Last-minute magic: Chesterton stuns Michigan City with TD pass on fourth-down scramble play
MICHIGAN CITY -- Sometimes, it really does come down to somebody just making a play.
In this case, it was Chesterton's Chris Mullen and Jackson Westmoreland teaming on a touchdown that looked more like a video game than Friday night prep football.
"Chris is a crazy player," Westmoreland said. "He can always put the ball where he wants it. He's so fun to play with."
Here's the scene: 20-20 score; under a minute left, Chesterton ball, fourth-and-14 on the Michigan City 28.
"We were going to the first down sticks, we were going to run down, get the next play and kick a field goal to win the game," Trojans coach Mark Peterson said. "The inside guys were running down-distance markers, the perimeter guys were running down-distance markers."
As it did on every Chesterton snap, Michigan City brought a heavy rush on Mullen, who was pressured to his left, but he had just enough time to get his feet under him and sling the ball down the middle of the field toward the goal line.
"A back-yard scramble drill, the play breaks down," Mullen said. "We work on it at practice. That was pretty exciting."
Westmoreland, locked in one-on-one coverage with Wolves corner Kennon Tucker Jr., got Tucker turned around and gained just enough separation to reel in the touchdown catch that proved to be the difference as the Trojans (3-0, 1-0) outlasted City 27-20 in a Duneland Conference marathon.
"That's the game as much as anything, making plays," Peterson said. "That was a completely broken play. Jackson scrambled and flowed with him. To be able to throw the ball 40 yards rolling to your left is pretty exceptional. These were the games we lost last year and these are the games we're going to win this year."
Set to run a slant on the play, Westmoreland saw Mullen to begin to roll out.
"In practice, we always work on just flowing with the ball, getting open," Westmoreland said. "I just went deep and the DB bit on it. It's just a miracle play."
Mullen begged to differ with his pass catcher.
"I wouldn't call it a miracle," he said. "I would call it, I knew that was going to happen. You've just got to know where your guys are at. We all have a great connection with each other. (Westmoreland)'s the best guy on the field. You go to him and he's going to catch it. You go to your playmakers and it pays off. We figured it out toward the end of the game. It was a game of whoever makes the least mistakes."
Under constant heat from the Wolves (2-1, 0-1), Mullen was sacked four times, tackled for a loss twice and was scrambling on practically every snap.
"Every year, they've brought the house," he said. "It's just looking to find your guys."
After having his first pass batted down by Jahari Branch, who had a monster game for the Wolves, Mullen and Bryce Thoma teamed on a 70-yard touchdown on a short pass that Thomas took untouched.
"Thoma and I just looked at each other and we knew," Mullen said. "It's just how it rolls with us. They blitzed too many guys and left him wide open."
Gio Laurent, who rushed for 98 yards, but was just 6-of-16 passing, sprinted 21 yards for City's first score.
"We were really putting ourselves in position to spill, run, try and flex it and get to the perimeter so people can come in support," Peterson said. "Some of their counter look caught us in some instances. (Laurent)'s pretty exceptional."
Laurent scrambled 10 yards on a fourth-and-5 at the Chesterton 25 late in the half and back-up Tyler Bush came on to hit Makiyel Woodard over the middle for a 15-yard touchdown that put City up 13-7 at the half.
The lead held up well into the third quarter, when MC went for it on fourth-and-2 at its own 40 and Racion Anderson was stuffed. Aided by two Wolves offsides penalties, Chesterton moved into the red zone, where Mullen hit a tight window to Westmoreland in the front corner of the end zone on fourth-and-6 at the 10. City shanked a punt on its next possession and Ethan Troy took a Mullen pitch in from the 2 after a 28-yard dime to Thoma.
"They brought six. It was a good game plan," Peterson said. "They brought pressure to try to throw Chris' timing off and they obviously did. He got licked a couple times. We caught them in a couple situations. We ended up having to go max protection, keep some guys in, we caught them in a couple tendencies we picked up and ran a couple routes to get open."
Down 20-13 after stopping Chesterton's two-point conversion, City reached the Trojans 19, but was stopped on downs again, though Tucker's interception got the ball back two players later. Bush, on in place of Laurent, converted a fourth-and-5 to Trey Simmons, then found Jaden Hart for a 19-yard score with 3:44 left.
Mullen's 29-yard pass to Thoma and a City pass interference put the Trojans in striking position, but they wound up with third-and-22 at the Wolves 36 before an 8-yard completion to Luke Stento set up the game-winner.
"It was a really good match-up," Westmoreland said. "Both teams were going back and forth on social media. It was a great show. Through film, we saw they were playing man. We knew we were going to have to take advantage of it and get open. It was a great win. I think it sets the tone for the other teams in the DAC that, no, we're not a joke, we can really hang."
Mullen finished 14-of-30 for 238 yards and three scores. Thoma racked up 139 yards on four grabs.
"The kid does a tremendous job," Wolves coach Phil Mason said of Mullen. "Chesterton is a good football team. They did what they had to do to win the game. They're well-coached on both sides. They deserved to win the game."
Simmons had eight catches for 150 yards for City, which also rushed for 244 yards and racked up 20 first downs on a Trojans defense minus leading tackler Gage DiMarco. But it was nine penalties and four turnovers that left Mason in a less than conversational mood.
"We had tons of little things," he said. "Every little thing you could absolutely imagine, penalty, fumble, missed alignment, being slow back to the huddle, transitioning in and out of personnel packages, you name it. The defense played their (butts) off. We can't be that sloppy and win, plain and simple."
Mason affirmed the quarterback change being a hot hand situation, but was non-committal on what it means going forward.