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PREP FOOTBALL

Chesterton optimistic as post-Chris Mullen era begins

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Chesterton football practice

Coach Mark Peterson keeps an eye on the defensive line at Chesterton's football practice on Tuesday.

CHESTERTON — For the last few seasons, Chris Mullen was the face of Chesterton football.

The Trojans opened camp without the sharp and productive quarterback this week. Mullen is throwing at the University of Indianapolis. Chesterton feels like it still has reason to be optimistic, though.

“Chris is irreplaceable, his leadership, his ability, his second-chance capability and escapability,” coach Mark Peterson said. “He’s going to be impossible to replace but with that said, we have a great nucleus back.”

The core of the offense returns and is healthy. Senior Ethan Troy was part of a backfield riddled with injuries a year ago. He, himself, dealt with a torn labrum and said he was only playing to about 75% of his ability. He had surgery in February, is healthy for the first time since his freshman season and expects to be the first option carrying the football behind a line that returns three first teamers.

“I’m so happy I’m healthy. I’ve been waiting for this for so long,” Troy said. “I’m so ready to get out there and play at 100%.”

Chesterton football practice

Ethan Troy goes through punt blocking drills at Tuesday's Chesterton football practice.

There’s a competition to replace Mullen in camp. Sebastian Boswell, a junior, saw the field some last season when Mullen suffered a hip injury. He has the arm talent. Sophomore Brady McCormack is more of a threat to run.

“Nobody’s going to be Chris Mullen but there can always be an Ethan Troy, an Isaiah Fowler, a Sebastian Boswell,” senior lineman Isiah Fowler said. “Different people make different impacts and as long as the impact is positive, that’s what matters.”

Peterson has used two quarterbacks in the past but said the situation has to be just right for that to work. Both signal callers took reps with the first team in drills Tuesday.

“They each have their strengths and they each have some things they need to work on,” Peterson said. “I think it really simplifies things when you can name one and sit on one. At the same time, when you have two kids that are really evenly matched that may have to be our forte heading into the first week. Then, we have to evaluate and see from there.”

Junior Garrett Lewis led the team in carries a year ago and will also be a major part of the offense.

Receiver Bryce Thoma is also back, though he was working on the side Tuesday as he rehabs from a back injury suffered during the track season. He expects to be ready for the season opener against Hobart. Thoma and Tyler Peterson are experienced wideouts and Levi Wheeling is a seasoned tight end.

Chesterton football practice

Players do drills at Tuesday's Chesterton football practice.

“We have a number of guys who saw time last year and physically they’ve matured. Hopefully, they’ve matured as much mentally. I’m seeing that already but it’s going to have to translate into game time,” Mark Peterson said.

The other side of the ball will need some development. Chesterton lost eight of its top 10 tacklers from a year ago, including linebackers Matthew McCracken and Gage Demarco. That pair notched nearly 200 stops between them.

“We won seven games because we had a senior-laden defense that got us off the field and we had a quarterback that was just exceptional,” Peterson said. “We’re going to be in developmental mode here for a bit but I think ultimately we’ve got some guys who will be capable of stepping up.”

Troy will be part of the linebacking group tasked with replacing that production. Fowler, at defensive tackle, will also be important as one of the lone returning starters on that side of the ball.

“We’ve got different people leading now, so it’s a different culture, but I like the energy,” Fowler said. “We’re not going to look like the defense last year but we’re definitely going to be pretty good. We’re always intense. It’s really nasty.”

Fowler and Troy said they’ve heard this season described by outsiders as a “rebuilding year.” They embrace it as a challenge.

“We use it as motivation, with people thinking we can’t come out here and win games with a young team like this,” Troy said. “I think we can still compete.”

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