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
CP's offense moves with quarterback Will Pettit (7) and halfback Scott Mills (22). The Bulldogs try to move up in the conference standings Friday night when they host Portage. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  Friday, September 14, 2018 - 7 p.m. kick-off.

Where:  Crown Point High School, One mile south of the CP downtown square at 1500 South Main Street, Crown Point, IN 46307.

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


ENROLLMENT: CROWN POINT - 2,805; Portage – 2,512.

WEATHER: Near perfect. Upper 70s during the day and upper 60s by the second half. I promise you it will not rain. I guarantee it. If it does rain, I will be leaving quickly after the fourth quarter ends so you can't catch me.

PARKING: I don't think a lot of people are coming from Portage for this game. The Indians brought a slim crowd to Lowell three weeks ago and I’d expect about the same at CP. But the home crowd for the Bulldogs should be a good one after CP’s win over Lake Central last week. I may imagine it, but I always think a home win increases the crowd at the next home game. Especially in the student section. Kids want to see their school win.


WHAT's AT STAKE: There never has been a rivalry between Portage and Crown Point. On this Friday night, both teams are 1-1 in Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) play so tonight’s winner will still be in the race (most likely one game out of first place) in league play with four weeks left.

But, as I said last week, there’s four teams in Sectional 1’s two week single-elimination playoff. So when any of these four meet in DAC play, it's no secret they are scouting for the post-season.

The last four opponents for CP this season are teams they most likely will not see (or, in the case of 5As LaPorte and Michigan City, can't possibly see) in the upcoming Class 6A playoffs.


The HISTORY:  Portage began playing varsity football in 1950 and they were state champions in the early days of the IHSAA state tournament in 1977.

Portage was a dominant team in the early 1990s with a 13-1 record in 1994 and a 12-1 mark in 1995 under coach Craig Buzea (107-45, from 1994-2006).

Portage was 81-33 in the 1990s, winning or sharing five DAC championships.

After going 11-2 in 2003 and 8-4 in 2004, football fortunes went downhill. Portage has not won more than six games in any one varsity football season since 2004 and I don’t have a theory as to why. Portage’s, enrollment hasn’t changed significantly in the last 15 years and they’ve had good coaches (Buzea included).

Portage is the largest city in Porter County (about 37,000 ) and it grew from the influx of US Steel Gary steelworkers from World War II through the 1950s and 60s. National Steel opened a mill in Portage in 1959. Portage Township, which dates back to the early 1800s, was originally called 'Twenty Mile Prairie,' a name which speaks for itself and the towns' distance from Michigan City.

Portage had 11,000 people in 1960, 30,000 in 1990 and has 37,000 now. But while it is true that Crown Point high school (2,805) is now larger than Portage (2,512), even though the city of Portage (37,000) is larger than Crown Point (28,000) by quite a bit.

Duneland Athletic Conference

1. MERRILLVILLE (2-0) 3-1
2. Valparaiso (2-0) 2-2
3. CROWN POINT (1-1) 2-2
4. Michigan City (1-1) 2-2
5. Portage (1-1) 2-2
6. LaPorte (1-1) 1-3
7. Lake Central (0-2) 2-2
8. Chesterton (0-2) 1-3

Valparaiso 14, Michigan City 7
LaPorte 29, Chesterton 14
MERRILLVILLE 39, Portage 0
CRPWN POINT 21, Lake Central 3


Chesterton (1-3) at Valparaiso (2-2)
LaPorte (1-3) at Lake Central (2-2)
PORTAGE (2-2) at CROWN POINT (2-2)
Michigan City (2-2) at Merrillville (3-1)

Portage at Chesterton
Lake Central at Michigan City
Merrillville at LaPorte


DAC UPDATE: Valparaiso and Merrillville stepped to the front of the DAC last week and they won't meet each other until Sept. 28. The big game this week is Michigan City at Merrillville. The Wolves may have been overrated after talking Illinois power Homewood-Flossmoor (3-0) into overtime in week two. H-F coach Craig Buzea said that the 2018 H-F team is nowhere near as good as the 2017 H-F squad, but observers over here disregarded that. LaPorte might have been written off when they dropped to 0-3 on the season, but a win over Lake Central Friday and LaPorte sits in second place in the DAC race.

Crown Point can also be in a tie for second if they beat Portage, but three of the final four Bulldog games are away from home against teams that could be in the top half of the league standings.

2018 (6A) Portage (2-2)
5-6 (2017), 6-4 (2016), 1-10 (2015), 1-9 (2014)
Coach Darren Rodriguez (13-12) 3rd year / DAC games in CAPS

8-17 (L) 14-35 at (4A) Mishawaka (3-1)
8-24 (W) 7-3 at (4A) Lowell (3-1)
8-31 (W) 18-10 (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (2-2)
9-7 (L) 0-39 (6A) MERRILLVILLE (3-1)
9-14 (Fri) at (6A) CROWN POINT (2-2)
9-21 (Fri) at (6A) CHESTERTON (1-3)
9-28 (Fri) (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (2-2)
10-5 (Fri) at (6A) VALPARAISO (2-2)
10-12 (Fri) (5A) LaPORTE (1-3)

Class 6A Sectional 1

10-29 (Fri) vs.




PORTAGE - I don’t know whether the 39-point Portage home loss to Merrillville last week says more about Portage or Merrillville.

While they have posted two uplifting come-from-behind wins on the road, the Indians have had severe offensive problems. Portage has scored just six touchdowns all season and they have trailed in the second half of every game so far.

Junior QB Zach Warchus (6-0, 160) combined with receiver Trevor Smaw (6-0, 165) on a 75-yard pass with 6:30 to play to win 7-3 at Lowell. Warchus ran 22 times for 140 yards in the win over LC, but he was 1-of-7 with two interceptions last week at Merrillville. Portage has 700 yards of total offense in four games and they’re lucky to be 2-2 with that output.

I thought the Indians' defense, led by ends Toy Carrington (6-2, 225), Humberto Morales (6-2, 205), linebackers Xavier Alvarez (6-0, 180) and Tangelo Rayner (5-10, 205) and nose guard Tobias Brasier (6-2, 240), was solid until they gave up 27 first downs and 412 total yards to Merrillville last week.
Portage is very aggressive defensively. They play some of the 3-5-3 formation that Crown Point plays, shut down the run and they dare you to throw the ball.

Merrillville’s junior quarterback Aahric Whitehead took the challenge last week, completing 11 of 13 passes against Portage for 179 yards.

Portage bounced back from the 3-TD home loss to Mishawaka to win two on the road. I’d have to think they can bounce back from another home blowout. But the Indians are not a predictable team.

2018 (6A) Crown Point (2-2)

7-5 (2017) 6-6 (2016), 1-9 (2015), 8-2 (2014)
Coach Kevin Enright (7th year) 38-31

8-17 (L) 7-17 (4A) Lowell (3-1)
8-24 (W) 14-10 at (4A) Highland (2-2)
8-31 (L) 21-26 at (6A) MERRILLVILLE (3-1)

9-7 (Fri) (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (2-2)
9-14 (Fri) (6A) PORTAGE (2-2)
9-21 (Fri) at (6A) VALPARAISO (2-2)

9-28 (Fri) at (5A) LaPORTE (1-3)
10-6 (Fri) (6A) CHESTERTON (1-3)
10-13 (Fri) at (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (2-2)

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



The bright light last Friday was CP getting halfback Scott Mills 117 yards on 29 carries. The Bulldogs only have 301 yards rushing all year, and unless they get at least 100 yards a game, they won't have much chance against the rest of the DAC schedule.

Last week had to be a boost for the offensive line, which is all new this season. It will be interesting to see how well they play this week after having a little success.

Crown Point rookie quarterback Will Pettit (44 of 90, 414 yards, 3 TDs, 3 interceptions) has missed some open receivers in key moments, but he has a lot of potential as do junior receivers Tysen Cazy (18 catches, 212 yards) and David O’Toole (7 catches, 42 yards) and senior slot receiver Anthony Gonzalez (10 catches, 104 yards).

The Bulldogs just need to keep playing and gaining experience. These next two weeks the CP offense faces some hard riders on defense. Eventually, the Bulldogs will gain some confidence and a big numbers break through night should come.

I sure can't say when, though.

Defensively, it's been a very good year for CP. The Bulldogs have allowed 683 total yards, just 280 yards rushing and only 40 first downs in four games. Linebacker Ethan Potosky has 24 solo tackles and 11 tackles for losses in four games. Linebacker Adam Hillard and safety Trevor Bieszczat both have 20 solo tackles.

CP has allowed only 46 points all season and only Merrillville moved the ball on them consistently. Sam Krutz and Trevor Bieszczat have combined to average 16 yards per punt return and Railaun Cosey is averaging 24 yards per kickoff return.

You can't win many games averaging 15 points a night. But so far, it's been a good season.

PORTAGE (2-2) at CROWN POINT (2-2)

Crown Point Bulldogs Stadium: capacity 4,800



The 39-point margin of victory (or defeat) in the Portage-Merrillville game last week is probably why CP is favored this Friday. Crown Point lost 26-21 to the Pirates. Portage defeated Lowell 7-3 while CP lost to Lowell 17-7 in week one. That factors into the rating here. Both teams defeated Lake Central. You could make an argument that Portage would be favored here. For the record, CP was favored by two points over Lake Central last Friday and they won 21-3.



CROWN POINT (09-14-2018) From the outside it again looks like two defenses that will stop two offenses.

Portage takes an early lead after a CP turnover as Miguel Verduzco hits a short field goal. Crown Point takes the halftime lead on a pass and run TD from Will Pettit to Anthony Gonzalez. Portage regains the lead 14-10 on a QB option run from Zach Warchus.

The Bulldogs get a second TD from Pettit to Tysen Cazy after an interception by Railaun Cosey. Both teams will be lucky to break 200 total yards. CP will get three turnovers and that will be the difference.

It's easy to say this is a pivotal game when both teams are 2-2. For CP, they need improvement on offense, win or lose, because the schedule gets much tougher after this Friday.

CROWN POINT 17, Portage 14

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Revised: September 13, 2018 .