Indianapolis: Bryan Ault
Since the split of Elkhart school in 1972, the rivalry game known as the Mangy Lion game has been the biggest gridiron event of the year. This game is circled on the calendar every offseason, but in 2020, that will change as the two schools will consolidate to once again form Elkhart high school.
Central leads the series 6-4 over the past 10 years, but third-year coach Josh Shattuck knows Memorial will be a stout test to kick off the 2019 season. “We have worked a lot about focusing on the game itself and the details that it’s going to take to win,” Shattuck says. “If we are able to handle our emotions and focus our energy on technique and execution, we will best position ourselves to be successful.”
Shattuck cites Memorial’s overall experience as a key matchup to consider as the season kicks off. He credits Memorial free safety Dylan Rost as a “very, very good player” who “makes a ton of plays for them.” He identifies Memorial quarterback Tyler Lehner as one of the team’s top players. At 6’1” 195, Lehner is a three-year starter and legitimate dual-threat quarterback; he has a strong arm and can make plays on the move.“He (Lehner) is a great leader who wants to win,” Shattuck says. “He is a leader who makes them go.”He is a strong runner who can escape the pocket and take it to the house on read-option plays, an ability most evident in last week’s scrimmage. Shattuck went on to say “They return 22 guys who have started, so they really don’t have a clear weakness or area of their team where they are inexperienced”.
Lehner says he is very confident in what his team can accomplish this season, and his experience will be important in tonight’s matchup and the upcoming season. “There won’t be anything I haven’t seen from defenses,” Lehner said. “Defensive fronts, coverages, stunts you name it… We have been preparing for this game since the end of last season. From the countless days in the weight room to busting ur butts in summer camp, we’ve only gotten closer and closer to this game.”
Central is experienced, too, with five starters returning on the defensive line, an area Shattuck cities as the team’s strength. One key player is defensive end Rodney McGraw, considered by many to be a national recruit. At 6’6” 223, McGraw is one of the state’s top 2021 prospects. Along with Boston College, Illinois State and Indiana State, he holds several MAC and multiple Big-10 offers, including Indiana and Purdue.
Shattuck says he is “excited” and “feels good” about the players returning up front. “We have worked a lot about focusing on the game itself and the details that it’s going to take to win,” Shattuck said. “If we are able to handle our emotions and focus our energy on technique and execution, we will best position ourselves to be successful.”
Lehner says offseason preparation has been a critical factor leading into tonight’s game, a contest he and his team have been looking forward to since last season ended. “The closer we get, the more excited we are,” Lehner said. “Emotions run high in many games, and it’s the biggest game of the year for our community. We prepare mentally for this game by worrying about what we can control and remembering that we are playing for each other.”
The kids in the community will get one final opportunity to represent their program and have bragging rights as the last Elkhart team to win the Mangy Lion.
(featured photo credit: blueblazersports.com)