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Vode claims turnover belt; Hobart tops Chesterton

CHESTERTON -- Hobart's version of the turnover belt made its debut Friday night and the winner was a no-brainer.

Zach Vode had two interceptions, including a game-changing 96-yard pick six in the fourth quarter of a 24-10 victory over Chesterton.

"I love it," Vode said of the belt. "We had a group chat about it with (defensive coordinator Shaun) Zoladz, what we wanted on it. Last year, we lost to Chesterton. It was kind of my fault. I let a post happen and they scored. It feels great."

On a night when Hobart's attack stammered, mustering barely 100 total yards until its final drive, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Western Michigan recruit provided the needed boost. He also accounted for one of the Brickies' two offensive touchdowns with a leaping 25-yard reception in the third quarter, when they claimed their first lead at 10-7.


Zach Vode toted Hobart's turnover belt after Friday's 24-10 win over Chesterton. The Western Michigan commit had two interceptions, including a 96-yard pick six, plus a 25-yard touchdown catch. (Photo by Jim Peters)


"This early on, even in a normal year, the defense is usually ahead of the offense," Hobart coach Craig Osika said. "A year like this, your summer's cut short, you're practicing one week, not practicing the next, we knew coming in we were going to be sloppy. We preached all week the team that makes the fewest mistakes, is more physical, more disciplined, is probably going to win."

The Trojans lost two fumbles and 6-foot-3 junior quarterback Chris Mullen was picked off three times. Vode's first reclaimed possession three plays after he fumbled the ball away on the first snap of Hobart's first series.

"I was feeling like crap, I had to do something to make up for that," Vode said. "I'd never done it before. It was the worst feeling of my life. I got the interception, I kind of redeemed myself. I was feeling a lot better. It boosted my confidence a lot."

Hobart's offense was brutal in the first half, generating only 38 yards. It started drives at Chesterton's 27, 10 and 5, yet somehow managed to only come out of all that plus field position with three points. The Brickies were stopped on downs, kicked a 26-yard field goal by Miki Jankovich and spiked the ball on fourth down an ill-fated effort to stop the clock in the final seconds of the second quarter.

"We told them at halftime, it was a war of attrition," Osika said. "It was anybody's game."

Riley Johnston had all of one yard passing, that on the fumbled Vode catch, until he elevated between defenders for Hobart's initial score after Dakota Vanderburg's 38-yard punt return.

"I just went up for it, hoping I'd come down with it," Vode said.

"That was a hell of a catch," Chesterton coach Mark Peterson said. "That's why he's going to Western (Michigan)."

The Trojans, who went 74 yards on 12 plays to score on the opening drive were on the march in the fourth, reaching the Brickies 10 before a Mullen pass caromed off Jackson Westmoreland into Vode's arm.

"I dropped back, I was looking right at him, I saw him turn his hips," Vode said. "As soon as the ball was tipped, I was lunging after it. There was a guy right there who touched me a little bit. As soon as I got away from him, I tried to go as fast as I could. (I felt) absolutely terrible. I was (on) empty. (Mullen) was chasing me. Coach said he almost caught me. I didn't even look back, I was too scared."

Osika joked that the ref was out-running Vode down the sideline.

"We're not in shape yet, but that's probably every team right now," Osika said. "We're young in some spots. I'm pretty proud of the way we played. It helps having guys like Zach, Riley and Bobby (Babcock), especially when we're not where we want to be. They all made big plays."

Chesterton crept within 17-10 on a Jackson Syren field goal with just over three minutes. Holding only one timeout, the Trojans went onside kick and Hobart recovered. Marc Enslen, bottled up most of the night to that point, broke loose on runs of 18 and 36 yards, providing the punctuation mark with a short scoring plunge.

"How do you win with that many turnovers?" Peterson said. "The first interception, if that doesn't get tipped, that would've been a touchdown. We turned it over too many times, and in the end, in doing so, our defense wore out. The kids did really well. Our 'D' staff always does an awesome job. We just couldn't get it put away (on offense). Game one blues. It's been a crazy year, preparation, all of that stuff, it's been a factor for everybody. At the end of the day, it's still football. Both teams had some miscues on offense. Sometimes, you win ugly."

Mullen threw for 164 yards but needed 31 passes to do it and Chesterton ran for just 76 yards on 30 carries.

"Chesterton's a good team," Osika said. "It could've easily swing their way, too. It's tough to play a passing offense the first game, especially with some new guys who haven't played before. We just asked them to be physical and they were physical."

Mitch McElfresh and Colby Bullock each had six catches for the Trojans, but Hobart kept Chesterton receivers in front of them, allowing only one completion beyond 15 yrds.

"We started a couple guys who were backups last year. It was their first start," Peterson said. "We game planned based on what we saw from their defense to run some checkdowns. I feel great about the receivers we have. We don't have a 4.5 guy, even Ben (Slatcoff) and Jake (Warren) weren't 4.5 guys. They were great receivers. These kids are going to grow and develop as we progress here. I was really excited about our relatively solid play up front. They brought more than we could handle a couple times."

Johnston was just for 2-for-11 for 26 yards. Enslen had 51 of his 75 yards on the final drive.

"Our goal is to get better every week," Osika said. "We've gotten better since August 3, so if we continue to do that, we'll be OK. We'll always schedule these (Duneland Conference) schools. It tells us where we're at. The mistakes we made, we can't make next week (against Merrillville). I'm just happy to be out here. Two months ago, I didn't know if we would be playing, so it was nice to get one in. We'll take it week by week, see if we can get in another one and just keep going."

Chesterton will travel to face Class 2A power Pioneer (1-0) in week two. The game filled a void left first by St. Rita -- Illinois isn't playing fall football -- and then Hammond Gavit, which had fall sports shut down as part of all the Hammond schools shortly after the game was scheduled.

"It was like three days after," Peterson said. "We kind of knew it might happen. We reached out Guerin Catholic, Decatur Central -- they ended up playing each other -- Center Grove, Warren Central. It just would've been a long drive. We contacted Pioneer and they got back to us in half an hour."


Chesterton quarterback Chris Mullen confers with

coach Mark Peterson on a play, while Hobart's Bobby Babcock carries the ball in Friday's game.

The Brickies won the season opener over the Trojans, 24-10. (Photos by TR Harlan)





Hobart 24, Chesterton 10

Hobart 0 3 7 14 -- 24

Chesterton 7 0 0 3 -- 10

SCORING

First Quarter

C -- Chris Mullen 2 run (Jackson Syren kick), 5:09

Second Quarter

H -- Miki Jankovich 26 FG, 7:59

Third Quarter

H -- Zach Vode 25 pass from Riley Johnston (Jankovich kick), 5:18

Fourth Quarter

H -- Vode 96 INT return (Jankovch kick), 6:01

C -- Syren 27 FG, 3:12

H -- Marc Enslen 1 run (Jankovich kick), 1:55

Team Statistics

First Downs: Hobart 8, Chesterton 16.

Rushing: Hobart 30-128; Chesterton 30-76.

Passing: Hobart 2-11-1-26; Chesterton 18-31-3-164.

Total Yards: Hobart 153; Chesterton 240.

Fumbles-Lost: Hobart 2-1; Chesterton 3-2.

Penalties-Yards: Hobart 6-41; Chesterton 4-20.

Punts-Average: Hobart 4-41.3; Chesterton 4-39.0.

Individual Statistics

Rushing: Hobart, Enslen 14-75, Bobby Babcock 5-29, Johnston 10-28, Vode 2-(-7); Chesterton, Colby Bullock 10-31, Ethan Troy 5-26; Mullen 13-11; Jackson Westmoreland 1-5; Mitch McElfresh 1-3.

Passing: Hobart, Johnston 2-11-1-26; Chesterton, Mullen 19-31-3-164.

Receiving: Hobart, Vode 2-26; Chesterton, Bullock 6-51, McElfresh 5-42, Troy 3-40, Westmoreland 3-26, Steven Cunningham 1-5.

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