Week 3 - Football Game of the Week Preview

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

When the sun sets Friday at Crown Point, the Bulldogs take the field against arch rival Merrillville. (Photo by Mark Smith)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


When:  7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 6, 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.

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

According to the 1986 IHSAA school directory, Crown Point had 1,774 students 33 years ago and Merrillville had 1,482 students. According to the 2005 IHSAA directory, Crown Point had 2,221 students 14 years ago and Merrillville had 2,283 teenagers.

WEATHER: Another cool night. Very welcome for the big boys on the artificial turf. Friday’s scheduled high will be in the mid-70s with second half temperatures in the mid-60s. It appears that we have avoided all the extreme heat for game nights this season. There were no complaints about playing conditions in the first two weeks and none are expected this Friday.


PARKING: This is a big game. Merrillville is undefeated, carrying high expectations and only 15 minutes away. Games at Crown Point are almost never sellouts but this game will come close. I have a theory that consecutive good weather nights encourages students to come out more. Now winning does, too. But, all things being equal, if you came out to last Friday’s home game and the weather was pleasant, you are likely to come out again. Especially if the home team won. Try to get to CPHS by 6:30 p.m. Friday so you and 4,000 of your close personal friends can find a good spot to sit before the kickoff.


WHAT's AT STAKE: For the first time this year, a lot is at stake. This is the opening game of the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) season and, while Valparaiso is the favorite for the DAC title, CP and Merrillville are contenders. The winner of this game Friday becomes a serious contender. Also, there is a vivid oddity to this series. Merrillville has defeated Crown Point in the third week of the season in each of the last three years. Crown Point has defeated Merrillville in Class 6A Sectional 1 in each of the last three season.

I’m older than dirt and I do not remember any two schools doing that to each other three years in a row.


The HISTORY: This is the 11th meeting of CP and Merrillville in the last six seasons and in this series, according to CP records, Merrillville leads the all-time series 44-37-1. 


But Merrillville has had only 12 losing football seasons since World War II.  The 2005 Merrillville team with Division I starters James Aldridge (Notre Dame) and Dexter Larimore (Ohio State) was That Pirate team which defeated the Duneland Conference champ (CP) and the Northern Indiana Conference champ (Penn) in back-to-back games and won the 5A regional title, was probably the best team in the last quarter century in Northwest Indiana.
As far as I can determine, what is now Merrillville (a clearing in the forest was originally named Wiggins Point) was a wagon train trail (it's called Sauk Trail in Illinois) stop on the way to Joliet, Illinois. 
In the mid-1800s two brothers named Dudley and William Merrill settled in the area north of what is now Route 30 and owned a hotel and store. Dudley Merrill's son John was a town trustee.

The names of some places and schools (like Crown Point) take a deep explanation. The names of some places don't.

Morton high school is named after the 14th governor of Indiana named Oliver Morton. Hammond is named after a business man named George Hammond. Munster is named after a postmaster named Jacob Munster. Merrillville is named after a family of folks (who founded the town) named Merrill.

These teams are geographic rivals and, as the schools have grown, the balance of power between the two programs has evened out.

And when Class 6A was created and CP and Merrillville were placed in the game Class 6A Sectional 1, it virtually ensures that the two teams will meet once every year in the regular season and once again in the post-season.

I've said it many times, but this game is a showcase for Northwest Indiana high school football. Two big schools. Two neighbors. In good weather (as we figure to have Friday), the crowds are usually large and lively. Both teams need to win and neither school is ‘down’ from a quality standpoint for very long. If you have never seen a high school football game in person, this one would be an excellent ‘first time.’


The 'Distant Replay'...


Bulldogs' defense forces 4 INTs en route to 10-7 win over Pirates



A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



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 fumbled punt.




CROWN POINT (09-05-2008) Crown Point’s defense grabbed four interceptions in a 10-7 win over the arch-rival Pirates. Merrillville starting quarterback Dolapo McCarthy was injured on this night and could not go. But Merrillville was 12-2 in 2007 and everyone (including me) picked the Pirates to win this game 11 years ago this week.

But four pickoffs, two by senior Scott Hannon, made the Bulldogs unlikely winners.

And this was a major upset. Seven weeks later, the Pirates rolled over CP 42-6 in the sectional quarterfinals. Merrillville won Class 5A Sectional 1 in 2008 before losing to Penn 19-0 in regional play.
Crown Point went on to be 3-7. This three-point win in the third week of the season was the highlight of the 2008 Bulldog season.

In the years that have passed I remember this game for who turned out to be on the field.

Marcus Shrewsbury had skills greater than QB. He was a state champion wrestler who went on to wrestle at Northwestern. Mike Kozlowski went on to be one of the Bulldogs' greatest baseball players.

Then-sophomore Denzel Pierce, who graduated in 2011, went in to be Merrillville’s all-time leading rusher with a total of 3,572 yards. Pierce also scored a school record total for 360 points and was signed to play football at Ball State.

Then-sophomore Zach Raspopovich didn't do well on this night at Crown Point. But in his three year Pirate career (2008-2010), he threw for 4,160 yards, second all-time at Merrillville to his brother Jake, who threw for 5,211 yards from 2009 to 2012.

2019 (6A) Merrillville (2-0)
7-4 (2018), 1-9 (2017), 5-6 (2016), 7-5 (2015)
Coach Brad Seiss (5th year) 22-24

8-23 (W) 48-20 vs. (2A) Andrean (1-1)
8-30 (W) 21-0 (4A) Hobart (0-2)
9-6 (Fri.) at (6A) CROWN POINT (1-1)

9-13 (Fri) (6A) PORTAGE (1-1)
9-20 (Fri.) at (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (1-1)
9-27 (Fri.) (5A) LaPORTE (0-2)

10-4 (Fri.) vs. (5A) VALPARAISO (2-0)
10-11 (Fri.) at (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (1-1)
10-18 (Fri.) vs. (6A) CHESTERTON (2-0)

6A Sectional 1
11-2 (Fri.) sectional quarterfinal vs. Crown Point, (Lafayette) Jefferson or Lake Central.


Merrillville Update:

– Merrillville is one of few teams that could commit five turnovers and win by a shutout 21-0 over Hobart last week. I can't tell how good the Pirates are offensively. Senior quarterback Aahric Whitehead (21 of 32, 293 yards, 4 TDs) splits time with Peter Rodriguez, who ran 13 times for 122 yards last week against Hobart.

End Jeremiah Howard has nine catches for 187 yards and 3 TDs so far. Slot receiver Armani Glass, a 2018 junior all-stater, caught six for 73 yards last Friday. But I can't explain the turnovers. Howard and Glass are both sprinters on the Pirates’ 400 meter relay team in the spring.

The Pirates have not trailed all season at any time so, defensively, Merrillville has been very good. In their 48-20 win over Andrean, the Pirates led 42-6 late in the third quarter.

In the win over Hobart, the Brickies gained just 21 yards on 24 carries. Merrillville has some big people. Sophomore Kenneth Grant (6-3, 335) is hard to move up front and the Pirates have speed in the secondary. Defensive end Khris Walton (6-1, 205) is a regional champion wrestler.

The Merrillville kicking game is not good, but none of the first two games have been close enough to matter.

This is the first road game for the Pirates this year and it will be interesting to see how the younger players perform in front of the first significant hostile crowd they have seen.

2019 (6A) Crown Point (1-1)
5-7 (2018), 7-5 (2017), 6-6 (2016), 1-9 (2015)
Coach Kevin Enright (7th year) 42-38

8-23 (L) 19-21 at (4A) Lowell (1-1)
8-30 (W) 24-0 (4A) Highland (1-1)
9-6 (Fri.) vs. (6A) MERRILLVILLE (2-0)

9-13 (Fri) at (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (1-1)
9-20 (Fri.) at (6A) PORTAGE (1-1)
9-27 (Fri.) vs. (5A) VALPARAISO (2-0)

10-4 (Fri.) vs. (5A) LaPORTE (0-2)
10-11 (Fri.) at (6A) CHESTERTON (2-0)
10-18 (Fri.) vs. (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (1-1)

6A Sectional 1
11-2 (Fri.) sectional quarterfinal vs. Merrillville, Jefferson or Lake Central.



CROWN POINT - Last week’s 24-0 win over Highland was probably not as good as the Bulldogs can play, but it reaffirmed a few assumptions. CP was supposed to have a strong defense and, after allowing 21 first half points at Lowell, CP has not been scored on in the last six quarters.

In two games, CP has allowed 107 yards rushing on 47 carries and 13 pass completions for 201 yards. The Bulldog defense has allowed a total of 11 first downs all season.

None of that matters against Merrillville.

If we’re nit-picking, CP has drawn 16 penalties in two games for 150 yards in losses. The Bulldogs also have no quarterback sacks although they do have four interceptions, two each by Noah Hollendonner and Treston Logan.

The big positive last week on offense was Davian Lira and Matt Walters, who both gained 100 yards rushing. CP abandoned the run game at Lowell when they fell behind by 14 points.

Junior QB Will Pettit has completed 38 of 68 for 468 yards with just one interception. Senior receiver David O’Toole has caught 14 passes for 151 yards.

Sophomore Sammy Brewer booted his first varsity field goal, from 22 yards away.

Crown Point has played well enough to be 2-0, but CP’s season truly begins in week three against Merrillville. It's been that way for years.


at Crown Point Stadium - Capacity: 4,800


SAGARIN RATINGS: Crown Point by 1.

I’m surprised that Crown Point is favored in this game. Merrillville has won two games decisively and while Hobart (0-2) is winless, CP’s win over Highland was hardly unexpected. For the record, CP was a 12-point favorite over Highland last week and they won by 24.



CROWN POINT (09-06-2019) This looks like a game where the defenses are ahead of the offenses.

Peter Rodriguez puts the Pirates ahead 7-0 in the first quarter with a short TD run. CP gets a field goal from Sammy Brewer and the score is 7-3 at the half.

The Bulldog take a 10-7 lead on a TD pass from Will Pettit to Ben Uran and, after an interception, Crown Point takes a 10-point lead on a pass from Pettit to Tysen Cazy.

The Pirates rally with a TD pass from Aahric Whitehead to Jeremiah Howard, but a second CP interception ends the last Merrillville threat.

CP needs two or three Merrillville turnovers to win and they will get them. And the two teams will plan on meeting again in October.



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Revised: September 05, 2019 .