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Merrillville gunslinger Angel Nelson a steady facilitator with state aspirations
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Merrillville gunslinger Angel Nelson a steady facilitator with state aspirations

Angel Nelson talks with Times correspondent Gavin Good after Merrillville's win over LaPorte.

MERRILLVILLE — Pirates playmakers are lighting up the scoreboard each time they break the goal line, but it may not happen without the steady play of Angel Nelson.

The senior QB is leading a team with state championship aspirations, and his offense is on a mission. Merrillville (6-0, 4-0 Duneland Athletic Conference) is averaging 46.2 points per game after Friday's 54-19 win over LaPorte.

Nelson hurled five touchdown passes, including four to Calumet transfer Justin Marshall, as part of an eight touchdown first-half.

“(My teammates) are just great players,” Nelson said. “They always have that big-play ability. At any time, they can take it from anywhere and go score.”

That’s exactly what happened. Nelson completed 9 of his 14 passes for 338 passing yards at halftime, when his night behind center finished.

Nelson carries himself with a quiet confidence that matches his on-field tranquility, according to Seiss.

“Angel is very cool and calm in the pocket, and he’s done a great job leading our offense the last couple of years,” Seiss said. “His presence, getting the ball to the right guys and all that is just huge.”

With plenty of time in the pocket, an abundance of playmaking receivers and a dangerous tailback in Lavarion Logan, Nelson said his main focus as a leader is just keeping his team collected.

“I make sure we stay together all the time,” Nelson said. “I don’t let anybody get their head down because that’s when people start turning on each other. We don’t need that. So I just make sure everybody stays together. Make sure everybody knows their assignments. We all play for our brothers.”

Nelson has developed a rapport with his targets, especially Marshall who finished with 211 receiving yards and four touchdowns. One play in particular stood out as Marshall bulldozed his way through a pair of LaPorte defenders, dragging one five-plus yards along the way to the end zone.

“I was just playing my game,” Marshall said. “The corner and the safety, they were backed off. So we already knew we could use the slant routes to get me open so I could catch and score.”

Nelson completed screen passes to Marshall and Logan, who rattled off 71- and 64-yard touchdowns, respectively.

The Pirates diced up the Slicers with their short passing game, but Nelson aired it out, too.

He threw a well-placed, arcing ball to Marshall on his first offensive play from scrimmage, and Marshall hauled it in for a 40-yard score. It highlighted what has been a perfect quarterback-receiver pairing.

“Me and Angel, we be hanging out all the time,” Marshall said. “We throw routes after and before practice, like we meet up at the field and throw routes so we get that chemistry right.”

Intangibles aside, Nelson has been utterly dominant through six games as Merrillville has shellacked its way around the Region. He has racked up 1,402 passing yards, completing 65 of 98 attempts, and has thrown 18 touchdowns and one interception.

But he wouldn’t know that.

“We like to just focus on that week, don’t look at any other week and just work as hard as we can throughout the week,” Nelson said.

Nelson lets his game do the talking, but Seiss laid on the compliments after his gunslinger’s latest showcase.

“People always want to talk about how good our receivers are and have been,” Seiss said. “And they are really good. You don’t want to say say they’re not, but the fact that Angel puts it to ‘em in stride, the fact he gets the ball out in rhythm, it says a lot about the player he is.”

Marshall's big-play ability is electrifying and adds a lethal element to a receiving corps that features talented receivers Tyrese Frazier and Silas Mathis.

“He’s probably the fastest kid that I’ve ever coached,” Seiss said. “I mean, he can really turn it on, and if he’s in the open field, not many people are going to catch him.”

With a showdown against Times No. 2 Valparaiso Friday and lofty dreams of a Class 6A state title, Marshall hopes Friday was just another sign of things to come.

“It means so much because I get to play with the seniors, and they depend on me,” he said. “I hope we get the state title. I’m going to try my hardest to make that happen.”

Football recap: Merrillville, Valparaiso roll to wins, setting up Week 7 showdown of unbeatens

Valparaiso beat Crown Point and Merrillville downed LaPorte, keeping the Duneland Athletic Conference powers unbeaten heading into their showdown next week.

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