There’s much that can be said about the success Indianapolis area football programs have in the state tournament. Since the inception of class 6A in 2013, only Ben Davis, Carmel, Center Grove and Warren Central have won the title. Each of these programs winning it twice. Prior to forming the state’s largest classification for football, the last time a team outside of Indianapolis won the large class title was when Penn beat Center Grove 21 years ago. Since 2013, only Penn has made an appearance in the 6A championship not from the Indianapolis area.
Merrillville currently has one of their more talented rosters in recent history. The 1976 team won the state championship that season, but the Pirates have failed to reach the title game since. Their two previous appearances in 6A semistate games, the Pirates were outscored 79-40, dealt losses by Carmel and Westfield, respectfully. A year ago in the semistate matchup against Westfield, much talk was about the Merrillville Pirates high profile players and athleticism, only to be overwhelmed by the physicality of the Shamrocks. The Pirates almost got doubled up by the visiting team, 41-23.
The Pirates hope things are different when they travel to take on Westfield on Friday. That starts with preparation according to senior tailback Lavarion Logan. The record breaking running back has eclipsed 2,000 yard rushing mark and has tallied 36 touchdowns on the season. ” It’s a blessing honestly, it’s been a personal goal of mine since the end of last season. The offensive line has done a great job this year and I give all the credit to them”. Logan has forever etched his name in the Pirate record books at the running back position and he acknowledge his achievement by crediting his running backs coach Denzel Pierce. “It sits really high in the record books, I accomplished a goal and I didn’t know I was even close to which was the career rushing record”. Most recently, Logan reopened his recruitment after committing to South Dakota State late October. His focus is squarely on their title run, saying “I plan on making a decision in December some time and I’m just focusing on the season as of now”. The Shamrocks have Logan’s attention at the moment. “Westfield is a really good team with great players and coaches” Logan acknowledged.
The more notable surprise of the season has been the spark junior wide receiver Justin Marshall has given the Pirate offense. The legit track speedster has hauled in 43 catches for 1,088 yards and 18 touchdowns on the year. Ball State the first to offer Marshall. The 5’11 185 playmaker said he was excited to receive his first offer “it made my day” said Marshall. He mentioned that Purdue, Miami of Ohio and Kent State are showing interest at the moment. Marshall has national recruitment ability, athleticism and skills to garner interest from college coaches across the country. Like his teammate Logan, his attention is on Westfield and Marshall feels that his team matches up really well against the Shamrocks.
Recruiting is behind players like Merrillville lineman Kenneth Grant. The four-star rated prospect committed to Michigan in September. Grant maintains a good relationship with the staff and his commitment to the Wolverines is strong. “I’m still standing strong with them, still a great relationship but they are letting me focus more on high school football rather than college” said Grant. With his college recruitment essentially in the bag for Grant, he wants his team to come out better prepared for Westfield as opposed to last season.
The 41-23 loss to Westfield in the semi final last season, still doesn’t sit well with the Logan, Marshall and Grant, along with their teammates and coaches. The preparation has been turned up a notch for the Pirates. “We are approaching this game Friday much more intense than last year. we are watching a lot more film and practicing really hard this week for anything they throw at us” said Logan. Grant agrees. “Last season is different from now because we know what to expect and overall our preparation throughout the whole season has been different than years past” said Grant. “We stress we win the games Monday through Friday just not on Friday and we can’t just show up and play and expect to win”. Stating the pirates have really been locked in at practice.
Pride is on the line for the Pirates this go around. The disappointment from last season has left a sour taste in the program’s mouth, but also fuels the argument that other regions around the state, specifically the Northwest is inferior to Indianapolis area teams. The Pirates feel they have something to prove. Grant emphatically claimed he and his team has something to prove. “Yes I definitely have something to prove and my team as a whole has something to prove. We all want the same goal and that is to win state” said Grant. Logan expressed losing to Westfield is something he is determined to never feel again, saying last years loss was a huge disappointment but also fueled his motivation for the team to go harder on Friday. “I feel good about Friday because we don’t want to go through that again” said Logan. Marshall’s confidence beams and his love for the game shows. When asked about having to prove anything on Friday, the junior prospect said “No cause I’m just a young man that love to play football.I’m going to show that on Friday”.