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Andrean, Chesterton lose numbers game in new playoff format

The ChestertTrojans took DunelConference football championship 2012. | Michael Gard~For Sun-Times Media

The Chesterton Trojans took the Duneland Conference football championship in 2012. | Michael Gard~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 24, 2013 6:04AM



Chesterton coach Mark Peterson is taking the long view of his new position as head coach of the third smallest 6A school in the state: The Trojans were going to be 6A at some point soon no matter how the new reclassifications turned out. His point being that the school is going to grow. Might as well get used to it right away.

The Trojans are positioned in the worst possible spot in terms of school population for the new format.

They have 2,019 kids — only New Albany (2,005) and Lafayette Jefferson (1,935) have fewer students in 6A. That means Ben Davis (4,687), the largest school in 6A, has 2,658 more kids than Chesterton. The difference is roughly the size of Portage’s student population.

The good news for Chesterton is that its regular season doesn’t change at all.

The other news is that Penn, winner of five state titles, is in the Trojans’ four-team sectional.

Lafayette Jefferson, the smallest school in 6A, plays in the same sectional as Lake Central, Merrillville and Crown Point.

“It’s almost bizarre to say Penn is in our sectional,” Peterson said.

Peterson said at the “end of the day, we are still going to have to bring our A-game. We have a chance to win a sectional.”

Andrean also felt the impact of the new classifications. The 59ers, with 557 kids, are the smallest 3A school. Wheeler, with 555 students, is the biggest 2A. The 59ers were moved up when 5A was designated the overflow class. Classes 1A through 4A each have 64 teams, while 6A always has 32 teams. Class 5A gets what is left. This year, that class has 34 teams.

Andrean coach Phil Mason has moved between 2A and 3A in his tenure as coach so the change doesn’t bother him. What he would like to see, though, is a playoff system that is pared down and balanced. In other words, he is in favor of making teams qualify. Mason points out the state champion in Indiana plays way too many games — 15. That’s more than a college team plays and one less than an NFL regular season.

“Let’s make the regular season mean something,” he said.

In the new format. LaPorte and Michigan City still compete in the Duneland Athletic Conference against 6A schools but they get to play in a sectional that includes Mishawaka and South Bend Adams.

LaPorte coach Bob Schellinger said the new format has given his kids added incentive. The Slicers have typically been competitive in the DAC but there are no super schools, with the exception perhaps of Lake Central. The Indians, however, struggled until the last two seasons.

“The kids are excited,” Schellinger said. “Let’s face facts. If we played Penn 10 times, we’d lose nine. “

The only problem that Schellinger sees is the distance between Mishawaka and Munster, which is nearly two hours.

“I don’t understand that,” he said.

Michigan City coach Michael Karpinski is happy about the change. The Wolves have had problems competing in the DAC recently. They have 1,802 students.

“I’m excited,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a better situation for us. We see those (DAC) teams all year. Not having to see them again in sectionals is a good thing. We create more state champions across the state. The more we can get kids to celebrate about sports, it’s a good thing.”

Munster, which has 1,560 students, is the smallest 5A team in Northwest Indiana. The Mustangs rank 25th out of 34 teams in that class.

The Mustangs struggled in 5A sectionals, going 2-6 in six seasons after they moved up a class. Marsh, who said it’s possible that his team could drop to 4A in the future, called the new system “something that every coach could live with.”

No one interviewed had a problem with the tradition factor. That means any team that makes the state finals two straight years moves into a higher class. This year, Indianapolis Chatard, Indianapolis Cathedral and Lafayette Central Catholic all play up. Fort Wayne Luers would have played up based on success, but moved up anyway in the reclassification, based on enrollment.

Bishop Noll coach Mike Juscik doesn’t have a problem with it.

“It’s a good idea,” he said. “It’s something specific to teams, not to public schools or Catholic schools. If you win a lot, you are going up.”

The only problem that Juscik potentially sees is that some schools could potentially have two good classes in a row, make the state finals and then be moved up even though their talent drops.

“Sometimes, there is a fall off,” he said. “Maybe you had a great quarterback and he’s gone but I don’t mind it. It’s something that a lot of states do.”



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