La PORTE — Despite forcing five total turnovers on Friday night, La Porte’s football team was in a close contest with visiting Chesterton.
The Slicers only led by eight points late in the third quarter.
But La Porte found a way to prevail to earn its first win of the season over the Trojans in a hard-fought Duneland Athletic Conference matchup, 29-14.
The Slicers, who led the whole game, salted it away with an almost seven-minute drive, finishing the 80-yard march with Isaac ‘Sunshine’ Alexander’s 2-yard touchdown run to go ahead 15 with just over two minutes left.
And fittingly, La Porte sealed the victory with a turnover on Parker Hill’s interception.
“We practiced hard all week,” the running back and defensive back Alexander said. “We had energy. We all brought it.”
After Chesterton quarterback Jacob Coslet connected with Ben Slatcoff for their second TD pass of the night, this time a 60-yard strike, the Slicers’ advantage was trimmed to 22-14 with 2:32 to go in the third.
But the defense of La Porte (1-3, 1-1 DAC) stopped the Trojans (1-3, 0-2 DAC) on fourth down and 7 from the Slicers’ 20-yard line. That gave the home team the ball back with 9:01 remaining in the fourth. And La Porte came up clutch with the aforementioned, long, methodical drive, chewing up nearly seven minutes off the clock and taking 15 plays. Alexander was featured heavily on the drive and had some hard runs, including a 17-yarder where he carried defenders down to the 2-yard line. He then capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run, making it 29-14 with 2:09 left.
Hill then intercepted Coslet on the Trojans first play of the next drive to clinch the win.
“I’m so proud of the way we played with emotion and as a team,” La Porte coach Dave Sharpe said. “From the get-go, I’m just so proud of these guys. They deserve a ‘W.’ And they went out and had to get it against a solid team. Forcing turnovers and capitalizing on turnovers was the key to the game.”
Alexander was understandably pumped up after the game.
“We just had to do it,” he said of the last drive. “We had to do it to seal the game and win.
“It felt amazing when I scored. We hadn’t won all season.”
The Slicers amassed 320 yards rushing, which accounted for all their offense.
Alexander paced La Porte with 142 yards rushing and one touchdown, and running back Caleb Kuzdas had 112 yards and one touchdown. Kuzdas reached pay dirt on an 11-yard TD run late in the second period. Fellow back Dylan Gray, who had been out with an injury since late July, had a 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and freshman running back Collin Bergquist added a 1-yard TD run midway through the third.
Gray’s score came after linebacker Noah Perez recovered a fumble on the Slicers’ own 38-yard line. La Porte then drove 62 yards in six plays to strike first.
Kuzdas’ touchdown, meanwhile, was set up by Austin Buda’s interception.
And Bergquist’s TD came after linebacker Tyler Cadwell recovered another Chesterton fumble.
Earlier, La Porte linebacker Noah Perez recovered a fumble at the Trojans 6-yard line when Chesterton was threatening to score early in the second period.
The Slicers defense pitched a shutout in the first half, and forced five turnovers in the contest.
“They played phenomenally in the first half,” Sharpe said. “In the second half, they had some receiver matchups they liked and they made great throws and catches. Overall, I’m very proud. That’s a tough offense to stop, because half the time, it’s option. Half the time, they want to spread you out and throw it deep and throw it short.”
Besides not allowing Chesterton to score in the opening half, La Porte’s defense surrendered just 50 yards rushing on the night.
“It was pretty huge for us, shutting the team out in the first half,” Slicers defensive lineman Kaleek Biggers said. “It was just the energy we had all week and it kind of just carried over to this Friday. We knew we had something to prove. It was Senior Night, so we had to redeem ourselves from Hobart week.”
At the break, La Porte led 15-0.
Trojans linebacker Kody Wilkerson didn’t play in the second half.
Sharpe said he’s Chesterton’s best linebacker.
Slicers’ starting linebacker Landen Cerrillos also missed this game with an unspecified injury. He’s been out the last three games, while junior running back Mickey Oswald was out of action and in the hospital.
“The kids love Mickey,” Sharpe said. “They’re really inspired by him. Hopefully, we can get him back to La Porte soon. He’s a great kid.”
La Porte 29, Chesterton 14
Isaac ‘Sunshine’ Alexander rushed for 142 yards and one touchdown, and was one of four Slicer running backs to score a touchdown.