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Football: Trojans hold off earns share of DAC title

Chesterton's Joe Troop is pursued by Merrillville's TJ Deidighsecond quarter Friday night ChestertHigh School. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

Chesterton's Joe Troop is pursued by Merrillville's TJ Deidigha in the second quarter Friday night at Chesterton High School. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 14, 2012 3:12PM



CHESTERTON — It was Joe Troop Night at Chesterton.

Clearly, the game plan for the Trojans was to get the ball in the hands of their fastest, most explosive player.

Troop delivered, rushing for 212 yards on 10 carries, throwing a touchdown pass and catching three passes for 25 yards in Chesterton’s pulsating 40-35 victory over Merrillville on Friday.

The victory gave the Trojans a share of the Duneland Athletic Conference title, along with the Pirates, for the first time since 2008.

The win was a huge one for the Trojans, who have had a hard time getting past Merrillville, losing five of their last six to them.

“This was big,” Troop said.

Troop, who lines up as a wide receiver sometimes, wasn’t getting the touches Chesterton coach John Snyder wanted coming into the game.

“He just told me, “We need to get the ball to you more,” Troop said. “Six to eight times a game isn’t cutting it.”

Troop had the ball either thrown his way or he ran it on the first six plays. He was virtually unstoppable on the option play, breaking runs of 21, 49, 34 and 30 yards off it. That doesn’t include the initial 75-yard score in the first quarter.

After getting stopped on their first possession, Merrillville scored when Jake Raspopovich found Aaron Dye in the back of the endzone on a 29-yard pass. Dye grabbed the ball just before going out of bounds with one hand.

On the very next offensive play, Troop answered with the 75-yard run for a TD.

The Pirates got it back quickly, marching 84 yards on eight plays. Raspopovich finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.

Chesterton, playing fearlessly, scored on a fourth-down halfback option play from Troop to Mitch Kobitz from 39 yards out with 5:00 left in the first half.

The Trojans took the lead with 1:31 left when Andrew Ralph intercepted a Raspopovich pass and returned it 39 yards for a TD.

After the teams traded touchdowns in the second half, the game, of course, came down to the final series for the Pirates.

They recovered an onside kick with just under 5:00 left and drove all the way down to the Trojans 19, trailing 40-35. A pass on fourth-and-5 to Brian Jenkins with 2:22 left came up inches short, turning the ball over to Chesterton.

Merrillville had Chesterton stopped just short on a third-and-9 play with 32 seconds left but the Trojans were called for a holding penalty.

Merrillville took the penalty but the clock rolled down to 2.2 seconds left before they could use their timeout.

For the Pirates, it was game they just didn’t finish. They had a fumble and an interception returned for a touchdown.

“We just have to play better when we start,” Merrillville coach Zac Wells said.

Chesterton sealed the victory, for the most part, when Chris Katsafaros, who rushed for 148 yards, called his own number on a bootleg on second-and-15 from his own 5 with just over two minutes left.

Snyder said the team was playing to win all night. They went for it on fourth down three times in their own territory.

“If we came in second, that is what everyone expected,” he said. “We just wanted to give our kids a chance.”



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