MICHIGAN CITY — His position on Michigan City's defense is called the Wolf, but Marquan Hurt likes to refer to himself in more of a canine context.
"A.K.A. d-a-w-g, d-o-g, both of 'em," Hurt said. "Dogs are bullies. They're aggressive. I just love playing that nickel in the middle of the field, flying to the ball. It's me. It defines me. Wherever that ball goes, I go."
Whatever the animal, Hurt and the Wolves defense ate and ate well Friday at Ames Field against Chesterton, sparking a 21-7 win with his three interceptions, their eight sacks and a minus-18-yard rushing total for the Trojans.
"The defense as a whole was great," Hurt said. "We felt we could get into the backfield on every play. We planned that. We knew that was gonna happen. The defense's thing is to set that tone, keep that energy going. We've just got to execute plays and we can't keep our brothers hanging."
Pass-happy Chesterton (2-1, 0-1 Duneland Conference) had trouble protecting Chris Mullen from the start. Nate Ware got the sack party started on the fifth play and the Wolves (2-1, 1-0) had four on the first three possessions. Ware had three (four by his count), as did Robert Jefferson with Shelly Miller, Jr., Cornell Branch IV and Michael Shanks also getting in on the act.
"Coach told us during this week it was going to be fast pace, let's get to 'em," Ware said. "It was exciting for us. They were bringing me a little more. I had a lot of faith in my guys that they could get past them and get through. We noticed they didn't run too much. We were like, all right, you want to throw, we're going to put pressure on the quarterback."
That they did, to the tune of minus-36 yards as Chesterton only generated three positive runs, two coming on Mullen scrambles on the final drive.
"It's huge," City coach Phil Mason said. "The biggest thing they have to figure out is if they can run football at some point.. and...they couldn't run the football. We do a lot of pass under pressure (in practice). When our guys pin their ears back against us, we're in a lot of trouble. Marquan was around the ball all night."
City slogged it out offensively with sophomore Gio Laurent drawing the start at quarterback. His best play was a swing pass to a wide-open Buster Flemings that the running back took 25 yards for the game's first score at 7:07 of the half. It was the only points through three quarters.
"I was really happy with his play," Mason said of Laurent. "I probably protected him a little bit. He'll get into the flow. I think what you saw, whether we operated at a great capacity or not, there was a fluidity to it. We didn't just go, what is going on? Mike (Bradford)'s a fantastic kid, a fantastic football player, but we were having a football player playing quarterback not a quarterback playing quarterback. Gio's a quarterback."
Bottled up most of the game, Chesterton mustered its first scoring chance when Bryce Pickering outleaped a defender for a 45-yard catch and run to the City 2. After consecutive unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the Wolves after a third-and-goal stop at the 2, Ryan Klespies bulled in from inside the 1 with the extra point tying the game at 9:50 of the fourth.
City responded, buoyed by a third down pass interference committed against Demetrius Garrett and a 13-yard slant to Garrett. Flemings took over the 42, busting free for the go-ahead touchdown from 27 yards, the highlight of his 134-yard night, with 6:23 to play.
"I couldn't be more happy with our running backs," Mason said. "We had to bring (Ernest) Frierson over (to offense), big Reg McKinney got his first start. I just felt like we had to get more size on the line and I think helped. Chesterton's never easy. Dan (McCoy)'s one of the best 'D' coordinators in the area, other than our guy (Roy Richards). Defensively, they're always really good."
Hurt's first pick came late in the third quarter. His second stopped the Trojans after they'd reached the City 36 in a 14-7 game and he returned his third, snagged at the Chesterton 40, to the 4, setting up Bradford's icing plunge.
"When the ball is in the air, I've got to be a ball hog and try and get that to the end zone," Hurt said. 'It comes from watching film, reading (Mullen's) eyes and me baiting him. We know they have a great pass offense but we have a greater defense. We knew he loved to throw to his 'trips' side. We covered that and I knew where I needed to be. (The interception come) from my teammates playing their roles, putting me in great positions."
Chesterton coach Mark Peterson rued missed scoring chances but had high praise for Hurt and the Wolves.
"I think Marquan, if not just here in the region, is one of the top five, top 10, top 15 players in the state," he said. "We expected five and six (rushers) all week. We worked against a bunch of sets, but it's just hard to simulate that speed in practice, the scheme, until they get in it. I felt like we should have won the game. We had some miscues on offense and left our defense on the field too long."
Michigan City 21, Chesterton 7
Buster Flemings ran for 134 yards and scored twice.