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Merrillville at Valparaiso football

Merrillville's Peter Rodriguez, right, reacts with teammate Darius Schultz after scoring a touchdown against Valparaiso in a recent game.

ST. JOHN — Peter Rodriguez doesn’t complain about splitting time as Merrillville’s quarterback with Aahric Whitehead.

The seniors have been part of a dual-quarterback system since middle school. Whitehead tends to be more of a passer. Rodriguez does most of his damage with his legs. That’s just the way it is.

“Whitehead pushes me. I push him. If I do better than him, he wants to do better than me,” Rodriguez said. “Him being able to throw better than me has made me a better passer. Me being a better runner has made him a better runner.”

The duo have propelled the Pirates to a 7-1 record. The offense is scoring almost 35 points per game.

“The unselfishness of Peter, to understand that he’s only in half of the time, you don’t find that nowadays with people who are all about themselves,” coach Brad Seiss said.

Rodriguez tore his ACL against Michigan City during his sophomore season. He didn’t really get back to 100 percent until about halfway into his junior year. Since, he’s been a difference maker for Merrillville.

The Pirates have lost only twice in the last calendar year.

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“Everybody always thinks of a quarterback as the guy that throws it to everybody,” Seiss said. “When it does get a little colder (like Friday), does Peter get used a little more? Yeah.”

The Pirates (7-1, 5-1 Duneland Athletic Conference) got off to a slow start in Friday’s 41-21 win over Lake Central. The passing game never really got going, outside of a 26-yard touchdown pass from Whitehead to Jeremiah Howard to give Merrillville a 21-14 lead just before halftime.

It was up to Rodriguez, running backs Damian Dixon and Darius Schultz and the massive Pirates offensive line to move the football.

Rodriguez ran the ball 11 times for 128 yards and three touchdowns. Even Whitehead found room for a couple long runs scrambling.

“We’ve got some pretty good guys on the outside. Teams are going to adjust their coverage, play back,” Seiss said. “We’re going to take what the defense gives us. Football in October and into November, you’ve got to be able to run the football. We did a pretty good job of that.”

L.C. (3-5, 2-4) kept things close in the first half, but the Pirates scored three times in the third quarter to put things out of reach. Rodriguez had two of those touchdowns.

“It was just execution. We’re really good except we hold ourselves back. We lose games for ourselves,” Rodriguez said. “If we finish, we could beat any team.”

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