Week 3 - Football Game of the Week Preview

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

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Crown Point starts their Labor Day weekend by visiting their 'home away from home.' This Friday's CP-Merrillville game will be the ninth time CP has faced the Pirates in the last five seasons and the fifth time the Bulldogs have played at Merrillville in the last five years. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 31, 2018 (Lightning delay - resumes Saturday, Sept. 1 at 12noon CDT.)

Where:  Merrillville High School, 2 blocks east of 68th and Broadway in Merrillville, IN.

TV/Radio/Internet: The only live broadcast outlet is the Live Internet audio stream on www.USA-365.com.

Enrollment: CROWN POINT - 2,805; MERRILLVILLE – 2,200.

WEATHER: More humid. Warmer than last week. There may be some rain early Friday, so the artificial turf might be a little slick. These are both big schools with plenty of players so neither side should wear down. It will be a difficult night again for anyone who plays on both offense and defense. The warm, humid weather is predicted to extend into September. Good for fans. Not so good for the boys on the field.


PARKING: Highland didn't have a ton of parking for CP followers last week. Merrillville does. Even if you arrive after 6:30 p.m., I’m betting there will be a space for you in the lot behind the home grandstand. This is CP fans favorite ‘road trip’. A half hour after the game ends, everybody is back home.


WHAT's AT STAKE: This is a pivotal game of the season. Both teams are 1-1, but it won't matter if they win Friday.
If Valparaiso and Michigan City are the favorites to win the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC), then both the Pirates and Bulldogs need to start out league play with a win. Both teams play this game with the knowledge that they almost certainly will meet again in Class 6A Sectional 1. Since Class 6A began as a playoff bracket in 2014, CP and Merrillville have met in sectional play all four years.


The HISTORY: Merrillville has been a rival for Crown Pont since they began playing varsity football in 1946 and for the first 14 years of Pirate football. CP and Merrillville met in the season opener in 1983 and every year after that until 1996. In 1997, the Crown Point-Merrillville game moved to the third week of the season where it is now.

The history of their series isn’t as exact as it might be. The CP football program says this is the 78th meeting of the Pirates and Bulldogs with Merrillville leading the series 41-34-1. According to the web site: Northern Indiana football.com, this will be the 83rd meeting of CP and Merrillville (Merrillville leads the series 46-35-1), only Lowell (101 games) has played CP more often.

In the last 10 years, Merrillville has eliminated Crown Point from the state tournament five times. But, while Merrillville has won the last two regular season ‘week three’ meetings, CP has eliminated the Pirates from Sectional 1 play in each of the past two years.

This is a premier Northwest Indiana rivalry because both sides have had a lot of success. And because they are on an unavoidable collision course. Class 6A teams in Lake County are required to beat ‘the team next door’ to win league or sectional titles. Lake Central has to beat Merrillville and CP. Merrillville has to beat LC and CP, etc.

You can draw a 10-mile circle around all three schools. It's a curse and a blessing. It's also not the way it is in the other playoff brackets.

Warren Central and Carmel are league rivals who are little more than 10 miles apart, but they can't meet until the semistate level of the Class 6A state playoffs. The Indianapolis Metropolitan League is the state’s most powerful football conference. But the brackets make it look a little better than it is.

Carmel and Center Grove are in the 8-team Metro league, but can't meet until the state finals.

But Crown Point has to defeat Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) and border school rival Lake Central or Merrillville (or both) every year to get out of the sectional. There are six Class 6A teams in Northwest Indiana and four of them play in 6A Sectional 1.

Until and unless the format of the state tournament changes, Crown Point and Merrillville, neighbor communities, are almost guaranteed to face each other twice every season in varsity football. I don't think either side is unhappy with that, but the familiarity makes it tougher to continue to beat the same school.

The 'Distant Replay'...


Team 1 2 3 4 F
CROWN POINT (1-2, 1-0 DAC) 0 10 0 0 10
Merrillville (1-2, 0-1 DAC) 7 0 0 0 7

Friday, September 5, 2008,  65 degrees, dry, Duneland Athletic Conference opener at MERRILLVILLE, IN

1st Qtr MERRILLVILLE (7-0)  Joey Nelson recovered Zach Raspopovich's fumble in the end zone.  81-yard drive, 17 plays.  Ryan Stokes kick. 5:32 left.
2nd QtrCROWN POINT (3-7)  Michael Lipton, 27-yard field goal.  22-yard drive, 6 plays.  4:03 left.
Danny Osojnicki, 12-yard pass from Marcus Shrewsbury. 47-yard drive, 7 plays after Scott Hannon's interception at the Merrillville 49.  Michael Lipton kick.  0:08 left.
3rd Qtr
No scoring.
4th QtrNo scoring.

CROWN POINT (38 carries, 47 yards):
  Marcus Shrewsbury (QB) 17 carries, 20 yards (2 sacks, minus-16); Nick Bruno (HB) 1 carry, minus-1 yards; 
Mason Popovich (HB) 15 carries, 24 yards; Mike Kozlowski (FB) 3 carries, 1 yard; John Hannon (FB) 1 carry, 0 yards; Kyle Bacon (HB) 1 carry, 3 yards.

MERRILLVILLE (24 carries, 102 yards):
  Denzel Pierce (HB) 18 carries, 88 yards; Zach Raspopovich (QB) 6 carries, 14 yards.

Marcus Shrewsbury (QB) 3-of-14, 34 yards, TD, 0 interceptions; 
Zach Raspopovich (QB) 8-of-22, 35 yards, 4 interceptions.

Danny Osojnicki (WR) 1-12 yards, TD; Nate Haverstock (WR) 2-22 yards;  
Robbie Jordan (WR) 1-9 yards; Keith Thomas (WR) 1-6 yards; Sanchez Tate (HB) 1-6 yards; Keith Dockery (WR) 1-5 yards; Denzel Pierce (HB) 3-8 yards.

CROWN POINT (0); MERRILLVILLE (5) 4 interceptions, one fumbeld punt.



MERRILLVILLE – Ten years ago this week, Crown Point was 0-2 and needed a break. A quarter into the annual ‘week three’ game with Merrillville, the Bulldogs were down 7-0 and they REALLY needed a break.

They got one when Scott Hannon intercepted a pass from sophomore quarterback Zach Raspopovich in the final two minutes of the half. CP, which had lost its first two games 7-0 and 13-3, finally scored when Marcus Shrewsbury tossed a TD pass to Danny Osojnicki.

CP held on to win and it was all defense. Four pass interceptions, two by Hannon, gave the Bulldogs the upset win.

Upset? There was no way CP should have beaten Merrillville on this night.

Crown Point would win just two other games the rest of the 2008 season and they would lose 42-3 to Merrillville in a Sectional 1 rematch that year. The Pirates? They would win the 2008 (Then) Class 5A sectional with victories over CP, Munster and Chesterton before losing to Penn 19-0 in regional play. In 2009, Merrillville would go 12-2 with Raspopovich at quarterback while the 2009 Bulldogs would again be 3-7.

Marcus Shrewsbury would go on to be a wrestling state champion for CP. Zach Raspopovich would pass for 25 touchdowns and 4,169 yards (2nd all-time at Merrillville) in three seasons. Pirate halfback Denzel Pierce, a sophomore on this night, would rush for 3,572 yards in three seasons.

Nick Bruno played halfback and linebacker for CP in 2008. He’s now the freshman football coach at CP. Kevin Enright was the defensive coordinator for Crown Point 10 years ago. He’s now the Bulldogs’ head coach. Chip Pettit was CP’s head coach on this night 10 years ago. He’s now the principal of Crown Point high school.


4-7 (2017), 5-6 (2016), 4-6 (2015), 6-5 (2014)
Coach Brad Seiss (14-21) 4th year / DAC games in CAPS

8-17 (W) 20-14 (3A) Andrean (1-1)
8-24 (L) (6A) Penn (2-0)
8-31 (Fri) (6A) CROWN POINT (1-1)
9-7 (Fri) at (6A) PORTAGE (0-2)
9-14 (Fri) (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (1-1)
9-21 (Fri) at (5A) LaPORTE (0-2)
9-28 (Fri) (6A) VALPARAISO (0-2)
10-5 (Fri) (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (2-0)
10-12 (Fri) at (6A) CHESTERTON (2-0)

Class 6A Sectional 1
10-29 (Fri) vs. Lake Central, Portage and CROWN POINT



Junior quarterback Aahric Whitehead (5-11, 175) has thrown four TD passes in two games, but two interceptions were run back for touchdowns in the loss to Penn. Tiny wide receiver Armani Glass (5-6, 135) has caught touchdown passes of five, 36 and 77 yards. The Pirates will move ‘little No. 1’ around in four and five wide receiver formations. Defenses can't lose track of him.

Defensively, let's just say tackle Justin Ramsey (6-0, 293) is a problem and leave it with that. On the video, it looks like his lack of height actually makes him tougher to block because you can't get leverage on him. He’ll be a challenge for Crown Pont or anyone the Pirates play.

With all that said, the Pirates have been less than perfect on offense with six turnovers. Merrillville has no rushing touchdowns so far and the Pirates aren’t a ball control team that can run the ball and the clock.

You’ll notice some very big Pirates including junior Martes Lewis (6-6, 290) and freshman Kenneth Grant (6-3, 336) along with Ramsey (6-0, 293). So far, the Merrillville size hasn’t seemed to intimidate the opposition.

Linebacker Anthony Swims (5-9, 170) might be the Pirates’ best player. He intercepted two passes last year in Merrillville’s 34-26 win at CP. He’s getting carries at running back this year as well. Pass coverage is a Pirate strength. They know that CP’s Tysen Cazy (6-3 180) caught eight passes last week at Highland and they’ll have a plan for him.

Junior place kicker Nike Djukic (5-10, 160) booted a 22-yarder last week against Penn. The Pirates led Penn 10-7 in the second quarter.



2018 (6A) Crown Point (1-1)
7-5 (2017) 6-6 (2016), 1-9 (2015), 8-2 (2014)
Coach Kevin Enright (7th year) 37-30

8-17 (L) 7-17 (4A) Lowell (1-1)
8-24 (Fri) at (4A) Highland (0-2)
8-31 (Fri) at (6A) MERRILLVILLE (1-1)
9-7 (Fri) (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (2-0)
9-14 (Fri) (6A) PORTAGE (0-2)
9-21 (Fri) at (6A) VALPARAISO (0-2)
9-28 (Fri) at (5A) LaPORTE (0-2)
10-6 (Fri) (6A) CHESTERTON (1-1)
10-13 (Fri) at (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (1-1)

6A State tournament
10-27 (Fri) vs. Portage, Lake Central or MERRILLVILLE


Crown Point has been strong defensively in the first two weeks, allowing just 310 total yards, 20 first downs and 27 total points. Adam Hillard (6-0, 190) leads the Bulldogs with 12 solo tackles while Ethan Potosky’s 18 tackles overall leads the team. The Bulldogs have allowed just 16 completed passes in two games and that will be tested Friday against the pass-friendly Pirates.

Sophomore quarterback Will Pettit (6-2, 190) is 23 of 42 for 196 yards so far and junior Tysen Cazy has 11 catches for 124 yards.

The offensive line can't be happy with 55 carries for 158 yards (2.9 yards per carry) but seniors Scott Mills (33 carries, 91 yards) and Christian Berry (16 carries, 85 yards) did find room last week at Highland.

Punter Collin Flavin (31.8 yards per boot on 12 kicks) has been good. CP hasn’t done a lot with kick returns yet.


at Merrillville's Demaree Stadium - Capacity: 7,000


SAGARIN RATINGS: Merrillville by 10.

This spread has to do with Merrillville’s competitive showing against two ranked teams. On the computer it's better to lose to Penn than it is to defeat Highland. The Lowell team that topped CP also lost to Portage 7-3 last week. Merrillville has played the tougher schedule so far. For the record, the computer is 2-0 with CP so far predicting they would lose to Lowell and defeat Highland.



MERRILLVILLE (08-31-2018) This game could break big (14-20 points) either way. CP’s offense is inexperienced and the Pirates have turned the ball over a lot in the first two weeks. But both teams seem to have a lot of potential in the passing game.

But both defenses are superior to the offense they are facing. So let's come at this prediction a different way.

Six turnovers. Four for the Pirates and two for CP. Both teams pass for 200 yards. But I’m going to keep predicting a 100-yard game for Scott Mills until it happens. Like most games, the team that leads in rushing yardage and trails in turnovers, wins. CP runs it more and turns it over less.

And they meet again in eight weeks.



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Revised: August 31, 2018 .