Football: Merrillville’s late first half touchdown paves way to win over Chesterton
By Steve T. Gorches 648-3141 or firstname.lastname@example.org October 26, 2012 11:32PM
Merrillville's Bryant Isabell gets past Chesterton's Dan Konchar for a touchdown in the first quarter Friday night at Merrillville High School. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 28, 2012 6:12AM
MERRILLVILLE — Some sports fans don’t believe in momentum. They say it’s a myth, that players on the court or field determine their own fate.
Chesterton football fans may think differently after their team’s 45-21 loss to Merrillville in Friday’s Class 5A Sectional 1 semifinal.
The Pirates’ victory sets up a rematch of last year’s sectional final with Crown Point, which came back to beat Lake Central.
The big momentum play came at the end of a competitive first half. Merrillville (9-2) was in a one-minute drill to end the half, already with a 17-14 lead. A 25-yard pass to Brian Jenkins set up first and goal at the 2. After a 1-yard run by quarterback Jake Raspopovich and a spike to stop the clock, Pirates coach Zac Wells sent the field goal unit onto the field to give his team a six-point lead.
But just before the snap, Chesterton (9-2) coach John Snyder called timeout to freeze the kicker.
Merrillville’s assistant coaches up in the press box convinced Wells to go for it on fourth down with less than a yard to pay dirt. Raspopovich strolled into the end zone untouched for a 10-point lead.
Chesterton looked flat coming out for the second half and Merrillville never looked back.
“It was a big momentum shift,” Wells said. “The coaches up in the box said, ‘it’s a half yard, let’s go for it.’ I was going for the field goal before the timeout.”
Snyder had no regrets about calling the timeout. He was more upset that his offense wasn’t able to dig itself out of bad field position.
“We put ourselves in that position that we had to punt out of the end zone into the wind,” he said. “The defense played as tough as we could up to that point. It was a great call by (Merrillville), great play by them.”
In the second half, it was a matter of Merrillville’s defense stepping up — or Chesterton’s offense failing, take your pick.
Trojans QB Chris Katsafaros had four turnovers in the second half — three interceptions and a fumble lost. Merrillville scored a touchdown almost immediately after the first three turnovers.
Three of those turnovers were caught or recovered by Merrillville junior Ryan Neal.
“I’ve never had (three turnovers) in a game ... ever,” said Neal, who is the brother of former all-area Merrillville defensive lineman and current Green Bay Packer Mike Neal. “We knew we had to execute and come together as one. It was 91 individuals as one person tonight.”
Raspopovich had another complete game, passing for 288 yards and two touchdowns, and rushing for 44 yards and two more TDs. Jenkins had 101 yards receiving for the Pirates.