Week 9 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Crown Point (3-5) 
at Michigan City (6-2)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

10-13-2016

The CP 'World Tour' continues as they visit LaPorte County for a second time to play Michigan City. Crown Point is 3-1 at home but 0-4 on the road going into the final game of the regular season. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m. Friday, October 14, 2016
Where:  Ames Field - Michigan City (not at the high school) 3 miles north of I-94 on US Route 421.
Tickets$6
TV/Radio/Internet: Live Internet radio coverage on www.USA-365.com.

Enrollment: CROWN POINT - 2,664; Michigan City - 1,701.

WEATHER: Good and cold. Real football weather. Mid-50s for the kickoff and low-50s for the end of the game with light winds. Rain Wednesday or Thursday won't matter as Ames Field has artificial turf. There is almost no chance for rain Friday evening. This will be a chilly night and the parking lot isn't close enough to walk to your car at halftime. Be real about 'real' football weather as far as your coats and jackets are concerned. It's definitely not summer anymore.

PARKING: Michigan City plays varsity football at Ames Field on US-421 about three miles north of I-80. Please pay attention to that sentence. Michigan City football is NOT played at Michigan City high school. Never has been. Do not get directions to Michigan City high school. Do not let your GPS guidance system take you to Michigan City high school. Nothing will be happening there Friday night. The game will be played about two miles northwest of the high school building. Every year I went to MC for football, some poor souls went to the high school and wondered where the game was. It will probably happen again this Friday. Ames Field, a renovated old minor league baseball park, has little parking. You may end up east across US 421 in an old supermarket parking lot. Michigan City is drawing good crowds this year. Get there about 6:30 p.m. to get a parking spot close to the field.

The HISTORY: Lets talk about the history of Michigan City football. This is a good season for the Wolves, but it's hardly the best season in Michigan City history. Michigan City is a 1995 consolidation of Elston and Rogers high schools. Elston was the original high school in the city. It goes back before World War I. Isaac Elston bought the land on which the city began in the early 1800s.

Rogers, named Dr. Jesse Belmont Rogers, a baby doctor who it is estimated delivered more than 6,000 babies in Michigan City in his 43-year medical career, began football when Rogers split off from Elston because Elston had 2,700 students in 1970.

One note that I wonder about but have read in more than one place. Rogers supposedly was built in six months. Construction began in March of 1971 and the school opened in September of 1971 to relieve overcrowding at Elston. I have real doubts about that six month rise from corn field to school building, but that's the accepted story of Michigan City Rogers high which became just Michigan City high in 1995 and is to this day.

Rogers had very few winning football seasons and Elston was not a consistent football power. MCE won 24 consecutive basketball sectionals from 1952 to 1975 and the Elston Red Devils were the 1966 state basketball champs. But Elston was 10-2 in football in 1984 and they were 8-2 in both 1981 and '82. Elston was 5-0-2 in 1906 and they beat Crown Point 33-0.

When folks talk about this being potentially the "greatest season in the history of Michigan City football!," they mean the present Michigan City high school. It's not a storied history. MC won six games in 1999, 2005 and 2009. The Wolves were 7-4 sixteen years ago in the year 2000 including a 45-21 win over Crown Point. For Michigan City, that's it. The Wolves have no other winning seasons. In the 22-year history of the present-day MCHS, the varsity football program has never won more than seven games.

When the Michigan City boys take the home field Friday against Crown Point, they will carry a 6-2 record. I'm sure every player on the MC team is aware of what I just laid out here. That's why this home finale might be a big game to Michigan City.

Class 6A Sectional 1 = Oct. 28 - semifinals

Lake Central (3-5) at CROWN POINT (3-5)
MERRILLVILLE (3-5) at Portage (5-3)

Class 6A Sectional 2 = Oct. 28 - semifinals

6A No. 4 LaPorte (8-0) at Chesterton (2-6)
6A No. 15 Valparaiso (5-3) at 6A No. 2 Penn (8-0)

REGIONAL OUTLOOK:

I dont know if Merrillville quarterback Cam Wright (90 of 162, 1,340 yards, 11 TDs, 9 interceptions) is going to be ready for the post-season. Wright was injured two weeks ago and it forced the Pirates to use receiver Kam Jackson at QB. Senior receiver James Kirklen (21 catches, 431 yards, 5 TDs) did get back on the field last week after missing two weeks with injury.

I think Lake Central is as healthy as they are going to be. Receiver Austin Atkins was back on the field the last two weeks after missing much of the season. He caught 50 passes for 10 TDs last fall. Penn (8-0) faces arch-rival Mishawaka (7-1) this week before the October 21 bye week. The Kingsmen have allowed just 62 points all season. What stands out is that LaPorte has allowed 185 points (23.1 per game) even though they run the ball well and don't turn it over. I cannot explain that.

But the Slicers clearly got the best draw here. Chesterton does not look like they can win any more games this year, so LaPorte winning on the road in the sectional semifinals sets them up for a home sectional title game if they must play Penn. LaPorte lost 49-21 at Penn in the 2015 Class 6A Sectional semifinals.
 
Lake Central's Anthony Giles (122 carries, 946 yards) has only eight carries for 18 yards in the last two weeks combined in two LC wins. I don't know why. Remember, no Class 6A team plays the weekend of October 21-22. That is the new "bye week." Everyone in 6A has two weeks to prepare for sectional play.


MICHIGAN CITY Update:

MICHIGAN CITY-
Michigan City has pointed to this season when they had 12 returning starters, including the quarterback Mike McCullough and all-conference lineman Braden Fiske (6-2, 235) and left tackle Damon Adams (6-5, 305). The Wolves average 33 points a game and, while the defense has two shutouts (over Northridge and Chesterton), MC has allowed 190 points in the other six games.

The Wolves topped Merrillville 42-35 and rallied to beat Lake Central 46-42. The season-opening 49-26 win at Griffith (6-2) stands out more now than it did then. On the down side, LaPorte ran the ball 57 times for 461 yards last week. Lake Central ran 36 times for 324 yards against the Wolves. Merrillville's Cam Wright was 25 of 42 for 392 yards against Michigan City. With all due respect to those three teams, I'm not sure how all those yards and points are going up against the Wolves. The way MC runs the ball (over 250 yards a game), they should be limiting the other teams possessions. You would think that, without turnovers, they would play lower-scoring games. But so far, Michigan City has been a big play team that also gives up big plays. McCullough did throw three interceptions in the loss to Valparaiso 29-0 in September, but that hasn't been a consistent problem. In the past, MC has had somewhat of a blitzing, gambling defense that was easily fooled. The Wolves have an all-new coaching staff this fall.


RB - Aryuan Cain Veasey (5-10, 215) Senior:
'ACV' is the leading rusher in Northwest Indiana with 1,188 yards and 16 touchdowns on 153 carries. You've got to get him before he gets started, because he's hard to bring down once he turns upfield. Cain-Veasey is listed as the No. 86 college prospect in the state of Indiana in one pre-season ranking and I would guess he has gone up significantly on that list. Anybody can be asked to switch positions at the next level, but ACV has the size to be a high D-1 running back.

RB - Markice Hurt (5-8, 183) Senior:
Hurt and Veasey are cousins and both top flight runners, but Hurt might be a little quicker. Hurt's been hurt this year so he only has 530 yards on 81 carries, but he's a TD threat after a 2015 season with 856 yards on 93 carries. Michigan City uses a lot of motion before plays. Hurt will play for Ball State University in Muncie. It's rare to see a school the size of Michigan City with two Division I running backs. Not two running backs who will play at Division I schools, but two boys who will be running backs in Division I.

QB - Mike McCullough (6-2, 170) Junior:
McCullough is the secret weapon of the MC attack. He's completed 62 of 130 passes for 976 yards and eight TDs. He's mobile and can avoid the rush. Last week in the 42-35 loss to LaPorte McCullough was 13 of 22 passing for 232 yards and he also ran 11 times for 96 yards. On most plays, he has Veasey and Hurt flanking him in the backfield, creating a lot of options. With all that said, when Michigan City throws a pass, they are doing the other team a favor. Because they're not handing the ball to Hurt or Cain-Veasey.


CROWN POINT Update:

CROWN POINT -
Crown Point got a good win 28-0 over Chesterton last week, but they know the Michigan City 'experience' won't be anything like that. The Bulldogs have allowed 119 points all year, but they did not fare well against LaPorte's rushing attack two weeks ago. LaPorte is stubborn about not throwing the ball (only 34 passes all season). The Bulldogs may be able to force Michigan City to put it up on a cold, windy night. Crown Point ran the ball 30 times and threw 20 times last week in the win over Chesterton and that might be a higher percentage of passes than they want on this night.

Junior Brett Schoettle (6-1, 160) has moved into a starting role at cornerback and has made a mark running back kicks with a 93-yard return against LaPorte in week seven and a 14-yard punt return in week eight. Sophomore defensive back Sam Krutz grabbed a Chesterton screen pass for a Crown Point TD last week.

The Bulldogs have allowed just 1,817 yards all season (228 per game), but they have gained just 1,802 (225 per game). CP has still allowed more points than they have scored. The Bulldogs are not a strong offensive team yet and their record has not shown great improvement over 2015 (1-9) but they are closer to winning. In 2015, the offense committed 25 turnovers. In eight games this fall, the CP offense has lost the ball 10 times.


QB - Grayson Lynk (6-4, 185) Senior:
Grayson Lynk will face a strong Michigan City team coming off a strong game, 14 of 20 for 211 yards with no interceptions. Grayson also ran the ball when he could, collecting an official 60 yards on 14 carries, many from the 'read-option' play with halfback Tyler Gomez (139 carries, 482 yards). Lynk hit 14 passes to five different receivers last week and that will be a key this Friday against a more athletic Michigan City team. Teams look at the video of last week's game so it will be interesting to see how Michigan City reacts to what they saw Grayson Lynk do last Friday.

CB - Zach Stewart (5-10, 160) Senior:
Zach Stewart had four tackles last week in the shutout of Chesterton. For the season Zach has been in on 38 tackles, but he has five pass breakups and five interceptions. Assuming that the Bulldogs can force some passing situations this Friday against the hard-running Wolves and assuming MC quarterback Mike McCullough looks for one-on-one coverage and throws deep, the CP secondary in general and Zach Stewart in particular will be the one they try to beat.

TE- Ben Fridrich (6-2, 225) Junior:
If CP is to grab their first road win of the season this Friday, Ben Fridrich will have a lot to do with it. Fridrich was 4-of-4 on extra points last week and he caught a season-high three passes for 37 yards. For the season, Ben is officially 12 of 12 on points with three field goals. He also has four receptions for 42 yards. Field goal kicking on a colder, windy night may be an issue at Michigan City.
Michigan City also has some edge rushers who can create losses and Ben Fridrich will be one trying to keep that from happening while opening a hole or two for CP runners.


CROWN POINT (3-5) at Michigan City (6-2)

at Ames Stadium - capacity: 5,000 in Michigan City

Sagarin Computer rankings: Michigan City by 5.

When you look at the teams records, the 5-point spread seems small. The answer to that is the nonconference schedule. Michigan City defeated 3A Griffith (6-2) and 4A Northridge (1-7) while Crown Point lost to 4A Lowell (4-4) and 5A Mishawaka (7-1). Both teams defeated Lake Central and Chesterton. City topped Merrillville and Portage, two teams that defeated Crown Point. That, plus the home field is why MC is favored. Looking back, CP was an eight-point favorite over Chesterton last week and they won 28-0. Two weeks ago, LaPorte was a 15-point favorite over CP and they won 34-16. The ratings' accuracy improves with the more games we play.

MICHIGAN CITY (10-14-2016) It looks like it's going to be a passable night, meaning that both sides won't be hurt by the conditions if they want to pass the ball. But, does Michigan City want to?

The Bulldogs will overload the line of scrimmage and for a couple of MC punts, but the Wolves score late in the first quarter on a run by 1,000-yard rusher Aryuan Cain-Veasey. A long CP pass from Grayson Lynk to Tyler Jones sets up a Ben Fridrich field goal to cut the second quarter lead to 7-3. MC quarterback Mike McCullough will use his halfbacks as decoys and run more than a couple of times on this night. McCullough's TD run gives Michigan City a 14-3 halftime lead. Late in the third quarter, Lynk gets loose on a TD run to cut the lead to 14-10 and the Bulldogs have time to take the lead. But CP loses the ball on downs in Michigan City territory and the Wolves score a late TD on a run by Markice Hurt. Michigan City could lose this one with turnovers, but I think they'll turn conservative on this night and CP can't score enough early to change that game plan.

Michigan City 20, CROWN POINT 10


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Revised: October 13, 2016 .