MERRILLVILLE | On the first play of the game, Andrean showed its potential to dominate offensively.
On its first drive of the game, Griffith proved this is still a football rivalry.
In the end, Andrean stayed alive to play Lowell for the Northwest Crossroads Conference championship with a 56-21 win over the Panthers.
"It is what it is. It's Andrean-Griffith," Andrean coach Phil Mason said. "We had to keep the focus because they came out ready to play early on."
Donovan Chandler ripped off an 89-yard kickoff return in the opening seconds of the game to give the 59ers (8-0, 5-0) a 7-0 lead.
By 10:55 of the first quarter, Griffith had tied the game when quarterback Kyle Buikema shot off a 69-yard run.
Andrean took over after that.
"There's always a rivalry. It's tradition," Chandler said. "It's not as bad as it has been in the past -- because it used to be real bad -- but it's tradition."
Quarterback Matt DeSomer had a 71-yard run and finished with 168 yards on the ground and 77in the air with another touchdown. DeSomer played only in the first half. Jake Paliga took over at QB in the second half, completing 7-of-9 passes for 117 yards.*
"Once we settled in, we finally got our offense going, and it's exciting. It's a lot of fun to watch that," Mason said. "At the end we were playing a lot of kids to get them a lot of experience."
Cameron Bosak scored two rushing touchdowns in the first half, and Trevor Berg added another for the Niners.
Griffith (1-7, 0-6) added a 11-yard pass to Matt Colomes with one second remaining before halftime as Andrean took a 49-15 lead into the locker room. Antonio Suarez ripped off a 55-yard run in the fourth quarter for the final score, and Suarez led his team with 109 yards rushing while Justin Green chipped in 81.
With Lowell's 17-7 win over Munster, the NCC's only two undefeated teams will meet for the title in the season finale.
"We're going to go down and play Lowell. It's Lowell-Andrean, and it'll be a lot of fun," Mason said. "I'm going to work on Lowell, but I will tell you that I'm sure things will pop into my mind during the course of that game. Matt DeSomer is a Lowell kid, and we have a great relationship with that staff and great respect for that staff. I think both of us are going to walk out there and go, 'We wish it weren't what it is, but let's do this.'"
*This corrects an earlier version of the story. The Times regrets the error.