Merrillville defeats Bulldogs 26-21 in storm-delayed, back-and-forth DAC opener

A Special Report by Mark Smith



The Merrillville 'flag boy' takes the school colors up and down the field before every game. (All photos by Mark Smith.)
Crown Point's Sam Krutz (14) makes sure the referees know all the rules before the start of CP-Merrillville game last Friday.
Even the CP cheerleaders could see storm clouds in the western sky before the start of the CP-Merrillville game last Friday. An electrical storm postponed the game late in the first quarter and it was finished Saturday afternoon.
Jacob Woods (52) closes in as CP's Blake Klingberg (77) is about to put an end to a short run by Merrillville junior Darius Schultz (40) in the Merrillville-CP game last week.
CP junior David O'Toole (88) goes up high above Merrillville defender Xzavier Shell (4) to make a 15-yard catch in the first quarter of the CP-Merrillville game.
Merrillville senior Anthony Outlar (8) gets tied up trying to get past CP lineman Elliot Flynn (74) and get to running back Scott Mills (22) in the CP-Merrillville game last Friday.
Merrillville star Justen Ramsey (57) gives the evil eye to Crown Point at the midfield coin toss before the game.
The CP student section theme of dress Friday seemed to be 'sports jersey night,' and the winner is the girl with the Peyton Manning No. 18 jersey on.
Adam Hillard (48) and Ethan Potosky (28) surround Merrillville's Darius Schultz (40) in Friday's game. Schultz gained a hard-earned 88 yards on 27 carries against Crown Point.
CP sophomore tight end Felix Meeks (15) is a big obstacle for Merrillville linebacker Dakari Alford (35) in pursuit of running back Scott Mills (22) Saturday.
CP receiver David O'Toole (88) tries to slip away from Merrillville defensive back William Fulton (6).
CP defensive end Silas Reeves (9) joins Ethan Potosky (48) in pursuit of quarterback Peter Rodriguez (16) Saturday afternoon. CP led 21-20 late in the game, but Merrillville won 26-21. (All photos by Mark Smith.)

Copyright © 2018 and Meyer Multimedia Services, a division of Meyer Broadcasting Corp.  All rights reserved.
Revised: September 03, 2018 .

Team 1 2 3 4 F
CROWN POINT (1-2, 0-1 DAC) 0 0 7 14 21
MERRILLVILLE (1-2, 1-0 DAC) 0 7 6 13 26

Friday, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 2018 - (Game suspended Friday night due to lightning with 4:11 left in the first quarter. Game resumed Saturday as 12noon, 80-degrees, humid) - Duneland Athletic Conference opener at MERRILLVILLE, Ind.

1st QtrNo Scoring.
2nd Qtr
MERRILLVILLE (7-0) Jeremiah Howard, 34-yard pass from Aahric Whitehead. 77 yard drive, 12 plays. Time of Possession (TOP) = 7:58 min. Austin Pupek kick. 7:20 left.
3rd QtrCROWN POINT (7-7) Scott Mills, 18-yard run. 74 yard drive, 7 plays. TOP = 3:18 min. Justin Robinson kick. 5:53 left.
MERRILLVILLE (13-7) Jeremiah Howard, 31-yard pass from Aahric Whitehead. 48 yard drive, 5 plays. TOP = 1:49 min. Kick hit the goal post. 3:56 left.
4th Qtr: MERRILLVILLE (20-7)  Darius Schultz, 1-yard run. 32-yard drive, 8 plays. TOP = 2:34 min. Austin Pupek kick. 10:26 left.
CROWN POINT (13-20) Tysen Cazy, 10-yard pass from Will Pettit. 63 yard drive, 7 plays. TOP = 3:43 min. Justin Robinson kick. 3:11 left.
CROWN POINT (21-20) Anthony Gonzalez, 7-yard pass from Will Pettit. 47-yard drive, 8 plays. TOP = 1:14 min. Justin Robinson kick. 2:00 left.
MERRILLVILLE (26-21) Darius Schultz, 4-yard run. 60 yard drive, 6 plays. TOP =  1:04 min. Austin Pupek kick. 0:57 left.

CROWN POINT (25 carries, 33 yards, one TD, no fumbles):
Scott Mills (HB) 21 carries, 60 yards, TD; Will Pettit (QB) 4 (minus-27) yards. (3 sacks-minus 25).

MERRILLVILLE (36 carries, 81 yards, 2 TDs):
Darius Schultz (HB) 27 carries, 88 yards, 2 TDs; Peter Rodriguez (QB) 6-18 yards; Aahric Whitehead (QB) 3 sacks - minus -35 yards.

CROWN POINT: Will Pettit (QB) 16 of 28, 158 yards, 2 TDs, one interception.
MERRILLVILLE: Aahric Whitehead (QB) 7 of 11, 122 yards, 2 TDs, no interceptions; Peter Rodriguez (QB) 3 of 7, 33 yards, no TDs, no interceptions.

CROWN POINT: Scott Mills (HB) 1 (minus 1) yard; Anthony Gonzalez (WR) 5-66 yards, one TD; Tysen Cazy (WR) 4-51 yards, one TD; David O’Toole (WR) 4-28 yards; Felix Meeks (TE) 1-8 yards; Ben Uran (TE) 1-3 yards.

MERRILLVILLE: Armani Glass (WR) 6-66 yards; Jeremiah Howard (WR) 3-83 yards, 2 TDs; Josh Benton (WR) 1-9 yards.

MERRILLVILLE (1) Will Fulton


CROWN POINT: 191 yards, 7 first downs, one turnover.
MERRILLVILLE: 285 total yards, 7 first downs, no turnovers.


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CROWN POINT (8-31 and 9-01-2018) Last week’s Crown Point at Merrillville game was suspended Friday night late in the first quarter due to rain and lightning in Merrillville. The boys came back and finished the game Saturday afternoon.

Folks who were there Friday night, but who didn’t come back Saturday missed the best part. CP rallied from a 20-7 deficit to take a one point lead with two minutes to play before Merrillville scored the game-winning touchdown in a 26-21 thriller.

“We had some turnovers and made some mistakes the first couple of weeks,” said Merrillville coach Brad Seiss. “It was like we were counting on our defense to bail us out. Today the offense came through for us in the final two minutes. This could give us a lot of confidence going forward.”

“I was proud of the way we came back,” said CP coach Kevin Enright. “We made some mistakes that cost us, but we did come all the way back and battled through adversity.”

The game was scoreless when it was postponed with 4:11 left in the first quarter Friday night and when the teams retook the field at 12 noon Saturday, Merrillville seemed to handle the 16-hour ‘time out’ a little better than CP did.

The Pirates took a 7-0 halftime lead on a 34-yard second quarter touchdown pass from Aahric Whitehead to Jeremiah Howard.

CP tied the game in the third quarter on an 18-yard run by senior halfback Scott Mills. But Merrillville (2-1) quickly regained the lead on a 31-yard pass from Whitehead to Howard. The lead expanded to 20-7 after CP punter Colin Flavin dropped a fourth down punt snap and the Pirates took over at the Bulldogs' 32-yard line.

The home team took six plays to reach the end zone with junior halfback Darius Schultz scoring from the 1-yard line to make it 20-7 with 10:30 left in the game.

Crown Point (1-2) seemed done at this point, but sophomore quarterback Will Pettit completed seven passes in a row in a 68-yard drive, culminating with a 10-yard pass to junior end Tysen Cazy cut the lead to 20-14.

CPs Justin Robinson then bounced an onside kick to the visitors' side of the field and teammate Railaun Cosey recovered at the Merrillville 47-yard-line with 3:11 to play.

CP mounted anther drive with the half of a pass interference penalty against Merrillville that moved the ball to the 17 yard line. Back to back passes from Pettit, who was 16 of 28 passing for 158 yards, to senior slot receiver Anthony Gonzalez and the Bulldogs were in the lead 21-20 with 2:00 minutes to go.

But the Pirates weren’t done. CP tried a ‘squib kickoff' to keep the ball away from speedy Pirates sophomore receiver and kickoff returner Armani Glass. But Justin Robinson’s kick went out of bounds and Merrillville got the ball at the Pirate 40-yard line.

On the first play, Whitehead, who was 7 of 11 passing for 132 yards, fired a short pass to Glass, who zipped through the Bulldog defense for a 31 yard gain to the CP 29-yard line. Four plays and a 15-yard CP pass interference penalty later, Darius Shultz scored form the 4-yard-line to put Merrillville back ahead 26-21.

CP had 57 seconds to try for a game-winning TD, but a sack of Pettit by all-stater Justin Ramsey (6-1, 291) made a first down on 4th-and-21 'a bridge too far.'

“It’s a credit to our players and coaches,” said Seiss of the ebb-and-flow of the fourth quarter. “We just tried to get through any situation. And credit Crown Point. There were times when they could save folded when we had momentum. Our kids just believe that we had time left to take the ball and win.”

Merrillville was 1-9 in 2017 and Seiss referred to that now that they’re 2-1 in 2018.

“We were able to find a way to win,
” he said. “Hopefully this will carry over with us. Instead of finding a way to lose, we found a way to win.”

Pettit (6-2, 190) was 3-for-8 for 26 yards and an interception in the first half. The sophomore then was 13 of 20 for 132 yards and two TDs in the final two quarters.

The Bulldogs' offense scored more points in the second half at Merrillville (21) than they had in the first 2-1/2 games of the season (17).

With only four teams in their playoff bracket, there is more than a 50% chance that CP and Merrillville will meet again in the Class 6A Sectional playoffs at the end of the year. The Bulldogs and Pirates have played each other twice in each of the last two seasons with Merrillville winning the regular season game and CP winning the playoff rematch.

Enright suggested that any evaluation of his team has to wait until his boys get used to being starting varsity football players.

“We really don’t have anybody on offense who started last year,” he said. “Even the couple of guys we have who did play some last year weren’t out there when the game was on the line. Now they are.”

BULLDOG NOTES: This was the third consecutive season that Merrillville has beaten Crown Point in week three of the regular season. CP has defeated Merrillville in the 2016 and 2017 sectional playoffs. Jeremiah Howard’s second touchdown appeared to be (by many on field accounts) a dropped pass in the back of the end zone.

Obviously, there is no ‘instant replay’ of close plays in high school football, so the play stood as called, giving Merrillville a 13-7 lead.

Merrillville missed on at least three long pass attempts in the first half where the receiver was behind the CP defense and the ball was overthrown.

Those plays produced nothing for the home team, but they may have led to the success of short passes to Armani Glass (5-6, 135) later in the game.

“Armani started as a freshman last year and then he got beat up a little,” said coach Brad Seiss. “He and his brother (senior Jaylen Glass) both start at wide receiver. That’s a great thing. Armani has a great change of direction. The fact that you can throw a short or intermediate route with him and have him take it all the way is quite a luxury. We’ve got a lot of guys.”

Seiss says that if you think Merrillville’s offense is the same as it was in past years and under previous coach Zac Wells, you aren't watching very closely.
“To the casual fan it may look that way,” he said Saturday. “But we haven’t had a tight end here in maybe 10 years and we’re running a lot of tight end now. Everybody thinks we’re a spread team and all we want to do is throw the ball. We want to be a power football team. Run the ball and control the clock. There’s going to be a game where it's really windy or raining. Obviously if you want to make a run in the tournament, you're going to have to run the football. Now we still want to get it to our guys in space, but we’ve made a few changes.”

Crown Point’s version of Armani Glass is senior Anthony Gonzalez (5-6, 125), who caught five passes for 66 yards and his first career TD.

Gonzalez broke his ankle last year and missed most of his junior season.

“It’s a credit to him that he worked hard to come back,” said coach Kevin Enright. “And that he wanted to come back. Anthony is very quick. He does a good job of getting open.”
There was a crowd of nearly 3,000 in the stands at Demaree Stadium for Friday nights opening kickoff. But when the weather postponed the game (with 4:11 left in the first quarter) to Saturday less than 600 people came back to see the end of the game.

Crown Point halfback Christian Berry did not play at Merrillville and will miss a significant amount of time with a knee injury. There is hope is that Berry who gained 83 yards on 14 carries in the win at Highland on August 24 can return before the end of the season.

Aug. 17   Lowell 4A L 7 17    
Aug. 24 at Highland 4A W 14 10    
Sep. 1 at Merrillville 6A © L 21 26    
Sep. 7   Lake Central 6A © 7:00 pm    
Sep. 14   Portage 6A © 7:00 pm    
Sep. 21 at Valparaiso 6A © 7:00 pm    
Sep. 28 at LaPorte 5A © 7:00 pm    
Oct. 5   Chesterton 6A © 7:00 pm    
Oct. 12 at Michigan City 5A © 7:00 pm    
Coach: Brad Seiss, 15-21 in 4th year at school, 28-38 in 7th year overall
Aug. 17   Andrean 3A W 20 14    
Aug. 24   Penn 6A L 16 28    
Sep. 1   Crown Point 6A © W 26 21    
Sep. 7 at Portage 6A © 7:00 pm    
Sep. 14   Michigan City 5A © 7:00 pm    
Sep. 21 at LaPorte 5A © 7:00 pm    
Sep. 28   Valparaiso 6A © 7:00 pm    
Oct. 5   Lake Central 6A © 7:00 pm    
Oct. 12 at Chesterton 6A © 7:00 pm    

The Bulldogs' Next Opponent, 9-07-2018:

Aug. 17   Munster 5A W 10 3    
Aug. 24 at Hammond Morton 4A W 33 13    
Aug. 31 at Portage 6A © L 10 18    
Sep. 7 at Crown Point 6A © 7:00 pm    
Sep. 14   LaPorte 5A © 7:00 pm    
Sep. 21 at Michigan City 5A © 7:00 pm    
Sep. 28   Chesterton 6A © 7:00 pm    
Oct. 5 at Merrillville 6A © 7:00 pm    
Oct. 12   Valparaiso 6A © 7:00 pm