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Greg Jones

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Semistate
Today
Class 5A
Merrillville (11-2) vs. Snider (13-0) at Wayne, 8 p.m.
Class 2A
Bishop Luers (9-4) at Andrean (11-2), 7:30 p.m.

Snider, Luers both have the ‘it’ factor

– It could come down to experience for the Bishop Luers and Snider football teams in tonight’s semistate games. And the good thing for both teams is they have plenty of it as the Knights and Panthers have been to this point in the postseason before – on the brink of the state finals – as recently as last year.

Luers has broken through the last three years and finished with a Class 2A state championship the following week in the state finals at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“I want to say it is like 2 1/2 extra seasons now, most people don’t get to experience that,” Luers senior defensive back/receiver Kendrick Mullen said. “It is great to having learned so much and being able to apply the stuff that we learned. It has been really helpful coming into the season.”

It was big for the Knights as they faced their first deficit of the postseason last week, trailing by six early in the fourth quarter but still managing to pull out a 22-12 win at Tipton.

The No. 5 Knights (9-4) face No. 9 Andrean (11-2) on the road.

“A lot of teams don’t play the teams we play,” Luers senior defensive back/running back TyVel Jemison said. “We went to Ohio and played those two teams (Toledo Whitmer and Columbus Hartley), and then we have played 5A and 4A schools, so we are ready for the 2A schools.”

Andrean has an explosive running game that has helped produce three 60-plus scoring outputs in the postseason, including last week’s wild 67-66 five-overtime regional win over Lewis Cass.

“The key for us is playing sound defense and stopping the triple option that they run,” Mullen said. “They have success running that option play, and they run it like 40 times a game. If they see that working out there, they will keep running it. It is staying sound and everybody playing their assignments.”

Snider lost in the 5A semistate a year ago to Penn, and the players remember both the experience and the disappointment that comes with the loss.

“It helps when your younger and older guys keep playing because that’s when you get your most reps,” Snider senior quarterback Brandon Phelps said of playing deep into the postseason. “That’s what really helped me a lot.”

It helped the Panthers stay calm and cool last week in the 36-35 regional win over Fishers as they rallied from two touchdowns behind with two minutes remaining to force overtime, then went for two points and the win after matching Fisher’s overtime touchdown.

“Nobody wanted to go home that early, and no one wanted to give up,” Snider senior receiver Quinton Daniels said. “We just got together and were we need to start making things happen, and it started happening for us. I have been telling the team all week that we need to play with that starvation for the whole four quarters instead of half a quarter, so we can put them away early and be on to state.”

The No. 4 Panthers play unranked Merrillville (11-2), which routed Carroll 50-21 in last week’s regional behind senior quarterback Jake Raspopovich’s three passing touchdowns and rushing score. Raspopovich completed 13 of 18 passes for 281 yards and was intercepted once. Raspopovich also ran for 90 yards on nine carries and had a rushing touchdown.

Greg Jones is the High School Sports Editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by email gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax 461-8648.

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