Stewart's 3 picks & 2 TD returns not enough to stop Pirates' air attack; Bulldogs fall 41-28 to Merrillville


A Special Report by Mark Smith




CP defenders Nick Winter (66), Donald Schuch (25), Emas King (56) and Caden Watson (54) get ready for the Pirates early in last Friday's Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) opener. (Photos by Mark Smith)
Crown Point's Shane McCormack (5) occupies Merrillville's Kenyatta Smith (5) so Tyler Gomez (42) can run away for a first quarter touchdown.
CP's Emas King (56) tries to stop Merrillville's Cam Wright (12) from completing this pass to the Pirates' Kaylin Brookshire (15) Wright threw four interceptions but also tossed three touchdowns Friday.
CP's Andrew Keneson (76) gives Grayson Lynk (13) time to throw long. Lynk completed 10 of 26 for 146 yards, a TD and no interceptions.
Merrillville's Davion Ervin (21) grabs this screen pass, but CP senior Nate Darche' (41) has him cornered in second quarter action last Friday.
CP's Zach Stewart (29) became the first player in recent Crown Point football history to intercept three passes last week against Merrillville.
Pirate senior Kejaun Thomas (46) is one of Merrillville's four wide receivers who make most plays an adventure for anyone defending the Pirates.
Zach Stewart holds for junior Bulldog tight end and placekicker Ben Fridrich (8) last week at Merrillville. Fridrich was 4-of-4 on extra points but CP lost 41-28.
CP senior Shane McCormick tries to break loose against the Pirates. McCormick did get into the end zone on a 59-yard pass from Grayson Lynk in the third quarter.
It does not matter who's winning when it comes to weenies. Every night is hot dog night at the football game. About 1,000 CP fans made it over to Merrillville for last Friday's game with the Pirates.
Senior Ethan Wood (86) closes in on Cam Wright (12) in last Friday's game in Merrillville. CP led 14-0, 21-13 and 28-21 but lost 41-28.
Crown Points student section made the short trip north for the annual Labor Day weekend game with Merrillville. About 1,000 CP fans made it to Merrillville to root on the Bulldogs. (All photos by Mark Smith.)

Copyright 2016 and Meyer Multimedia Services, a division of Meyer Broadcasting Corp.  All rights reserved.
Revised: September 08, 2016 .

Team 1 2 3 4 F
CROWN POINT (1-2) 14 7 7 0 28
MERRILLVILLE (2-1) 0 13 8 20 41

Friday, September 2, 2016 -  70 degrees in MERRILLVILLE, IN

1st Qtr: CROWN POINT (7-0) Zach Stewart, 55-yard interception return. Ben Fridrich kick. 10:24 left.

CROWN POINT (14-0) Tyler Gomez, 48-yard run. 55-yard drive, 2 plays. Ben Fridrich kick. 8:24 left.
2nd Qtr: MERRILLVILLE (14-6) Davion Ervin-Poindexter, 7-yard run. 2-point run failed. 11:01 left.
James Kirklen, 27-yard pass from Cam Wright. 61-yard drive, 3 plays. Meagan Wise kick. 8:12 left.
Shane McCormack, 55-yard pass from Grayson Lynk. Ben Fridrich kick. 6:23

3rd Qtr: MERRILLVILLE (21-21) James Kirklen, 18-yard pass from Cam Wright. 2-point pass Cam Wright to Kam Jackson. 3:35 left.
Zach Stewart, 75-yard interception return. Ben Fridrich kick. 3:21 left.

4th Qtr: MERRILLVILLE (28-28) Kaylin Brookshire, 15-yard pass from Cam Wright. 60-yard drive, 7 plays. Meagan Wise kick. 11:48 left.
MERRILLVILLE (28-35) James Kirklen (5th TD of the season), 59-yard pass-run from Cam Wright (7th TD pass of
the season). 60-yard drive, 2 plays. Meagan Wise kick. 9:34 left.
MERRILLVILLE (28-41) Davion Ervin Poindexter, 3-yard run. 25-yard drive, 3 plays. 1:43 left..



CROWN POINT (36 carries, 155 yards, one TD,
one fumble)
Tyler Gomez (HB) 30 carries, 130 yards, TD, fumble, Grayson Lynk (QB) 6 carries, 25 yards (1 sack, minus-10)
MERRILLVILLE (32 carries, 108 yards, 2 TDs, no fumbles) Davion Ervin Poindexter (HB) 23 carries, 91 yards, 2 TDs; Kam Jackson (QB-WR) 2-8 yards, Kejaun Thomas (FB) 1-6 yards, Kaylin Brookshire (WR) 1-7 yards, Cam Wright (QB) 5 carries (minus-4 yards) 2 sacks: minus-17 yards.

CROWN POINT : Grayson Lynk (QB) 10 for 26, 146 yards TDs, one interception.
MERRILLVILLE: Cam Wright (QB) 14 of 33, 276 yards, 3 TDs, 4 interceptions. Kam Jackson (QB-WR) 0-for-1.

CROWN POINT: Tyler Jones (WR) 1 catches 22 yards, Griffin Govert (FB) 2-10 yards, Shane McCormack (WR) 3-68 yards, TD, Ben Fridrich (TE) 1-15 yards, Tyler Gomez (HB) 1-18 yards, Mark Knox (WR) 3-18 yards.
MERRILLVILLE: Davion Ervin-Poindexter (HB) 3-18 yards, Kaylin Brookshire (WR) 3-29 yards, TD, Kejuan Thomas (FB) 2-43 yards, James Kirklen (WR) 6-186 yards, 3 TDs.

CROWN POINT: 301 yards, 10 first downs, 4 turnovers (3 fumbles).
MERRILLVILLE: 384 yards, 15 first downs, 4 turnovers (3 interceptions).


Zach Stewart (CP) 3, Steve McDaniel (CP), Sean Roche (MV).

Fumble recoveries:

Ramon Harris (MV), Anthony Swims (MV), Anthony Sams (MV).


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MERRILLVILLE (9-02-2016) I've never seen a game like Merrillville's 41-28 victory over Crown Point last Friday. I've never seen a defensive back, CP's Zach Stewart, intercept three passes, run two back for touchdowns and be on the losing side.

I don't recall seeing a quarterback throw four interceptions, have two of them run back for TDs and win the game going away.

The Labor Day weekend crowd in the big purple-flavored Merrillville stadium didn't ask for their money back, but the Bulldogs (1-2) might like to play Merrillville (2-1) again in November. CP led 14-0 after five minutes, 21-13 at the half and 28-21 going to the final quarter, but still lost by 13.

About 2,500 fans watched on a near perfect September night as Crown Point, which scored only 15 points total in the first two weeks, led 14-0 after 3:26 at Merrillville. Zach Stewart picked off a sideline pass from Merrillville rookie quarterback Cameron Wright and raced down the home sidelines to make it 7-0. Then, after a Pirate punt, CP junior Tyler Gomez (30 carries, 130 yards) broke a run off the big right side of CP's line (center Jocob Keaveney (6-1, 285), guard Paxton Pittman (6-2, 300) and tackle Alex Ristovski (6-1, 250) and raced 48 yards for a two TD Bulldog lead.

The Bulldogs had two possessions with a 14-0 lead, but could not get a first down either time and Merrillville scored on a 7-yard run by junior halfback Davion Ervin-Poindexter early in the second quarter. CP punted again and the Pirates cut the lead to 14-13 on a 27-yard pass to top receiver James Kirklen with 8:12 left in the half.

Crown Point came back with an 80-yard drive capped by Grayson Lynk's perfect 55-yard scoring pass to Shane McCormick down the visitors' sidelines creating a 21-13 halftime lead for CP.

The Bulldogs drove to the Merrillville 32-yard-line after a short Pirate punt midway in the third quarter, but Tyler Gomez got just three yards on 4th-and-5 to turn the ball over. Merrillville then tied the game with a 68-yard drive finishing in an 18-yard Wright to Kirklen fade pass in the northwest corner of the home side end zone.

CP retook the lead on a spectacular play. CP's Emas King hit Wright as he was throwing and Stewart intercepted at his own 25. Running down the visitors' sidelines, he cut across the field and ran away from everybody for a 75-yard TD and a 28-21 Bulldog lead.

The Pirates began a drive late in the third quarter with a 50-yard Wright to Kirklen pass. On the second play of the final quarter, Wright (14 of 33 for 276 yards), who threw for three touchdowns and four interceptions, rolled out and tossed a 15-yard TD to senior Kaylin Brookshire.

Crown Point then needed to drive the ball and they couldn't. Three plays and a punt set up the Pirates at their own 40. One play later, the game-breaking play started with Wright looking to toss a quick pass over the middle. The CP defense seemed to suspect where the Merrillville QB was going and they clogged the middle of the field, forcing Wright to hesitate and pump fake. He fired a risky pass that zipped between two or three CP defenders to the speedy Kirklen who grabbed the ball, turned up field and outran several CP defenders for a 59-yard score and a 35-28 Merrillville lead with 9:34 left.

"I was just the backup play," said Kirklen later as he signed autographs on the field after the game on Merrillville's 'Meet the Players' autograph night." He (Wright) was hesitant, but it was a smart move. He squeezed it in there. It was just inches (from a defender touching the ball). Right there."

Merrillville's Alfred Stubbs sacked Lynk on third down on CP's next possession and the Bulldogs punted. Stewart's third interception at the Crown Point 15-yard-line with 3:40 left kept CP hopes alive. But four incomplete passes later, Merrillville took possession, scoring a consolation TD with 1:43 left.

"Anytime you play competitive sports, it's momentum driven," said CP coach Kevin Enright, as his boys headed for the bus. "In the end, we're playing a lot of guys who haven't had Friday night (varsity football) experience yet. When you play an explosive team like this, your mistakes are magnified. We'll get better."

"We gave them momentum (with turnovers). You've got to make simple plays. When you don't, you pay, especially when we don't have an experienced group that's been through it before. Many of our guys haven't done this except for Saturday morning (junior varsity games) or Thursday night (freshman games). We'll coach 'em hard. They'll grow as a team."

Merrillville wants to do the same thing. James Kirklen is playing his third season while Cam Wright, his new quarterback, is a 16-year-old sophomore. What do you say to him when the team falls behind or he throws an interception?

"I just tell him to keep up the work," said Kirklen. "Keep your head up and be positive. What's in the past is in the past. You can't change it. You always have to keep going."

Crown Point is in a tough position. The Bulldogs have to harvest what they can from the last two games (CP lost 10-6 at Mishawaka on August 26), knowing they were in position to win both of them.

"Last week offensively at Mishawaka, we moved the ball up and down the field," Enright recalled. "We just couldn't punch it in. We were at the one yard line twice and couldn't punch it in."

"A lot of that is us hurting ourselves. Mishawaka's a really good program. Good team. We moved the ball on them. But, take for instance our offensive line. Nobody there started last year. One kid on the JV. Both our offensive tackles (Alex Ristovski and Andrew Keneson) were both out for the year last year with injuries. We're playing some guys who have never been out here playing on Friday night."

CP's 9-3 double-overtime win over then 4A No. 1 Lowell on August 19 was their biggest in a few years. This was one of their toughest losses in recent times. They were dominating this game in the first quarter. Coach Enright said the Bulldogs are not far away.

"As long as we stick together and don't listen to the noise," he said. "Work hard. We'll come together. I don't know what our record is going to be, but I don't think anybody's going to want to play Crown Point."

DOG NOTES: Looking back over the last 20 seasons, I can't find another CP player who ran two interceptions back for touchdowns in the same game as Zach Stewart did last Friday.

On October 11, 2002, Bobby Rutherford did run two kickoffs back for touchdowns, both 94-yard runs. On September 8, 2002, Rutherford caught 11 passes for 255 yards and four TDs, both CP records.

Zach Stewart has a history of defense and special teams' touchdowns. On October 24, 2014, Zach grabbed a blocked field goal by CP defensive end Morgan Kral and raced 60 yards for a TD in the Bulldogs' 24-7 Homecoming win over Chesterton. One week later, Stewart ran an interception back for a 22-yard score in a 38-22 Crown Point win at Michigan City. Stewart also had an interception on August 26 at Mishawaka.

Crown Point linebacker Nate Darche' was injured in the second quarter and did not return to the game.

Losses in week two may have held down the week three CP-Merrillville crowd which, minus the band, was 2,500 at best. Crown Point's 28 points was almost twice what they scored the first two weeks combined. The Bulldogs scored just 94 points in 10 games last season. The high was 35 against Portage.

Merrillville's Cam Wright has had four interceptions run back for TDs this season, but he also has seven TD passes in 3 games. Friday was the fourth time in the past eight meetings that Merrillville scored at least 40 points against Crown Point.


Coach: Kevin Enright, 24-21 in 5th year at school
Aug. 19 Lowell {4A} 2ot W   9-  3   
Aug. 26 at Mishawaka {5A}   L   6-10   
Sep. 2 at Merrillville {6A}   L 28-41   
Sep. 9 Lake Central {6A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 16 Portage {6A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 23 at Valparaiso {6A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 30 at LaPorte {6A} 7:00 pm   
Oct. 7 Chesterton {6A} 7:00 pm   
Oct. 14 at Michigan City {5A} 7:00 pm   

Coach: Brad Seiss, 9-6 in 2nd year at school, 22-23 in 5th year overall
Aug. 19 Andrean {4A}  W 35-  7   
Aug. 26 Penn {6A}   L   2-35   
Sep. 2 Crown Point {6A}  W 41-28   
Sep. 9 at Portage {6A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 16 Michigan City {5A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 23 at LaPorte {6A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 30 Valparaiso {6A} 7:00 pm   
Oct. 7 Lake Central {6A} 7:00 pm   
Oct. 14 at Chesterton {6A} 7:00 pm   


  W-L Pts OP W-L Pts OP Streak
LaPorte 1-0 39 38 3-  0 87 68 Won 3
Michigan City 1-0 20 0 3-  0 106 28 Won 3
Merrillville 1-0 41 28 2-  1 78 70 Won 1
Portage 1-0 36 33 2-  1 71 81 Won 2
Chesterton 0-1 0 20 2-  1 39 49 Lost 1
Crown Point 0-1 28 41 1-  2 43 54 Lost 2
Lake Central 0-1 33 36 1-  2 89 67 Lost 2
Valparaiso 0-1 38 39 1-  2 94 66 Lost 1
Friday, Aug. 19
Chesterton 14, Kokomo 7
Crown Point 9, Lowell 32OT
Lake Central 35, Munster 7
LaPorte 21, New Prairie 20
Merrillville 35, Andrean 7
Michigan City 49, Griffith 28
Mishawaka 21, Portage 7
Penn 27, Valparaiso 7
Friday, Aug. 26
Chesterton 25, Munster 22
LaPorte 27, Hobart 10
Lincoln-Way Central (Ill.) 24, Lake Central 21
Michigan City 37, Northridge 0
Mishawaka 10, Crown Point 6
Penn 35, Merrillville 2
Portage 28, Lowell 27
Valparaiso 49, Gary West 0
Friday, Sep. 2
LaPorte 39, Valparaiso 38
Merrillville 41, Crown Point 28
Michigan City 20, Chesterton 0
Portage 36, Lake Central 33
Friday, Sep. 9
Chesterton at LaPorte, 7 pm
Lake Central at Crown Point, 7 pm
Merrillville at Portage, 7 pm
Valparaiso at Michigan City, 7 pm