MERRILLVILLE | Andrean quarterback Matt DeSomer has plenty of reads to make, whether it’s from directly under center, in the pistol formation or the shotgun spread -- passing, running solo or deploying the option.
One page would just not turn over during his Friday night reading in the Class 2A northern semistate at Father Eckert Stadium.
“I saw a 6-foot-3 Notre Dame-committed linebacker coming toward me,” DeSomer said, referring to nationally renowned recruit Jaylon Smith of Fort Wayne Bishop Luers.
Indeed, Smith was a menace on a brick wall of a defense when he wasn’t toting the ball for 147 yards and one of Luers’ five touchdowns by five different players.
To be the champ you usually have to beat the champ, and Andrean was unable to upend three-time defending Class 2A state titlist Fort Wayne Luers, falling 35-21 in a game controlled throughout by Smith and the Knights.
The 59ers (11-3) gave Luers (10-4) some bumps and bruises for the trip to Lucas Oil Stadium next Friday, but Andrean never could get itself rolling on offense to compete with the vaunted Luers run attack.
Andrean had a lot of two-way players and Luers was able to rest its upper-echelon talents with backups who'd start at most Indiana schools.
“I thought it was a good game,” Andrean coach Phil Mason said after his first semistate appearance as head coach.
“They had a couple of big plays we couldn’t account for. We tried to hang in there and make something happen and just ran out of time. They are who they are.”
Luers led 14-0 on Smith’s sole TD, an 18-yarder early in the second quarter, and stayed ahead by at least one touchdown the rest of the game despite numerous Andrean rallies.
Andrean was forced into several shanked punts but managed to eke out a few scores, including two in the second half and one with 2:25 to go to account for the game’s final points.
After DeSomer scored from a yard out to cut the lead to 35-21 on one of DeSomer's two TD runs, Jamie Johnson recovered an onside kick. The ensuing series ended with a fourth-down sack by Luers’ All-American, Smith, essentially clinching the game.
“Man, he’s unbelievable,” Mason said of Smith. “Other than Merrillville we don’t face offenses like that. We knew it and did our best to prepare for them. We are used to downhill runners, strong, big backs that aren’t going to do what that kid does. He falls forward and it’s a gain of four yards.”
DeSomer’s other rushing touchdown came in the second quarter and cut the lead to 14-7. Luers went up 21-7 at halftime and 28-7 on the first possession after the break. A tight end screen from DeSomer, a junior, to senior Nick Serrato pulled Andrean within 14 near the end of the third.
DeSomer blamed himself for mistakes.
“They were quick and just beat us to our spots,” DeSomer said. “It was frustrating because we really couldn’t do anything on offense.”
Andrean made just one turnover, won the field position battle and had fewer penalties and still lost without as much late drama as they had all season. DeSomer had one interception, which led to Smith’s TD, but the 59ers overcame many more mistakes than that on the road to this semistate.
Andrean had to come from behind to beat Lowell, Munster and Rensselaer this year, and they used all nine lives afforded them in a 67-66, five-overtime win over Lewis Cass, the highest-scoring regional game in state history, last week while snapping a four-game skid in regional play.
DeSomer and Friday’s favorite target, Ramon Guerrero, are back along with a lot of talented players next fall.
“We made a tremendous statement tonight showing we can fight with a big team like that,” Guerrero said. “Even though they’ve won three state championships, we fought with them for 48 minutes.”