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Ole Miss breaks record in domination of Elwood

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GONE: Mississinewa sophomore Carson Campbell breaks away from Elwood defenders on the way to one of his three rushing touchdowns in the Indians' 77-0 win over the Panthers in Gas City on Friday.
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DEFENSE: Mississinewa's Andruw Cruz leaps to try and block a pass during the Indians' 77-0 win over Elwood on Friday night at Fisher Field.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

GAS CITY – It could have been a perfect night for a let down or at least an unfocused and less than sharp performance for Mississinewa's Class 4A fifth-ranked football team.

The Indians showed from the opening kickoff against Elwood Friday night at Charlie Fisher Field that wasn't going to be the case.

Fresh off hard-fought, physical wins against good 4A opponents in Pendleton Heights and New Haven to open the 2019 season, playing without top offensive threat Cade Campbell, who injured an ankle late in the win over New Haven, and with a battle looming at Eastbrook next week, the ingredients were there for less than Mississinewa's best.

But Ole Miss raced out to a 42-0 lead before the first 12 minutes had evaporated, and with a running clock over the final three quarters, the Indians set a new school scoring record with their 77-0 win over the Panthers.

“We kinda of set game goals, different little milestones throughout the game we wanted them to accomplish as far as defensively and offensive goals,” said Ole Miss coach Curt Funk. “That's a big reason why I think we were able to keep our kids focused. We had two tough opponents the first two weeks and I think that really prepared us for this opening week of conference play.”

Funk didn't specify what those little goals were, but it added up to a complete domination of the Panthers.

The Indians needed just two plays and 36 seconds after receiving the opening kickoff to put points on the board. Junior running back Tai McClung, who opted not to play last season, went through a gaping hole on the right side of the Indians' line and sprinted 61 yards for a touchdown. The first of Andre Sallade's nine extra-point kicks made it 7-0.

A quick three-and-out got Ole Miss the ball back and an eight play, 87-yard drive took 3:39 off the clock before sophomore Carson Campbell scored the first of his three rushing touchdowns from 11 yards out. Drew Castanon sprinted 84 yards for an apparent touchdown on the second play of the series, only to have it reduced to a 19-yard gain because of an illegal block downfield.

Cade Campbell has been spectacular on many nights during the first three years of his career, and in his absence Carson Campbell demonstrated the same type of ability. The younger Campbell carried the ball just six times but went for 73 yards and added touchdowns from 35 and 16 yards on the ground along with a 47-yard TD catch from Andruw Cruz.

McClung carried just three times but amassed 90 yards on the ground and scored the final touchdown of the first quarter on a 26-yard jaunt.

Collectively the Indians rushed the football 33 times for 316 yards and six different players scored touchdowns on the ground.

“Obviously, our offense runs through Cade, he's the workhorse of our offense, but tonight some other guys did a great job of stepping up and filling that void without him,” Funk said. “Our offensive line did an outstanding job of opening up holes for our running backs. Carson Campbell had a great game and Tai McClung did, too. Our offensive line just opened up big holes for them guys.

“It's good to have (McClung) back here on the football field this year,” he added. “I think he's just going to keep improving weekly as we go throughout the season.”

The Indians didn't go to the air often but had success when they did. Both Cruz and Ethan Bennett completed 2-of-3 passing attempts, Bennett for 56 yards including a 30-yard TD to Kaden Cole, and Cruz for 55 yards and his deep strike to Campbell.

“Right now, we're rotating a couple of guys (at quarterback),” Funk said. “That's basically what we plan on doing at least until tournament time or until it doesn't work for us.”

Castanon hauled in two passes for 34 yards and also had three carries for 43 yards with a 25-yard scoring run that made the score 63-0 with under a minute to play in the first half. Seniors John Hall and Gage Peterson along with freshman Hayden Nelson all scored rushing touchdown.

As impressive as the offense was for Mississinewa, the Indians defense was just as dominant. Elwood managed just one first down all game, in the second half when Ole Miss had mostly JV and freshmen players on the field, and a net total of 14 yards, minus-22 on the ground. The Indians also forced four turnovers and recovered a pooch kick on one of their kickoffs.

Funk congratulated his team on its performance during his postgame speech but wasted little time reminding the Indians about what lies ahead: Eastbrook week starts at 8 a.m. Saturday morning he said.

The winner of next week's clash at Eastbrook will undoubtedly be in the driver's seat in the chase for the Central Indiana Conference title, again.

“It's a great rivalry. They do an outstanding job with their program over there,” Funk said. “It's going to be a tough, hard-fought game and we're gonna have to play our best football in order to win.”