What a start
GRIFFITH — There’s the standard game plan of NFL teams where they scheme out the first 15 offensive plays each game week. For Michigan City in its 2018 season opener at ‘The Boneyard’, it really only took four plays to tell the fans in attendance how the night would go.
New Wolves quarterback Bryce Hayman broke loose on a designed draw for 34 yards on the opening play and three plays later, dumped a five-yard touchdown to the versatile Kameron Muhammad to make it 6-0 Wolves before a missed extra point inside of the game’s first 90 seconds.
Hayman would throw five touchdowns on the night, two to Muhammad, and the Wolves’ defense hounded the Panthers for just 49 total yards on the night in a 53-0 demolition.
“I like the fact that he makes quick decisions with the football,” Wolves head coach Phil Mason said of Hayman. “He obviously is really good with his feet, so he doesn’t take losses. He doesn’t see it, he settles himself down and gets outta there.”
The Panthers had absolutely no answers for a balanced Wolves offense that put up 335 total yards and easily could’ve put up more if not for a couple of things: the defense being so dominant and giving the offense excellent field position throughout and the dogs being called off later in the third quarter when the lead reached 40 points.
After the opening touchdown and a missed field goal in their second of two possessions in the opening quarter, the Wolves got back on track in the blink of an eye. A 10-play, 82-yard drive ended with a Zennon Wilhelm 18-yard strike from Hayman to put the visitors up 13-0.
“It was kinda of a checkout call,” Mason said. “It’s not a designed play. We were able to call it and executed it well. Bryce put the ball nice for him and he’s always gonna go up and get it.”
Wilhelm finished with five catches for 60 yards, the 18-yard touchdown and had a 45-yard punt return where he broke a couple of tackles to score, but a personal foul call on the Wolves brought the return back ... where the Wolves scored a play later on a 32-yard touchdown from Hayman to Muhammad.
“It felt great,” Wilhelm said on the win. “Last year, we were down by one point in the fourth quarter [to Griffith] and it was looking grim, but we came back and won that one. We were hoping to get it done again tonight, put a lot of points up on the board and not make it a close game.”
Not even a minute after the Wilhelm catch from Hayman, Brian Walker picked off a bubble screen on the perimeter and took it to the house to make it 20-0 Wolves. The proverbial rout was on.
All in all, the Wolves’ ferocious defense sacked the Panthers’ trio of quarterbacks five times and forced two turnovers, including a fumble late in the fourth quarter from the reserves.
“I think across the board, they played extremely well,” Mason said on his defensive unit. “There’s not much you can really say. Any time you shut someone out, you know you’ve played really well.”
After the Wolves made it 26-0 thanks to a touchdown toss to big Justin Wozniak down near the goal line, the 32-yard catch-and-run from Muhammad made it 33-0 Wolves at intermission.
Hayman threw his fifth touchdown in the latter stages of the third period and La Porte transfer running back Detrick Merriweather found pay dirt twice out of the backfield to put the icing on the cake for the guests on the night.
“I didn’t like our first quarter,” Mason said. “I thought it was a little sloppy. The defense was solid all the way through. But, those things are expected. It’s first-game jitters. You’re gonna make a few mistakes here and there. Clean a couple things up on the PAT team that was a little disappointing, but overall, a good job. A couple things offensive line-wise to clean up. Bryce got his first taste of Friday night action and that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about getting guys in a flow and getting the job down on a Friday night.”
Reach Michael Whitlow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4169. Follow him on Twitter @couldbelikemike.