On Friday, the first week of the IHSAA sectionals started for the Valparaiso and Chesterton High School football teams. The whole season was on the line as the rivals took each other on again on the Vikings turf, with only one team pushing forward to make it to the sectional championships on Halloween night.
Before kickoff the atmosphere was a nervous one, not a crackling electricity that the first matchup between the Trojans and the Vikings had earlier on in the season. The separate student sections showed up proud and ready to take each other on, but both realized what was at stake for their teams. Billy Mittchel, a senior at Chesterton, said that since it’s almost the end of the line their seniors would be the ones to push the Trojans forward.
“I’m expecting the team to go as far as they take us," he said. "There’s quite a few seniors starting today so I think since they realize that this might be the end the team won’t let this win out of their grasp.” Mittchel also noted that the win over Valpo earlier in the season will help motivate the team to take another victory.
“I think because of that win they’ll push their way to do that again. Our student section will also be here to give them any help they need by being as loud as we can.”
The Trojans started off strong by keeping the Vikings scoreless until the third quarter. Both fan sections shouted across the field to each other, the parents were just as loud and the teams tried to soak up their energy. After several attempts, the Vikings finally got on the board with a touchdown, but it was the Trojans walking away with a 17-7 victory.
Both teams did shake hands at the end, congratulating each other on the game, but Chesterton players were quick to go and celebrate with their fans.
Ranbir Singh, defensive tackle for the Trojans and a senior at the school, was one of the players right front and center of the celebrations. Singh said that the victory was not only great because of their rivalry, but because it was an important milestone in the season. “It feels great, and beating Valpo has an even greater feeling. We’re off to sectional championships after this but we’re really just glad to have gotten this win under us tonight.” Singh went on to say that their race for the title doesn’t stop after one sectional win. “We have really great potential to go way past sectionals. We worked our butts off this year and we’ve got to go against Penn and show off how much that’s helped us.”
Standing right above Singh at the railing of the visitors stands was his father Kuljit, who could only congratulate his son on a game well played. “I’m very proud of him. He ran for a touchdown in the second quarter, which was great, and now it’s just the focus on the road against Penn.” Singh also congratulated the team on their hard work. “These guys have been working really hard - since the very beginning of summer break - and they’ve been well prepared this season. We knew it, ya’know, that they were going to do well.”
Kassandra Anaya, senior manager for the Trojans, also noted that the win on Friday came from all of their hard work throughout the season. “They’ve lost some games in the process of getting here, but I’m really satisfied with that because the team has bounce right back from those. It’s great to see these guys set their goals and complete them, like Ranbir did with his interception, and in return they’ve been able to come this far. I’m really glad to be a part of this moment with the team.”
On the opposite end of a win, there’s also a loss. The Vikings ended their season with a 2-8 record, something that obviously was a hard pill to swallow for the team’s leaving seniors. After the Trojans left the field and only a handful of their fellow classmates were on the side lines, the team’s seniors made one final walk to the 50-yard line. They walked hand-in-hand in a straight line across the field obviously with heavy hearts, but most of them had smiles on their faces. The team made jokes along the way trying to make the night end on a lighter note.
Konnor Minko, a tight end and a junior for the team, watched his teammates take their place on the field for one last time with a sense of compassion. “It’s sad because I have a lot of friends who are seniors this year, and I’ll miss them. They worked their butts off this year. They also made me better as a person in the process and I can only thank them for that.” Minko went on to say that even though this season is over it’s time to look at what they can do for next year. “I’m really looking forward to working hard for next season and to have a positive outlook on it all. It’s not too early to start.”