Week 7 - Football Game of the Week Preview

6A LaPorte (4-2)
6A Crown Point (3-3)

Tyler Gomez (42) leads the Bulldogs on the field against defending Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) champion LaPorte Friday night. (Photo by Mark Smith)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


When:  7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 29, 2017

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

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: LaPORTE - 1,999; Crown Point - 2,815.

WEATHER: Much better than last week. Game time temperatures should be in the low 60s. We'll see temps in the high 50s by the second half. A little cool for the folks watching, but perfect for the boys in the helmets. Let's not have any more 80-degree football nights.


PARKING: Long time watchers of the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) would guess that LaPorte will bring a good crowd to Lake County Friday. For reasons I'm not sure of, LaPorte people follow their high school teams. LaPorte brings more baseball fans to CPHS than any school outside Lake County. This is the CPHS Homecoming so you're going to see suits and dresses and formal wear all around. I don't think we're going to see a capacity crowd Friday but get there a little early if you don't want to walk some distance.


WHAT's AT STAKE: This could be a big game in the DAC if first place Portage (4-2, 4-0 DAC) loses at Michigan City (4-2, 3-1 DAC). That outcome would open the door for LaPorte (4-2, 3-1 DAC) or Crown Point (3-3, 2-2 DAC) to rise up in the standings. If Portage defeats Michigan City, please disregard this paragraph. LaPorte is a Class 5A school this season and CP is 6A so there will not be a playoff meeting between these two schools. There isn't much of a rivalry. Just two teams here coming off good wins hoping to keep it going.


The HISTORY: LaPorte has always had one foot in Northwest Indiana and the other in 'Michiana,' the South Bend, Michigan border area. The Slicers used to be in the Northern Indiana Conference (NIC) with Penn and Mishawaka before they joined the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) in 1976. I don't know why LaPorte joined the DAC, but they did not have success immediately, finishing last in 1976, 1979, 1981, '82 and 83. The Slicers were 0-6 in league play in '82 and '83.

In 1996, the Slicers were 7-2 and 5-1 in DAC play, the first time they won even a half-share of the league championship in football. Last season, winning six of seven league games, LaPorte won the undisputed DAC championship for the first time after 40 years in the league.

To say they proved they belonged might be overly dramatic. It's doubtful that, with Penn and Mishawaka being so strong that LaPorte would have done much in the NIC the last 40 years. But, as LaPorte tries to stay in the DAC race by beating Crown Point Friday, it's fair to say the league championship may mean more to them than it does to the other seven schools in the league.

(6A) LaPorte (4-2)
9-2 (2016), 6-4 (2015), 8-6 (2014), 1-9 (2013)
coach Dave Sharpe (19-8) 3rd year...all kickoffs at 7 p.m.
Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) league games in CAPS

8-18 (W) 41-12 (4A) New Prairie (5-1)
8-25 (L) 23-34 (4A) Hobart (5-1)
9-1 (L) 6-17 at (6A) VALPARAISO (5-1)
9-8 (W) 20-18 (6A) CHESTERTON (2-4)
9-15 (W) 56-7 (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (1-5)
9-22 (W) 42-20 at (6A) MERRILLVILLE (1-5)
9-29 (F) at (6A) CROWN POINT (3-3)
10-6 (F) MICHGAN CITY (4-2)
10-13 (F) (6A) PORTAGE (4-2)

Class 5A Sectional 9
...with Michigan City (4-2), Munster (2-4) and (South Bend) Adams (1-5).

LaPORTE - All of the DAC Teams play similar schedules because they only have two nonconference weeks. New Prairie is to LaPorte what Lowell is to Crown Point. A next door neighbor about half the size of the 'big' school. LaPorte playing Hobart is similar to CP playing Highland in a lot of years, but not this one. The slight difference between Crown Point and LaPorte is that LaPorte plays in a soft sectional with Michigan City and two sub-.500 teams. CP has DAC leading Portage in their sectional. But LaPorte plays in a league that is much tougher than the sectional they play in.


LaPorte is the best running team in Northwest Indiana this season with 2,223 yards on 353 carries, 370 per game. They are built to run and determined to run. Senior QB Nolan Lorenz (6-2, 213) has thrown just 25 passes all season. The Slicers lost halfback Detrick Merriweather (70 carries, 416 yards, 5 TDs) to an ankle injury and he isn't playing this week. But that won't slow LaPorte. The Slicers' top rusher is Drayson Nespo (5-8, 170), a quick halfback who has 780 yards gained and eight TDs on 105 carries. Merriweather's place may be taken by Isaac Alexander(5-9, 181), a sophomore with 133 yards on 22 carries so far. Junior Caleb Kuzdas (5-5, 137) isn't big, but he has 295 yards on 54 carries.

The Slicers run a modified triple option attack that is probably a combination of what coach Dave Sharpe (as a player and as an assistant) and his father Bill utilized at Jimtown in the 1980s and 90s and some of what assistant coach Bo Radtke and his family ran at Griffith in the 80s and 90s.

LaPorte has big linemen on both edges in left tackle Brandon Seibert (6-3, 323) and right tackle Jake Thode (6-2, 278) and they do not give up on the run. Lorenz, who is a two year starter, takes what the defensive front gives him and he apparently has four downs to do it. LaPorte has punted just seven times all season and they have not successfully kicked a field goal. The top receiver for LaPorte is Kyle Simpkins (6-3, 225), who has caught five passes for 97 yards and two TDs, but he is really a sixth offensive lineman.

Defensively, LaPorte is not very big with Hunter Stemmier (6-0, 248), Hunter Ferguson (6-2, 234) and Kaleek Biggers (5-9, 237) up front. Linebacker Noah Perez (5-10, 189) has eight tackles for losses and is the Slicers' leading tackler. An interesting player is freshman linebacker Landen Cerillos (6-2, 241). Very few DAC teams ever start a freshman on defense. LaPorte averages 31 points a game, but they allow 18 a game. They are what the are. No surprises.

(6A) Crown Point (3-3)
6-6 (2016), 1-9 (2015), 8-2 (2014), 6-4 (2013)
coach Kevin Enright (6th year) 31-26...all kickoffs at 7 p.m.
Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) league games in CAPS
8-18 (L) 13-27 at (4A) Lowell (6-0)
8-25 (W) 35-6 (4A) Highland (2-4)
9-1 (L) 26-34 (6A) MERRILLVILLE (1-5)
9-8 (W) 45-0 at (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (1-5)
9-15 (L) 10-27 at (6A) PORTAGE (4-2)
9-22 (W) 21-6 (6A) VALPARAISO (5-1)

9-29 (F) 6A LaPORTE (4-2)
10-6 (F) at 6A CHESTERTON (2-4)
10-13 (F) 5A MICHIGAN CITY (4-2)

Class 6A Sectional 1
...with Merrillville, Portage and Lake Central

CROWN POINT - This was the two week span in the schedule which was make-or-break for Crown Point. Last week, they stood tall with the big win over Valpo. This is the season the Bulldogs get LaPorte and Michigan City to come to CP so this is the 'favorable' year in the CPHS football schedule.

The 14-point loss to Lowell to start the season added an extra footnote this week when Lowell moved up to the top of the state's Class 4A rankings.


Senior halfback Tyler Gomez (5-9, 170) moved within 244 yards of becoming CP's first 1,000 yard rusher since Tristan Peterson gained 1,046 yards in 2012. The key to CP's success so far has been the lack of turnovers. The Bulldogs have fumbled twice and QB Ryan Bolda (50 of 110, 668 yards, 4 TDs) has thrown just four interceptions. You can win a lot of games averaging one turnover a game.

CP's defense will again be in the spotlight Friday night and the numbers are good.

The CP defense has allowed just 1,255 yards (209 per game) in six games and only 42 first downs.

Watch this statistic Friday: Crown Point has allowed just 3.2 yards per carry on 206 attempts. LaPorte averages 6.3 yards per carry.

Linebacker Caden Watson has 69 tackles including 40 solo tackles. Defensive back Sam Krutz has 51 tackles and six pass breakups. The Bulldogs are 9-9 in their last 18 games.

6A LaPORTE (4-2) at 6A CROWN POINT (3-3)

at Crown Point Stadium - Capacity: 4,500


This number comes from the first week of the season. Crown Point lost by 14 to Class 4A Lowell. LaPorte defeated Class 4A New Prairie 41-12. CP has the loss to Merrillville (1-5) as well, but LaPorte did lose to 4A Hobart. I think the 7-point spread is a little high but, based on results, LaPorte should be favored.


CROWN POINT (09-29-2017) This seems like a good matchup for both sides because both would rather run the ball and take time off the clock. The Slicers will score first on a keeper by Nick Lorenz, the big quarterback. CP rallies to tie it on a run by Tyler Gomez.

As the night goes on, the Bulldogs, using Gomez and Scott Mills, will have success against the smaller LaPorte front. Gomez' second TD makes it 14-7, but Drayson Nespo scores to tie the game before halftime.

In the third quarter, Ryan Bolda will find tight end Ben Fridrich for a third CP score and a 21-14 lead. Mills will score inside the 10-yard line to make it 28-14. LaPorte will rally with Lorenz scoring a second TD, but the Slicers won't get the ball back with a chance to tie.

Nobody totally stops LaPorte from running the ball, but Crown Point can keep that hard-running offense on the bench for a lot of this night. I know the Slicers feel the same way. This game features two good offensive lines. But this looks like a favorable matchup for CP at the line of scrimmage.


CROWN POINT 28, LaPorte 21

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Revised: September 29, 2017 .