RUSSIAVILLE — Challenged by a game Mississinewa squad, Western’s football team responded with another big victory Friday night.
On the heels of important Mid-Indiana Conference wins against league heavyweights Hamilton Heights and Cass that earned Western a share of the league title, the Panthers once again dug in when the stakes were even higher. The Panthers shook free from a 21-all tie early in the third quarter and kept putting scores up en route to a 41-28 victory over the Indians in the first round of play in Class 3A Sectional 28.
Western coach Nate Andrews said he liked “the perseverance, even when we didn’t play very well at all, we found ways. The growth that I saw in the kids during the game was good.
“I’m talking about the things that they learned over the course of the game — football things, toughness things, mental things ... that are going to help us be a better team.”
That growth will be tested again next week when No. 8-ranked Western (9-1) plays No. 6 West Lafayette, which crushed Delta 50-12. West Lafayette will host the semifinal round game.
Mississinewa (6-4) was down 21-7 in the second quarter but kept chipping away to tie the game at 21-all on the second play of the second half. Ole Miss running back Blake Dailey ripped off a 67-yard run to knot the game with 11:03 left in the third quarter.
Western got a big return from Christian Glenn to start its next offensive possession at the Mississinewa 40 and ran the ball 10 straight times, ending with a one-yard scoring plunge by quarterback Drew Bellus to take the lead again.
Mississinewa drove to the Western 33 on its next possession but the Panthers pounced on a fumble — the third fumble taken by the Western defense — and made the most of it. Two plays later, Ben Lenahan exploded through the line and found himself quickly in the clear to score a 69-yard TD for a 35-21 Western lead.