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Westfield ends Merrillville’s run with devastating third quarter
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Westfield ends Merrillville’s run with devastating third quarter

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MERRILLVILLE — A few minutes in the third quarter were the difference as Merrillville came up short of its first trip to the state championship game since 1976.

Westfield topped the Pirates 41-23.

“We’re chasing this game. We’ve come close and just haven’t gotten it, whether it’s the 90s, the 2000s or these last couple years,” Merrillville coach Brad Seiss said. “This will sting for a while, but I think when you look back at what we accomplished through pretty interesting circumstances with COVID, we should be really proud of it.”

The Shamrocks (12-1) took control late in the third frame.

After a 29-yard Austin Pupek touchdown cut Westfield’s lead to 20-16, Westfield quarterback Maximus Webster went 48 yards for a touchdown on a keeper.

Devon Davis fumbled the subsequent kickoff return and Webster scored a few plays later from 2 yards out. Micah Hauser scored on a 9-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Shamrocks led 41-16.

“It’s hard. Coming into the game, we were focused, ready. We just ran out of gas, I guess,” Merrillville senior receiver Marcus Hardy Jr. said. “It was a lot of mistakes, offsides penalties. We just didn’t finish it.”

The Pirates were called for seven illegal procedure penalties, six in the first half.

“We gave up some good field position and the quarterback had a nice run. I think that kind of knocked the wind out of our sails,” Seiss said. “We had too many mistakes.”

Merrillville (10-2) took an early lead on a 43-yard pass from Angel Nelson to JoJo Johnson in the first quarter.

Westfield marched right down on the next possession, finishing it with a 12-yard pass from Webster to Reid Schepers to tie it. The Shamrocks took the lead on a 3-yard Webster touchdown run in the second quarter.

Webster hit Jackson Wasserstrom for a 20-yard score before the half to go into the half with a lead.

“We knew coming in we were going to have to play a good football game. They’re a good team, won 12 straight and are where they’re at for a reason,” Seiss said. “They wore us down and showed the depth that they have.”

Late in the opening frame, Nelson threw to Hardy in the back of the end zone but Hardy was ruled out of bounds. The Morton transfer made up for it with a diving catch in the end zone just before halftime to keep the game within one score.

Westfield led 20-13 at the break. Both sides failed on point after touchdown attempts.

“I came from nothing at Morton. I came here and won my first sectional, my first regional. I was trying to get my first semistate win but the cookie’s got to crumble sometime,” Hardy said. “I love my Merrillville Pirates.”

Gallery: 6A football semistate final: Merrillville vs. Westfield


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