2 at Ames. Those are the best two wins to open a season City has had, maybe ever, but certainly since at least 1996 when the Wolves got wins over Chicago Leo and Crown Point in Weeks 1 and 2.

This team also has something in common with those other 3-0 starts: a dominant running attack. It was Fics and Harmon, respectively, back then, and now it's a two-headed attack of seniors Markice Hurt and Aryuan Cain-Veasey.

The remainder of the schedule (all DAC games) will provide a great test for these Wolves. Four of their last six games will be right here at Ames Field, and I expect they'll be playing before a packed house each time.

Can first-year coach Phil Mason and his staff guide this team to Michigan City history? I can't wait to find out.

THIS WEEK'S GAMES

• Valparaiso (1-2, 0-1) at Michigan City (3-0, 1-0)

Friday, 7 p.m., at Ames Field

Series over last 30 years: Valpo leads 19-3

Skinny: The last time the Wolves started a season 4-0 — the only time — was 2009 and that fourth win was 21-17 over Valparaiso. Exorcising the demons against Chesterton was one thing. Beating the Trojans and Vikings in back-to-back weeks to start the Duneland Conference campaign is another story. As stated already, it’s only been done once. Valpo has shown it can put up points, like last week against La Porte. But City’s defense might be the best in Northwest Indiana, so let see what that Vikings’ offense can do against coordinator Roydon Richards’ scheme.

Prediction: Michigan City 24, Valparaiso 3

• Chesterton (2-1, 0-1) at La Porte (3-0, 1-0)

Friday, 7 p.m., at Kiwanis Field

Series over last 30 years: Chesterton leads 21-11

Skinny: Last year these two teams were in similar positions with the Slicers starting 3-0. It turned out to be the heartbreaker of the season for La Porte as it lost 22-21 at Chesterton on a late touchdown by the Trojans, and gutsy two-point conversion run by Rhett Rondinelli when Chesterton coach Mark Peterson decided to go for the win, not overtime. Last week the Slicers won their game at Valparaiso in much the same way. Look for another thriller between these two teams in the midst of an up-for-grabs DAC race.

Prediction: La Porte 24, Chesterton 23

• South Central (2-1, 0-1) at Hammond Noll (0-3, 0-1)

Friday, 7 p.m., at Bishop Noll Field

Series over last 30 years: South Central leads 7-2

Skinny: This was supposed to be after a 3-0 start for the Satellites, but they laid an egg against a Calumet team that didn’t look to be as good as South Central. Instead, turnovers doomed the Satellites and now they need to bounce back against a Noll team that looks like it’s in the same position as Calumet last week.

Prediction: South Central 20, Hammond Noll 15

• South Bend Washington (1-2, 0-1) at New Prairie (2-1, 0-0)

Friday, 6:30 p.m., at Amzie Miller Field

Series over last 30 years: Washington leads 5-3

Skinny: How about a nice little revenge game for the Cougars? Washington beat New Prairie 29-6 last year in South Bend, so the Cougars will definitely have that on their minds against a Northern Indiana Conference South Division foe. You can bet coach Russ Radtke hasn’t forgotten. The Cougars looked good last week in their first-ever win over Andrean, so a streak could be in the works.

Prediction: New Prairie 42, SB Washington 20

• Jimtown (2-1, 1-0) at John Glenn (1-2, 0-2)

Friday, 6 p.m., at John Glenn Field

Series over last 30 years: Jimtown leads 30-2

Skinny: The Falcons need to rebound with a good game desperately after being outscored 76-14 the last two week in losses. It won’t be easy this week with perennial contender Jimtown in town. Glenn has lost 24 straight to the Jimmies, including being outscored 87-6 in the last four losses to them. And this year’s Jimtown squad looks as good as usual.

Prediction: Jimtown 35, John Glenn 14

Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at aparkhouse@thenewsdispatch.com or 1-219-214-4170. Sports editor Steve T. Gorches contributed. Contact him at sgorches@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4206.

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