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Pirates blitz Crown Point 40-12

Crown Point fans cheer during game against Merrillville Friday August 31 2012 Merrillville. | Mark Smith~Sun-Times Media

Crown Point fans cheer during a game against Merrillville on Friday, August 31, 2012, in Merrillville. | Mark Smith~Sun-Times Media

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THe questions

about Crown Point at Merrillville

1. IS MERRILLVILLE REALLY 28 POINTS BETTER THAN CP?

No, But Merrillville can score faster than anybody CP will play and the Bulldogs will have to control the ball better if the two teams meet again, because they can’t outscore them. The Pirates scored 50 points the week before against an Andrean team that is likely to reach the 2A Semistate.

It was surprising that CP didn’t run the ball better against Merrillville and they missed some early plays that could have scored. The Bulldogs didn’t react well to being behind significantly. Result: 40-14.

But I don’t have the answer as to how to stop Merrillville from scoring. I really think last Friday’s game said more about Merrillville than it did Crown Point. Hey, Michigan lost 41-14.

2. DOES PLAYING LOWELL AND HOBART PREP CP
FOR MERRILLVILLE?

No. Merrillville runs a college style spread offense that Lowell certainly does not run. Crown Point’s never going to stop playing Lowell but they will swap Hobart for Mishawaka (at CP in 2013) in week two next year. Trouble is, Mishawaka runs a type of run-heavy option and that’s not a preparation for Merrillville, either.

There may come a day when Crown Point plays one of the giant Indianapolis-area superpowers in week two and then Merrillville won’t seem so fast. But then CP won’t be 2-0 ever year either. It’s a trade off.

3, WAS THE CROWD SMALL LAST FRIDAY AT MERRILLVILLE?

No, I didn’t think so. What looked like about 3,500 fans looked small in an 8,000-seat stadium. The IHSAA pretends it is football season on Aug. 31, but I’d suspect most teenagers and their parents aren’t into being back in or at school on 80-degree Friday nights in August.

CP had a nice sized student section at Friday’s game and, if you go by colors and subtract the Band of Pirates (the Merrillville marching band), CP may have had more people in the stands last Friday than Merrillville did.

In the real world, I wouldn’t be at a football game of any kind unless the court ordered me to be. If these teams meet again in November, the crowd will be twice as big.

4. AFTER LAST FRIDAY, WHAT’S CP’S BIGGEST PROBLEM?

Statistically? Run defense. Unofficially, the Bulldogs gave up 295 yards on 37 carries last week at Merrillville. If that’s correct, that means CP has allowed 642 yards on 115 carries (5.5 per carry) in three games (214 per game). Nobody wins much when they give up 200 yards rushing every game.

The Bulldogs have faced some very good running backs so far, but that’s not going to change now. CP hosts a Division I runner in Lake Central’s David Yancey (221 yards, 26 carries, 4 TDs last week) this Friday. Then comes another explosive runner in Portage’s Rashaan Coleman. Then Valpo’s Andrew Kittridge.

Obviously, CP has a lot to work on this week but if it can’t slow the running game of the next three opponents, the other issues won’t matter.

5. DOES THE LOSS MEAN CP WILL NOT HAVE A WINNING SEASON?

No. Not any more than the first two wins meant that they would.

CP lost by 25 points to Chesterton in 2010 and finished 8-4. They lost by 19 points to Lake Central in week four of the 2011 season and finished 9-4. Merrillville has lost the season opener by 28 points or more to Warren Central five years in a row and they have a five year record of 39-14.

Football people talk a lot about not putting to much weight on any one game win or lose and that’s probably the message this week. The majority of the schedule is still ahead and CP is reasonably healthy.

At the end of the season, nobody’s going to care what happened in August.

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MERRILLVILLE — Loosley put, a blitz is when the other team tries to hit you hard and fast with more players in your face than you can handle quikcly.

That’s a good definition of what happend to Crown Point last Friday night at Merrillville.

It wasn’t so much that Merrillville scored 40 points against Crown Point Friday. Or that it scored them in seven consecutive possessions.

It was that Merrillville, which scored 50 points on Andrean seven days earlier, scored 40 points in 20 minutes of game time on Crown Point, sending the Bulldogs back to CP with a 40-12 defeat.

Few saw this coming.

Crown Point took a 6-0 lead late in the second quarter (3:28 left) when Jake Jatis’ 20-yard pass to tight end Roc Hopman broke a scoreless tie.

After a touchback, Merrillville quarterback Jake Raspopovich took an option run around right end and broke loose down the home sideline 80 yards for a TD to make it 7-6.

Three plays later, CP punted and Merrillville (2-1) drove down the field in the final 90 seconds for a 41-yard Matt Warren field goal on the final play of the half to make it 10-6.

The Pirates then took the second half kickoff and, three plays into the third period, Raspopovich lofted a 66-yard TD pass to senior Cleveland Lomax down the middle of the field for a 17-6 lead. There was no stopping them after that.

Merrillville scored 17 points on three third quarter possessions and two TDs on each of the first two possession in the fourth period to roll up the 40 points, the most the Pirates have scored against CP since a 42-6 win in the 2008 playoffs.

This is the fourth consecutive season that Merrillville has taken a lop-sided opening night whipping from state superpower Warren Central in week one and come back to defeat arch-rival Crown Point in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) opener two weeks later.

“I’ve said it for years,” said seventh year Merrillville coach Zac Wells. “You expose yourself to a lot of your weakness in a game like that (Warren Central), It forces the kids to look in the mirror and say, ‘OK, this is where I need to get to.’

“Everybody’s goal is the same. When we get in a situation where we are a little overmatched you say, what can I do better? That game answers those questions. How can I be a better team player? Then we play a good Andrean team. You pick that team every week, you’re going to win a lot of games. They have really good skill.

“Then we come into our league schedule, which is tough.”

Merrillville, with Raspopovich in his second year at QB (he was wide receiver as a sophomore) spreads the field, and, unless you have college players all over the defense like Warren Central does, you have trouble catching them.

In the first 13 minutes of the second half, Merrillville drove 80 yards in four plays, 61 yards in six plays, 53 yards in six plays, all for touchdowns. In the game, Merrillville had 13 plays of 14 yards or more. It’s no wonder they gained 500 total yards.

“You face an opponent who makes big plays,” said CP coach Brian Enright, who thought his team was in good shape leading 6-0, “and you don’t recover from those.

“We talk about that all week. They get the big run right before halftime. That was a simple run around end. We had some guys with the angle and we just didn’t make plays.

“We have a young group and we’ll fix it. I’ve always been this way philosophically as a coach. It’s not your opponent, it’s you. Once we fix us, we’ll be fine.”

Trailing 17-6, CP threw three consecutive incomplete passes and punted the ball back to the Pirates 17 seconds after they got it.

Collins (5-9, 192), the state runner-up in the 100 meter dash last spring, carried four times for 50 yards including a 17 run with an option pitch from Raspopovich to take a 24-6 lead with 8:31 to play.

Merrillville tried an onside kick that ended up giving CP the ball at the Bulldogs’ 43-yard-line. Two plays later, Jatis, who was 14 of 32 for 216 yards, tossed a center screen to halfback Tristan Peterson, who raced 15 yards to cut the lead to 24-12.

But Merrillville took the kickoff at their own 20 and scored again with a 57-yard 12 play drive ending with a second 41-yard field goal by Warren.

CP tried to stay in the game with a halfback pass 32 yards from Zach Plesac to Tyler Smith, but failed on a 4th-and 8 from the Merrillville 46 with 1:47 left in the third quarter and Merrillville quickly added two more touchdowns, both on short runs by good-looking junior halfback Bryant Isabell.

The second TD came after a CP punt hit the back of an offensive linemen, giving Merrillville the ball at the Crown Point 9-yard-line.

CP got the ball to hard-running junior Tyler Downing (5-8, 200) a little more and Jake Jatis wasn’t intercepted in 32 passes but, other than that, the Bulldogs might want to file this game video away in a dark place.

“We’ll fix it,” said Enright on his way to the locker room. “We made a lot of mistakes tonight and we can correct them.”

DOG NOTES: Injured senior wide receiver Braxton Rice is day-to-day said coach Kevin Enright, and should be back in a week or two.

This was the 15th meeting of CP and Merrillville in nine years and the Pirates are 8-7 in that time. CP lost to Merrillville in week three last year and came back to win at Merrillville 42-21.

One local Top-10 poll left out Merrillville after it lost the season opener to Warren Central and they had to be kidding.

The Pirates have a senior quarterback, senior halfback, senior punter and place kicker and four senior wide receivers.

The offensive line is all rookies but Merrillville freshman defensive tackle Shawn Streck (6-1, 260) is a starter and a competent player in the defensive line. Junior defensive tackle Frank Webster (6-3, 350) also starts and creates problems with his size.



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