Week 12 - Football Game of the Week Preview

6A Merrillville (9-1) at
6A Crown Point (6-4)

Nine weeks after their 27-24 overtime win at Crown Point, the Merrillville Pirates invade CP again for the Class 6A Sectional 1 championship game. (Photo by Mark Smith)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


When:  7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8, 2019

Where:  Crown Point High School, 1500 South Main (one mile south of the CP downtown square)

TV/Radio/Internet: Live Internet audio stream on www.USA-365.com. WJOB Network (replay on demand).

Enrollment: CROWN POINT - 2,869; Merrillville 2,097.

WEATHER: If you’re coming to this game, I don't want you to dwell on the fact that you’re going to stand or sit outdoors two hours in sub-freezing cold. That’s negative thinking. Think about it as being ‘brisk’ or ‘nippy’ or ‘crisp’ outside. Come up with some cute, little way to explain you and I being outdoors on a night when the temperature will level off at about 28 degrees.

Good news: There should be very little wind.

Bad news? When it's 28 degrees, the wind is not your No. 1 concern.

Kids? Bring that full body Halloween costume you only thought you could only wear once. And, again, those orange hand warmers they sell at the drug store. You can put them in your pockets. Your gloves. Even your shoes.
And guess what? You’ll think this is funny, I know. The forecast for next Friday is exactly the same. Exactly.

But let's just try to get through this night first. Remember, the boys will look up in the stands and be thrilled that you came to see them play. That is if they can see though the frosty breath of everybody on the sidelines.


PARKING: This game would be a near sellout in 60-degree weather. But it isn't and it's not. Come early to get a parking spot close to the field and sit in your car until about 6:45. There isn't going to be a large mob of people at CPHS Friday night because, strange as it may seem. Some people don't like to sit outdoors in sub-freezing cold in November.
Go figure.

The good news is: If you show up right before the kickoff, you’ll be able to stroll right into the stadium and find a good, cold place to sit.


The HISTORY: This is the 12th meeting of CP and Merrillville in the last six seasons and this series, according to CP records, Merrillville leads the all-time series 45-37-1. 
But the recent history is what’s odd. I do not remember a team that lost to a rival during the regular season three years in a row and came back and defeated that same rival in sectional play three years in a row. It does not make sense.

That’s why, no matter what I say on the rest of this page, I can confirm that I really have no idea who’s going to win this Friday.


2014: CP (8-2), Merrillville (6-6)
9-6-14: CP 21, Merrillville 20 (OT)
10-24-14: Merrillville 45, CP 42

2015: CP (1-9), Merrillville (7-5)
9-4-15: Merrillville 40, CP 0
10-23-15: Merrillville 22, CP 12

2016: CP (6-6), Merrillville (5-6)
9-2-16: Merrillville 41, CP 28
11-4-16: CP 24, Merrillville 19

2017: CP (7-5), Merrillville (1-9)
9-1-17: Merrillville 34, CP 26
10-27-17: CP 23, Merrillville 14

2018: CP (5-7), Merrillville (7-4)
9-6-18: Merrillville 26, CP 21
11-2-14: CP 17, Merrillville 13

2019: CP (6-4), Merrillville (9-1)
9-6-19: Merrillville 27, CP 24 (OT)
11-8-19: Merrillville at CP 7 p.m.

CLASS 6A Sectional Title Games
1: No. 4 MERRILLVILLE [9-1] at CROWN POINT [6-4]
2: Penn [6-4] at Warsaw [8-2]
3: (Fort Wayne) Carroll [7-3] at No. 2 Homestead [10-0]
4: Westfield [6-4] at No. 5 Carmel [7-3]
5: No. 8 Brownsburg [7-3] at Zionsville [4-6]
6: Southport [7-3] at No. 10 Ben Davis [6-4]
7: Lawrence North [4-6] at No. 7 Warren Central [7-3]
8: Franklin Central [5-5] at Center Grove [5-5]


The 'Distant Replay'...


Merrillville defeats Bulldogs 24-21 in OT,

after amazing back-and-forth contest



A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Team 1 2 3 4 OT F
MERRILLVILLE (3-0, 1-0 DAC) 0 14 7 13 6 24
CROWN POINT (1-2, 0-1 DAC) 0 6 13 7 3 21

Friday, September 6, 2019 -  65 degrees and North winds at 10-15 mph at kickoff - Duneland Athletic Conference opener at CROWN POINT, Ind.

1st QtrNo Scoring.
2nd Qtr
MERRILLVILLE (7-0) Damian Dixon, 3-yard run. 41-yard drive, 3 plays. 1:59 min. Time of Possession (TOP). Austin Pupek kick. 11:29 left.
CROWN POINT (3-7) Sammy Brewer, 42-yard field goal. 37-yard drive, 7 plays. 4:17 min TOP. 9:27 left.
MERRILLVILLE (14-3) MERRILLVILLE (14-3) Anthony Mitchell, 55-yard interception return. Pupek kick. 3:09 left.
3rd Qtr: MERRILLVILLE (21-3) Armani Glass, 27-yard pass from Aahric Whitehead. 47-yard drive, 4 plays. 1:24 min. TOP. Pupek kick. 7:05 left.
Tysen Cazy, 19-yard pass from Will Pettit. 44-yard drive, 7 plays. 1:10 min. TOP. David O’Toole, 2-point conversion pass from Pettit. 4:46 left.
Sammy Brewer, 43-yard field goal. 15-yard drive, 5 plays. 2:17 TOP. 2:17 left.

4th QtrCROWN POINT (21-21) Tysen Cazy, 6-yard pass from Will Pettit. 73-yard drive, 11 plays. 4:06 min. TOP. Sammy Brewer kick. 7:03 left.

1st Overtime: CROWN POINT (24-21) Sammy Brewer 21-yard field goal.
MERRILLVILLE (27-24) Jeremiah Howard, 16-yard (3rd down) pass from Aahric Whitehead.




MERRILLVILLE (40 carries, 139 yards, one TD): Damian Dixon (HB) 20 carries, 92 yards one TD; Aahric Whitehead (QB) 10 carries (minus 15 yards) 4 sacks (minus-41); Edward Akins (HB) 1 (minus-2 yards); Peter Rodriguez (QB) 9 carries, 64 yards.

CROWN POINT (21 carries, 38 yards): Matthew Walters (HB) 12 carries, 21 yards; Davian Lira (HB) 7-12 yards; Will Pettit (QB) 2-5 yards.


MERRILLVILLE: Aahric Whitehead (QB) 12 of 18, 143 yards, 2 TDs; Peter Rodriguez (QB) 2 of 4, 43 yards.
CROWN POINT: Will Pettit (QB) 14 of 31, 128 yards 2 TDs, 2 INTs.


MERRILLVILLE: Jeremiah (WR) 6-55 yards, one TD; Armani Glass (WR) 4-95 yards, Xzavier Shell (WR) 2-11 yards; Eddie Drake (RB) 1-12 yards; Raleigh Roberson (WR) 1-11 yards.

CROWN POINT: Tysen Cazy (WR) 6 catches, 45 yards, 2 TDs; Felix Meeks (TE) 2-19 yards; Matthew Walters (HB) 1-9 yards; Ben Uran (TE) 2-44 yards; Davian Lira (RB) 1 (minus-3) yards.

MERRILLVILLE: 295 yards, 15 first downs, 2 turnovers (2 interceptions).
CROWN POINT: 166 yards, seven first downs, 2 turnovers (2 interceptions).


Click Here for free MP3 Podcast.


CROWN POINT (09-05-2019) Nine weeks ago, it looked like Merrillville was going to roll over Crown Point. The Pirates led 21-3 and the home crowd started thinking about what they were going to do after the game. Pirate senior Jeremiah Howard’s leaping catch in the end zone won the game in overtime for the Merrillville, but lost in that finish was CP’s rally from a 21-3 deficit.

There seemed to be some disbelief with the Pirates that CP was rallying in a game the Pirates’ dominated statistically. Unexplainable things seem to happen to Merrillville against CP. When Sammy Brewer hit a 43-yard field goal late in the third quarter there was distinct feeling that something was up. The final play was memorable. And it was 3rd-and-16. Had Howard not made his TD catch, Merrillville faced a nearly impossible fourth down.

2019 (6A) Merrillville (9-1)
7-4 (2018), 1-9 (2017), 5-6 (2016), 7-5 (2015)

Coach Brad Seiss (5th year) 29-25
8-23 (W) 48-20 vs. (2A) Andrean (8-3)
8-30 (W) 21-0 (4A) Hobart (9-2)
9-6 (W) 27-24 (OT) at (6A) CROWN POINT (6-4)

9-13 (W) 46-7 (6A) PORTAGE (1-9)
9-20 (W) 46-7 at (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (4-6)
9-28 (W) 21-0 (5A) LaPORTE (3-7)

10-4 (L) 28-29 vs. (5A) VALPARAISO (10-0)
10-11 (W) 41-21 at (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (3-7)
10-18 (W) 27-20 (6A) CHESTERTON (6-4)

6A Sectional 1
11-1 (W) 27-20 Jefferson (9-1)
11-8 (Fri) at CROWN POINT (6-4)


11-15 (Fri.) home vs. Penn (7-4) or Warsaw (9-2)


Merrillville Update:

Merrillville is coming off a big home field win over 6A No. 2 Jefferson 27-20 last week in a game where they never trailed. Senior halfback Damian Dixon scored to break a 20-20 tie with 8:15 to go in the game and the Pirate defense held on against the state’s highest scoring (55 points a game) team.

The Pirates' biggest weapon last week was senior quarterback Peter Rodriguez, who subs in for starter Aahric Whitehead (5-11, 180) and turns a strong Pirate passing offense into an option running attack. Even though it's obvious that Merrillville is more likely to run with Rodriguez, the Pirates' habit of shuffling QBs often catches defenses off guard.

Merrillville likes to run left behind tackle Martes Lewis (6-7, 325) and last week, they paired him with guard Kenyai Fuller-Smith (6-2, 305). Near the goal line last week, Merrillville switched Lewis to right tackle and ran behind him.

Merrillville has top flight receivers with senior Jeremiah Howard (5-11, 170) and junior slot receiver Armani Glass (5-7, 150). In the middle of the field, the Pirates don't use a tight end often, preferring to space four receivers or three receivers and a slot back. Near the goal line, you may see a tight end and a slot back. Merrillville averages 33 points a game, but the bigger deal is that they haven't been held to less than 21 in any game.

Defensively, the Pirates are small but fast. Nose guard Kenneth Grant (6-3, 335) is hard to push around and end Khris Walton (6-1, 205) has 10 quarterback sacks. Among the starters linebacker Devin Sanders (5-11, 215) is the largest player other than Grant.

Jefferson ran the ball 40 times for 315 yards last week, but Jeff had an all-state candidate and 1,000-yard rusher in Marquis Munoz. Crown Point doesn’t have anybody like that, but Jeff ran left a lot over the right side of the Pirate line. The Bulldogs will certainly test that right side Friday.

Merrillville is very aggressive defensively and it's very difficult to run wide on them. The Pirates do have some issues with penalties and they can be drawn offside with a staggered snap count. Walton is a great pass rusher and he needs special attention.

The Pirate placekicking game is inconsistent at best. Kickoffs won't reach the end zone, so look for the Pirates to angle the ball away from CP’s deep return men.

Merrillville had a big game last week but this game is bigger for them. The senior class has been eliminated by CP at the sectional every year in school. The Pirates will be very motivated.

2019 (6A) Crown Point (6-4)
5-7 (2018) 7-5 (2017) 6-6 (2016), 1-9 (2015)
Coach Kevin Enright (7th year) 46-41

8-23 (L) 19-21 at (4A) Lowell (7-4)
8-30 (W) 24-0 (4A) Highland (3-6)
9-6 (L) 24-27 (OT) (6A) MERRILLVILLE (9-1)
9-13 (W) 10-0 at (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (3-6)
9-20 (W) 22-16 at (6A) PORTAGE (1-8)
9-27 (L) 14-31 (5A) VALPARAISO (10-0)
10-4 (W) 21-10 (5A) LaPORTE (3-7)
10-11 (L) 14-27 at (6A) CHESTERTON (6-4)
10-18 (W) 28-21 (5A) MICH. CITY (4-6)

6A Sectional 1
11-1 (W) 22-7 at Lake Central (3-7)
11-8 (Fri) vs. Merrillville (9-1)

11-15 (Fri.) at Penn (7-4) or home vs. Warsaw (9-2)



Crown Point was okay in last week’s 22-7 win over Lake Central. The Bulldogs did not appear to get anyone hurt so it was a win-win. CP did not run the ball especially well at Lake Central, gaining just 120 yards on 37 carries, but it was a good night for junior QB Will Pettit who was 16 of 29 for 231 yards and two TDs.

Pettit has eight TD passes in his last three games, but he also has five interceptions. I'm not sure how the cold weather (coldest night of the year) will affect either teams’ passing attack. The Bulldogs will look to isolate their tall receivers Tysen Cazy (6-2, 180), David O’Toole (6-1, 180) and Ben Uran (6-5, 215) against Merrillville’s smaller defensive backs.

It's hardly a secret strategy, but if CP can run the ball even semi-effectively, and if they can block (or neutralize) the Pirate pass rush, the Bulldogs will fly the ball deep down the sidelines looking for big plays.

Jeff tried some screen passes or inside handoffs to slow the Pirate pass rush.

Defensively, CP had four QB sacks in the earlier meeting with Merrillville but this game will come down to whether CP’s defensive secondary can handle Merrillville’s receivers, especially Howard and Glass.

CP has an edge in the kicking game with Sammy Brewer who has been good from 40 yards in. Again, the weather may affect the kicking game as well as the passing game.

This is the championship game that CP knew they’d play all season. The Bulldogs haven't defeated a team with a winning record this fall, but none of the earlier 10 games have any relevance to this night.

CP’s last three sectional titles were won on the road. To play a championship game on your home field is a gift few players get and CP’s senior class figures to be ready.


at Crown Point Stadium - Capacity: 4,800


SAGARIN RATINGS: Merrillville by 18.

I think this spread is a little high. The Pirates beat Chesterton by seven and Chesterton beat CP by 13. But the gap here may not come from common opponents or the earlier matchup. In nonconference play, look at the two teams Merrillville defeated. Hobart (9-2) and Andrean (8-3). Both have had big winning seasons and are favored to grab sectional championships this Friday.
If Merrillville does not go deep into the state tournament this year, it won't be because they have not been tested. On the computer, the Pirates have played the 25th toughest schedule in the entire state.



CROWN POINT (11-08-2019) Both teams will have to overcome fumbles and dropped passes on this night. There’s no way around that with the cold conditions. That leaves the decision in who can run the ball better.

Merrillville senior Peter Rodriguez rushes for 100 yards and two TDs as the Pirates take control in the second half.

Crown Point needs to get three turnovers and rush for 150 yards to win this game. The Bulldogs will get the three turnovers, but CP won't be able to run the ball on a night when that will be a necessity. Merrillville sweeps the season series to win the sectional championship.



Copyright © 2019 USA-365.com and Meyer Multimedia Services, a division of Meyer Broadcasting Corp.  All rights reserved.
Revised: November 08, 2019 .