Timeout football: Merrillville, Chesterton hook up in sectionals for sixth time in seven years
By Tom Wyatt Post-Tribune correspondent October 25, 2012 11:30PM
Merrillville head coach Zac Wells tries to call a time out late in the fourth quarter Friday night at Chesterton High School. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 27, 2012 11:09AM
It’s getting to the point where it’s almost a certainty that Chesterton and Merrillville will meet yearly in the postseason. When the two teams meet Friday at Merrillville’s Demaree Stadium in the second round of Class 5A Sectional 1, it will mark the third straight year and the sixth time in the last seven they have locked up with their seasons on the line.
Five of those years, they have met in either the first or, like Friday, the second round.
“They’re a good football program,” Merrillville coach Zac Wells said. “It’s just the luck of the draw.”
The Pirates have won each of those five previous meetings. And dating back to 2003, Merrillville has won six straight sectional matchups with the Trojans.
“Everybody kind of says, ‘Well, you struggle with Merrillville,’ ” Chesterton coach John Snyder said. “But I think if you look at everybody’s record against Merrillville, everybody struggles with them.”
The Trojans didn’t struggle, though, in their regular-season-finale meeting with the Pirates two weeks ago. Chesterton put together an impressive offensive performance in a 40-35 victory over Merrillville on Oct. 12, earning a share of the Duneland Conference title with the Pirates.
The Trojans win snapped a 10-game losing streak against Merrillville, including regular season and postseason play. But Snyder knows it won’t be an easy task to knock off the Pirates a second time, especially so soon after the regular-season matchup.
“It’s extremely difficult to beat a team twice,” Snyder said. “I know it’s cliché, but a team of Merrillville’s caliber with as much pride and success as that program’s had over the years, I’m sure they’re more than ready. It’s only been two weeks, so I know everything is fresh in their minds as far as getting beat. It’s going to very difficult.”
In their win two weeks ago, the Trojans made a concerted effort to get the speedy and dangerous Joe Troop more involved on offense. He ran for more than 200 yards, scored a touchdown and also passed for a touchdown.
“I don’t blame them, because I’d make a concerted effort to get Troop the ball if I were them,” Wells said. “But they’ve got more than Troop. They’ve got a good group of athletes this year to go to. They’re not a one-dimensional football team. Those are obviously things we’ve had to focus on this week, that they’re more than just one guy.”
The same is certainly true for Merrillville. Jake Raspopovich is the team’s engineer at quarterback with his arm and his feet. But Aaron Dye is a major threat at receiver and running back Bryant Isabel has filled in quite nicely as the featured back after an injury to Dylon Collins.
“You know what you get with them: They’re faster than you as a team and always physical up front,” Snyder said. “If you can match those things, you have a chance. We haven’t always.
“The biggest key, and I don’t care who it’s against, is you can’t make mistakes. Whether that’s putting the ball on the ground, interceptions or procedure penalties. You just can’t make mistakes.”