Putting in the extra effort has definitely paid dividends for Lavarion Logan and the Merrillville High football team.
"The entire offensive line has been doing great this year," said the talented senior running back. "I really appreciate everything they do. Without them, nothing I do is possible. Their work ethic is great, which also plays a huge role in their success.
"Honestly, the success of this team has come from the hard work we put in practice. Our coaches preach to us that you don't win the game on Friday, you win it throughout the week of preparation. So, we treat every day like it's a game day."
This way of thinking worked wonders for the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Logan a year ago as he compiled 263 carries for 1,627 yards with 25 touchdowns to help the Pirates to a 10-2 record and their second straight Class 6A sectional and regional title.
"Lavarion's success has been huge for us," said Merrillville senior quarterback Angel Nelson. "When we are able to run the ball, the box gets loaded. Then, the air game opens up, so teams have to choose which one to stop."
The good fortune has continued in 2021 for the team captain Logan with 140 rushes for 1,104 yards with 22 touchdowns and 26 receptions for 263 yards and three scores for the No. 3 Pirates (7-0).
"My parents and siblings have been the biggest influences for me both on and off the field," Logan said. "They push me to go hard all the time and I owe it to them. They have done everything to help me in my life and I thank them for that."
While Logan has been the workhorse on the ground, fellow team captain Nelson has been a force to be noticed through the air.
"Angel is having a great year so far and he is only getting better each week," explained Logan. "He has put in a lot of work this off-season improving his strength and speed. We grew up with each other, so he is like a brother to me."
After completing 137-of-222 attempts for 2,517 yards with 26 touchdowns, as a junior the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Nelson has gone 84-of-121 for 1,632 yards with 19 scores and just one interception.
"The game has slowed down a lot for me," explained Nelson. "It is easier to make reads and know what the defense is going to do when the ball is snapped.
"My dad has been the biggest influence in my life and success. I appreciate him because he works very hard to provide for his family and he is very passionate with everything he does."
Both players had a role in helping Merrillville end No. 3 (Class 5A) Valparaiso's 27-game regular season and 25-game Duneland Athletic Conference winning streaks on October 1.
In the dominating 42-7 win, Logan raced 22 times for 185 yards with four touchdowns, while Nelson went 17-of-23 for 227 yards with a score.
"Lavarion is exactly what a coach looks for," said Merrillville coach Brad Seiss said. "You want your best players to be your hardest workers and that's what he is. Whether it's in the classroom, weight room, conditioning, or on the field, Lavarion is always working hard. He has great respect from his teammates, coaches, teachers, and the rest of the student body because he's always doing the right thing."
Since winning just one game in 2017, Seiss has seen his program flourish with the help of top-notch performers like Logan and Nelson.
"Angel is exactly what you want in a quarterback," added Seiss, now in his seventh campaign. "He's a great leader, who is always putting in extra work and organizing his group to get together to always get better. He orchestrates our offense and really is a great bridge from the coaching staff to the rest of the 10 players that are on offense."
Logan and Nelson appreciate the guidance they have gotten from Seiss and company.
"The entire coaching staff is amazing on both sides of the ball," Logan said. "Coach Seiss has been building a great program for years now and will continue to do so. He really understands his players and each coach has a genuine relationship with their players."
"Coach Seiss has created a winning culture at Merrillville by being a great leader," Nelson added. "He has changed the way kids look at football because everybody wants to get better in the off season now and then go out there and win games.
Coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances, Logan and Nelson believe they have some unfinished business to attend to.
The first step is helping the Pirates clinch at least a share of the DAC crown with a win at Lake Central (3-4) this coming Friday.
"The fact we believe in each other has been the biggest key to our success so far," said Logan, who has gotten interest from several programs, including Air Force and Navy. "Each week, we focus hard on studying our opponent and doing our job and no one else's."
"Our goals are simple," Nelson said. "We want stay focused and make a run for the state championship."
Both players are hoping the third time is the charm in their quest to reach Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Thanksgiving weekend.