Week 3 - Football Game of the Week Preview

6A Merrillville (0-2) at
6A Crown Point (1-1)

Merrillville will need juniors Marc Guererro (30) and Cam Wright (3) Friday when they travel to Crown Point. (Photo by Mark Smith)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

09-01-2017  
 

When:  7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 1, 2017

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

Tickets$6
TV/Radio/Internet: Live updates of all local scores all night on WLPR (89.1) FM. Live Internet audio stream on www.USA-365.com.

Enrollment: Merrillville - 2,256; Crown Point - 2,815.
 

WEATHER: Another perfect night for football. Might seem a little cool for folks in the stands but for a player, this is where it's at. Mid-60s for the kickoff. Upper-50s for the second half. No threat of rain. No high winds. No problems.

 

PARKING: There should be plenty of room. High school sports fan followings are the ultimate bandwagon. Normally the CP-Merrillville game draws a solid crowd, but the Pirates are 0-2 and haven't scored much in either game. I'd like to be wrong, but I'm thinking there will be plenty of good seats (and parking spaces) available Friday.

 

WHAT's AT STAKE: This is the night the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) begins play. All eight DAC teams play league games the next seven weeks. So, no matter what you did the first two week's you get a clean slate here. If you win, you're tied for first place.

So this is a big game and it is almost certainly a playoff preview because in Class 6A, there are four team sectionals (most other classes have eight) and CP, Lake Central, Portage and Merrillville are in the same playoff bracket. Odds are good, CP and Merrillville will meet again in October.

 

The HISTORY: Since 1993, the Merrillville-Crown Point football game has been the third game of the year and the DAC opener on the Friday of the Labor Day weekend. It's somewhat like basketball teams that play the night before Thanksgiving. The atmosphere is usually pretty good for this one.
 

Including Merrillville's two-game sweep in '85, Crown Point and Merrillville have met 47 times in 32 seasons with Merrillville leading 29-18. Merrillville swept two games from CP in 1985, 92, 93, 2012 and 2015. CP swept the Pirates in 1987, 95 and 2006.

Merrillville has won eight of the last 11 meetings to pull ahead in the all-time series 46-34-1, but CP won the big one last year, holding off the Pirates 24-20 for the 6A Sectional 1 title.

Merrillville began playing football in 1956 and they played Crown Point every year for the first 30 seasons. Then some genius decided that schools three miles apart should not meet. In the interest of full disclosure, the first season Merrillville did not play Crown Point was the 1976 season when they finished 11-1 and defeated Cathedral 28-24 for what was then (in the early days of the IHSAA state tournament) the Class 3A state championship. In 1983, it was decided that Merrillville and Crown Point should open the football season against each other. They did so for 14 years and then the game was moved to week three where it is now.

In the last 13 seasons CP and Merrillville have met twice. There is no better rivalry in Northwest Indiana. These teams play in the same league, the same sectional and some Merrillville students actually live in the northern edge of CP.


 

(6A) Merrillville (0-2)
5-6 (2016), 7-5 (2015), 6-6 (2014), 9-2, (2013)
coach Brad Seiss (3rd year) 12-13, all kickoffs at 7 p.m.
Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) league games in CAPS
8-18 (L) 13-42 3A Andrean (2-0)
8-25 (L) 0-7 at 6A Penn (1-1)
9-1 (F) at 6A CROWN POINT (1-1)
9-8 (F) 6A PORTAGE (0-2)
9-15 (F) at 5A MICHIGAN CITY (1-1)
9-22 (F) 6A LaPORTE (1-1)
9-29 (F) at 6A VALPARAISO (2-0)
10-6 (F) at LAKE CENTRAL (1-1)
10-13 (F) CHESTERTON (2-0)
 

Class 6A Sectional
...with CP, Portage and Lake Central

MERRILLVILLE - Merrillville obviously plays a very difficult schedule. Andrean and Penn are usually Top-10 teams, even though both are outside the Top-10 right now. The Pirates play five of nine on the road and every DAC team is competitive this year. There is urgency for the Pirates to win Friday because there are not a lot of games in which they will be favored this fall.

MERRILLVILLE UPDATE:

MERRILLVILLE -
What I don't know is whether junior quarterback Cam Wright can play for the Pirates. There's no 'injury reports' in high school football and Wright, a two-year starter, left last week's 7-0 loss at Penn with an undisclosed injury. Wright missed the final eight games of the 2016 season when he was hurt. Without him it's going to be a long walk on a dark night for the Pirates. This is a team that had just three returning starters. It's not a shock they've only scored 12 points in two games.

Clark transfer Markus Fielder (5-10, 168) is a dangerous receiver and big Brandon Streck (6-2, 245) is a veteran on the large line that includes Anthony Atria (6-5, 266) and Ryan Atkins Frazier (6-4, 285). But if Wright can't go, the Pirates are going to have to get very creative to move the ball at all. Soccer player Megan Wise doesn't have a lot of range, but she's a good kicker if the Pirates can get close enough. Wright was 1 of 19 passing last week and carried the ball 10 times for 53 yards.

Fielder was a QB at Clark and he may be the Pirates QB Friday.
 
Defensively, it's much better. Penn needed an 88-yard run by Ryan Whiteman in the third quarter to top the Pirates 7-0. Merrillville's strength is in the secondary where Marc Guererro (5-10, 175) and Anthony Swims (5-10,165) are returning starters.



(6A) Crown Point (1-1)
6-6 (2016), 1-9 (2015), 8-2 (2014), 6-4 (2013)
coach Kevin Enright (6th year) 30-26, all kickoffs at 7 p.m.
Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) league games in CAPS
8-18 (L) 13-27 at 4A Lowell (2-0)
8-25 (W) 35-6 4A Highland (0-2)
9-1 (F) 6A MERRILLVILLE (0-2)
9-8 (F) 6A at LAKE CENTRAL (1-1)
9-15 (F) at 6A PORTAGE (0-2)
9-22 (F) 6A VALPARAISO (2-0)
9-29 (F) 6A LaPORTE (1-1)
10-6 (F) at CHESTERTON (0-2)
10-13 (F) MICHIGAN CITY (1-1)

Class 6A Sectional

...with Merrillville, Portage and Lake Central

CROWN POINT - Crown Point's schedule hardly ever changes, but it did this year when they swapped out Mishawaka for Highland in week two. Mishawaka was quality competition, but the travel was difficult and weather created some delays and postponements that wouldn't matter as much with a local foe.

Northwest Indiana teams got creative in week two with six of them playing teams from Illinois. I don't see Crown Point doing that. The DAC schedule will be difficult this season and I don't think they have to apologize for playing a smaller school that has not had success lately. Still, I'd want Highland to be a little more competitive in future years or CP will probably be looking for a new team to play in that second week.

CROWN POINT Update:

CROWN POINT - The Bulldogs were very good on offense against Highland, rolling up 463 yards on 54 plays from scrimmage. QB Ryan Bolda was 8-of-12 for 111 yards and halfback Scott Mills gained 110 yards on just six carries off the bench. Tyler Gomez ran 13 times for 73 yards and junior Chris Berry gained 73 yards and two TDs on five runs. The CP offensive line made things easy for those with the ball (23 first downs) and Crown Point did not fumble or throw an interception.

Defensively, CP held Highland to just 109 yards. Linebacker Caden Watson recorded 13 tackles and junior linebacker Jack Zaleski (6-4, 200) recorded his first two quarterback sacks. Highland was a little outmanned physically by CP but it was a very good game for the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball.


6A MERRILLVILLE (0-2) at 6A CROWN POINT (1-1)


at Crown Point Stadium - Capacity: 4,800

 

SAGARIN RATINGS: Crown Point by 9.
 

The game is relatively close because of the schedule Merrillville has played. CP may be the weakest team the Pirates have played. But Crown Point's loss to Lowell has an undetermined value. Lowell won at Portage, too. Where exactly will they rank in 5 or 6 weeks? Nine points seems about right. For the record, CP was favored by 27 last week and they won by 29.

 

WHAT WILL HAPPEN:

CROWN POINT (09-01-2017) Crown Point's size on the offensive line is going to cause problems for the Pirates. When the Bulldogs got the running game going last week, Highland couldn't stand up against them. I don't know if QB Cam Wright is playing for Merrillville, but I will assume he is not available. The Pirates play a scoreless first quarter, but a Ryan Bolda pass to Ben Fridrich gives CP a 7-0 second quarter edge. Fridrich adds a short field goal and the Bulldogs lead 10-0 at the half.
 

Crown Point dominates the time of possession and Tyler Gomez scores a second TD early in the second half. Merrillville will deny CP near the goal line repeatedly, but it will be a career night for Fridrich, who will post four field goals. CP has allowed just one rushing TD this season in two games. The defense has been better than expected.

Even with Wright, Merrillville had major problem scoring. If he does not play, Crown Point wins here by a significant margin.

 

CROWN POINT 26,  MERRILLVILLE 7


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Revised: September 01, 2017 .