Week 5 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Portage (2-2) at 
Crown Point (2-2) 

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


After last week's rain event, Crown Point is hoping for blue skies and green grass
(and artificial turf) for the Homecoming game this Friday night on the campus of Crown Point high school. (Photo by Mark Smith.)

When:  7:00 p.m. Friday, September 16, 2016
Where:  Crown Point High School - 1500 S. Main (one mile south of the downtown square), Crown Point, Ind.
TV/Radio/Internet: No 'over-the-air' radio. Live updates of all local scores all night on WLPR (89.1) FM. Live Internet audio stream on www.USA-365.com.

Enrollment: CROWN POINT - 2,664; PORTAGE - 2,486.

WEATHER: The forecast looked good last week and then it rained all night. We haven't had a good football night yet. The temperatures should be in the upper-60s by halftime this Friday, but there is a chance of rain sometime during the day. Eventually, we'll get a cool, dry fall night. It's 50-50 whether it will be this Friday.

PARKING: Portage didn't bring a big crowd to Lowell (their only other road game so far) three weeks ago and they don't figure to bring a large following on this night. The Indians haven't been a winning team recently and fans trend to stay home (or attend just home games) when the team isn't playing well. There seems to be new interest in Portage football this year and the Indians have played well, but we forget sometimes that this is a long Friday night drive in traffic for the Porter County teams. Another reason teams should try to play a game or two on Saturdays later in the season. You could play the junior varsity game Friday or Monday night. Might increase the crowd at both games.

WHAT's AT STAKE: Both teams are 1-1 in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) so this night determines who moves on in the race for first place and who is virtually eliminated. I'm not sure either team began the year obsessed with the DAC title in 2016. Portage is the only team Crown Point defeated last season, but I don't think they hold that against the Bulldogs. Both teams finished the year with just one win. Now, both teams are 2-2 and a loss isn't the end of the world for either. Friday's winner is going to get very excited about the second half of the season.

The HISTORY: Poertage and Crown Point have little history. While Portage began playing CP in varsity football in 1957, '58 and '59, the series didn't get going consistently until the two schools agreed to open the season against each other from 1973 to 1982. In 1977, Portage was 12-1 and one one of the early IHSAA state titles came under coach Les Klein. The odd thing about that title was that Portage was 2-8 in 1976 and 2-8 again in 1978. I can't explain it.

This has always been a game played in the first half of the season (game 5 is half of the 10-game season if you count the one playoff game every team gets). In 1994 they rolled to 13 consecutive wins before losing 30-12 to Castle under coach Craig Buzea. That season started a run that saw the Indians go 59-15 in a six-year (1994-1999) span. The school used to be a state power in wrestling and cross country and that prowess has diminished somewhat. The competitiveness of the Duneland Athletic Conference (the rise of teams like Crown Point, which just joined the DAC in 1993) began to weigh on the football program, which has been below .500 in recent years.

Portage was a charter member (Portage, Valparaiso, Chesterton and Hobart are the original four DAC teams) of the Duneland Conference in 1970. The DAC is eight large schools and there's a lack of understanding that one school simply isn't going to stay in the top half of the league in team sports. The rise of former second division teams Chesterton and LaPorte in football in recent years is an example. But Portage seems to be rallying with a split in the last six games.

CP has won the last two games from Portage, but the Indians won 31-3 in 2013. Portage leads the 55-game series 30-25. Every school has rivals by geography or by shared history or epic meetings, but Portage and Crown Point are just teams that are in the same league.

The 'Distant' Replay:

Bulldogs blank Portage 42-0

Team 1 2 3 4 F
CROWN POINT (3-2, 1-2 DAC) 14 14 7 7 42
Portage (1-4, 1-2 DAC) 0 0 0 0 0

Friday, September 18, 2009 - 56 degrees at PORTAGE, IN

1st Qtr CROWN POINT (7-0) Tyler Kral, 10-yard pass from Joe Hopman. 2nd play after Austin Stanley recovered Rashaan Coleman's fumble at the Portage 21. Brett Bayer kick. 10:34 left.
CROWN POINT (14-0) Drew Brueckman, 9-yard pass from Hopman. 34 yard drive, 6 plays after Adam Kutemeier blocked a punt at the Portage 34. Bayer kick. 2:43 left.
2nd Qtr: CROWN POINT  (21-0) Tyler Wells, 26-yard pass from Hopman. 61-yard drive, 6 plays. Bayer Kick. 10:27 left.
CROWN POINT  (28-0) Tristan Peterson, 10-yard run. 58-yard drive, 7 plays. Bayer kick. 4:14 left.
3rd Qtr:  CROWN POINT (35-0) Jake Lindeman, 1-yard run. 80-yard drive, 9 plays. Bayer kick. 7:28 left.
4th Qtr:  CROWN POINT (42-0) Pete Parks, 5-yard run. 80-yard drive, 11 plays. Bayer kick. 10:39 left.

CROWN POINT (37 carries, 176 yards, 3 TDs)
Jake Lindeman (HB) 15 carries, 59 yards, TD; Tristan Peterson (HB) 6-60 yards, TD; Pete Parks (FB) 3-30 yards; Tyler Wells (WR) 3-10 yards, Jamie Johnson (HB) 8-11 yards, Cody Hipp (FB) 2-6 yards.

PORTAGE (23 carries, 104 yards, fumble)
Rashaan Coleman (QB) 19 carries, 72 yards; Hashim Simpson (HB) 2-17 yards; Jeron Blake (FB) 2-15 yards.

CP: Joe Hopman (QB) 11 of 15, 163 yards, 3 TDs;
Portage: Rashaan Coleman (QB) 8 of 25, 58 yards.

CP: Tyler Wells (WR) 2-65 yards, TD; Tyler Kral (TE) 1-10 yards, TD; Drew Breuckman (TE) 1-9 yards, TD; Pete Parks (FB) 2-10 yards; Braxton Rice (WR) 2-54 yards; Tristan Peterson (HB) 1-9 yards; Tyler Smith (WR) 1-3 yards;

PORTAGE: Jason Roman (FB) 1-4 yards; Cody Maldonado (WR) 1-17 yards; Antonio Rodriguez (FB) 2-15 yards; Alvin Best (WR) 2-17 yards; Othie Freeny (WR) 2-5 yards.

CP: 339 yards, 17 first downs, no turnovers;
PORTAGE: 160 yards, 11 first downs, 2 turnovers.

CROWN POINT: This was a time when CP was on the rise and Portage was on the slide. This game was no contest as the Bulldogs outgained Portage 339-160 and led 28-0 at the half. This game was no contest and it would prove to be a predictor. The Indians were 4-6 in 2011 while Crown Point would go on to win their last sectional championship, finishing at 9-4, losing to Penn 20-3.
This was the middle of a six-year period when CP was 39-18. In Portage, 2011 was the start of a slide which, to this day, has the football program with a 55-game record of 17-38. CP defeated Portage twice in 2010 and again in 2012. That's the longest streak of CP wins over Portage since the series began in 1955-1959 when the Bulldogs won the first five meetings between the two schools. Both schools are coming off one-win seasons and a 42-0 victory by either this Friday night seems far-fetched.


PORTAGE - Here's a 2-2 team that could be 4-0. Or 0-4. In wins over Lake Central and Lowell, Portage rallied in the fourth quarter. They had chances to even the score in a 21-7 loss to Mishawaka and led Merrillville before losing 20-14. After a 1-10 season in 2015, the Indians, who have 15 returning starters from last season, have succeeded in becoming competitive against everyone. I just can't tell you a lot about Portage for certain. They look physical up front and hustle to the ball. But they've given up 846 yards rushing (5.2 per carry) in four games. The Indians can't throw the ball a lick, but the running attack (167 carries, 808 yards, 7 TDs in four games) still works. I don't think last week's close loss to Merrillville will bother them. These first four games have probably all been confidence builders for Portage.

QB- Anthony Maceo (5-10, 187) Junior:
Anthony is the key to everything for Portage offensively with 449 yards gained on 89 carries. The key number here is 89 carries. The rest of the team has carried the ball a total of 78 times. Maceo runs the option and it is very deceptive. Statistics show he usually ends up with the ball. Defenses have to make him hand it off, because he's very hard to bring down. As a passer, Maceo is a work in progress with 18 completions in 55 attempts for 359 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He's not big, but he can take a lot of hits and keep coming. If you can't stop Maceo from getting four or five yards on first down, you can't beat this team because they will have the ball all night.

FS - Christian West (5-8, 165) Junior:
West is a two-year starter who has 22 solo tackles from the free safety position in four games and that probably means he's preventing some big plays. Playing behind linebackers Drake Guerero (43 tackles) and Jeremy Torres (22 stops), West is the last line of defense and that may come into play on this night when Crown Point takes a shot down field. He led Portage in tackles in 2015.

PK - Josh Gonzalez (6-0, 170) Senior:
Gonzalez made seven field goals last year in 11 games and was 26 of 29 on extra points. The NWI soccer player of the year, Gonzalez hit a 40-yard field goal last season and there's little doubt he can hit field goals from 50 yards out. In the final minute three weeks ago he connected to beat Lowell 28-27. Josh has seven touchbacks on 17 kickoffs and he is 8-of-9 on extra points. But if its close in the final minute, we know he's good from at least 40 yards in.


CROWN POINT - Crown Point never trailed last week against a Lake Central team they had not defeated in three years. The 17-3 victory had to lift the Bulldogs after losing back-to-back games on the road at Mishawaka and Merrillville. Here's another team that could be 0-4 (two wins are 17-3 and 9-3) or 4-0 (CP's two losses are 10-6 and a 41-28 game where they led 14-0 and 28-21) going into Friday night's game. It's worth mentioning again that Crown Point committed 25 turnovers last year in 10 games. Through four games this fall, CP has just six turnovers. Junior punter James Priddy is averaging 32.1 yards per boot on 23 punts. Junior place-kicker Ben Fridrich was 2-for-2 on extra points in the rain last week and 1-for-1 on field goals, a 31-yard third quarter field goal.

RT - Alex Ristovski (6-1, 250) Senior:
Again, let's let Alex represent right guard Paxton Pittman (6-2, 300) and center Jacob Keaveney (6-1, 285), left guard Nate Marciniec (5-11, 225) and left tackle Andrew Keneson (6-2, 225). Crown Point gained 168 yards rushing on 36 carries, an average of 4.7 per carry last week. For the season, CP has run the ball 135 times for 554 yards (4.1 average) and five TDs. If the Bulldogs can continue to average four yards a carry, they will have a winning season.

RB - Tyler Gomez (5-9, 165) Junior:
There is some question how many yards Gomez got in the wash day win over Lake Central last week. CP's official stat sheet said he carried 22 times for 128 yards, but by my count, Tyler carried 21 times in the second half alone and 39 times (for 130 yards) for the game. A carry or two may have been lost in the game long rain but Gomez just kept going behind his big buddies in the offensive line and Crown Point controlled the game. It was the first game they've won decisively this fall. When teams look at video of the Bulldogs' offense, the first thing they notice now is probably the offensive line and Tyler Gomez.

RB/DB Zach Stewart (5-10, 160) Senior:
I thought that Zach Stewart guarding Lake Central's Josh Benson last week was a key to the win. Rain dampened the pass attack of LC, for sure, but Stewart and the CP secondary limited, who had 16 receptions and four TD catches in the first three games to three catches for 60 yards. One of those was a near interception that Benson appeared to grab away from Stewart. Stewart had six solo tackles on record and he has four interceptions for the season. It will be interesting to see how much Portage wants to throw the ball (just 18 completions all year) in 3rd-and-long situations this Friday night.

Portage (2-2) at CROWN POINT (2-2)

at CP Stadium - capacity: 4,800

Sagarin Computer rankings: CP by 4.

CROWN POINT - How can you choose between these two teams based on results? Both teams have lost to Merrillville. Both have defeated Lake Central. Both have lost to Mishawaka. Both have defeated Lowell. I've never seen that happen before. I don't have any idea how Crown Point is favored here, since the computer can only go by results. Home field? Maybe? But home field isn't worth four points. But keep in mind. Lake Central was a 6-point favorite to beat the Bulldogs last Friday.

CROWN POINT (9-16-2016) This game won't last long, especially if we get a little rain. Both sides like to run the ball and don't trust the passing game a lot. You'll see the 'Wildcat' from CP at times, the no-QB power running attack. You may see a bit of it from Portage, too. After a scoreless first quarter, Griff Govert will break into the scoring column with a short run. Portage ties it up as David Herrod gets lose on an option run. Moving into the third quarter, a Portage fumble will set up Ben Fridrich for a field goal and a 10-7 CP lead. An interception by Zach Stewart sets up Grayson Lynk for a short run and 17-7 edge. Portage rallies for a fourth quarter TD run by QB Anthony Maceo, but the Bulldogs kill a lot of the clock and get a second short field goal from Fridrich. You may remember what I said last week, that CP was not well-suited to face an offense like Lake Central. The Bulldogs won 17-3. Hey, it sounded good when I said it. You may recall that I also said that CP was better suited defensively to face run-oriented teams like Michigan City and LaPorte as opposed to pass-friendly teams like LC and Merrillville. Portage is like those teams, relying on the run, controlling the ball. Sounds good, right?

CROWN POINT 20, Portage 13

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Revised: September 15, 2016 .