MERRILLVILLE | Trevor Berg clutched his right knee and the Andrean sideline froze.
The featured back and erstwhile battering blocker was down and writhing in pain.
The score was tied at 21 with three minutes and change to go.
Was another punch-to-the-gut upset brewing in Sectional 25?
The move to Class 2A was supposed to be a boon for the Andrean football trophy case, but no one opened the email instructing them to kowtow to the 59ers, and now another defeat loomed with Rensselaer having seized momentum.
Berg, as it turned out, was merely cramping, and four plays later he ran right and bounced off a few tacklers for the game-winning 16-yard touchdown with 1:26 to play as Andrean beat pesky Rensselaer 28-21 Friday at Father Vincent Eckert Stadium in the Class 2A Sectional 25 championship.
“I jogged it off; I wanted to get back in and help my teammates as fast I could,” Berg said. “(Scoring the game-winner) was the best feeling in the world. I never felt that way my entire life.”
The 59ers (10-2), who now have 15 sectional titles -- 11 in 3A and three in 4A -- will play the regional at Lewis Cass (11-1) next Friday.
“We want to get this done; we want to represent the region well,” Andrean coach Phil Mason said.
Berg had 17 carries for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
“Every single play we kept it up,” Berg said. “We never backed down.”
Andrean had its share of turnover scares and allowed the Bombers opportunities to stay in the game.
A Rensselaer punt bounced off an Andrean blocker and back to the Bombers (6-6); an interception by Ramon Guerrero was short-lived as he fumbled the ball back to Rensselaer; and Rensselaer’s Ab Kiger had an interception in the red zone and one 59er to beat before Nick Serrato made the tackle and saved the game from being tied in the final minute of the first half.
“That just can’t happen,” Mason said. “We didn’t have the smoothness, and maybe we needed a game like that after the last two games. If you don’t put teams away they are going to get after you.”
Andrean also had flashes of brilliance, including an eight-play touchdown drive punctuated by Berg’s 5-yard run to open the game and a one-play, 80-yard drive courtesy of a Berg scamper to answer after Rensselaer tied the game on its opening drive.
“I've known the kid for a while and I know how tough he is,” Mason said of Berg. “As a sophomore, we know we're going to get great things out of him. Zack Kogut did a good job to open up the holes for him, and credit the offensive line.”
Andrean went ahead comfortably on Kogut’s 2-yard touchdown run in the third quarter before Hunter Hickman rallied Rensselaer.
The senior signal-caller, who threw for 94 yards and ran for 40 and two scores, set up Rensselaer’s second TD with an 18-yard pass to the 1 and then scored on a keeper from a yard out. He then scored from 8 yards out and ran for the subsequent two-point conversion with 4:17 to play, tying the score at 21.
“Hunter Hickman is a tremendous quarterback,” Bombers coach Chris Meeks said. “He caught a lot of heat for his size last year, took that as a challenge this year and proved to everybody he is one of the best quarterbacks in Northwest Indiana, not just for his play but his leadership.
“We had some adversity and lost several players, and some young kids really played their hearts out tonight. Andrean just made one more play than us.”
Serrato’s interception with 13 seconds to go stopped a Rensselaer drive and ended the game.
“The defensive line told me, ‘You’re a senior; step up and make a play,’” Serrato said. “We didn’t want to go down like this.”