DJ Wilkins, of Merrillville, looks for an open receiver against Crown Point at Crown Point High School, Friday, September 6th, 2013, in Crown Point. | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 17, 2013 2:52AM
CROWN POINT — Merrillville defensive back Darrin Funches kept telling himself the same thing — don’t let them score.
The senior first-year starter, didn’t.
Funches went high into the air and intercepted a Jake Jatis pass intended for Crown Point’s Jacob Coker with 1:48 left, preserving the Pirates’ 14-13 Duneland Athletic Conference win Friday night.
“It was good coaching,” Funches said. “They always tell me to play the receiver’s hands and look for the ball, so that’s what I did. I knew I could make a play for the ball. I just went up and got it. I knew with the situation being what it was then, they were going to throw the deep ball. I was ready. When I went up, I knew it was mine.”
During CP’s series just prior to its final one, Merrillville’s Ryan Neal picked off a Jatis pass in the end zone to thwart another scoring chance.
The Neal interception was terribly costly for the Bulldogs (2-1, 0-1) as Evan Markowitz could have given them a possible 16-14 lead had he been given an opportunity after CP reached the Pirates’ 11.
“That interception was a big pick for us too,” Merrillville coach Zac Wells said. “I’m pretty happy with the way our defense played tonight. We played better than we did last week. We didn’t get sacks, but I thought our pressure was a lot better.”
CP hurt itself with five turnovers, including three lost fumbles.
“I think we left a lot of plays out on the field tonight,” Bulldogs coach Kevin Enright said. “With those five turnovers, we really put our defense in a tough spot. The important thing is, will this game help us to get tougher and stronger as the season moves forward? I think it will.”
Crown Point had field goals of 42 and 26 yards by Markowitz to hold a 6-0 lead, before Merrillville (2-1, 1-0) scored with no time remaining in the first half on a 10-yard pass from quarterback D.J. Wilkins to Jonathan Robinson.
Jacob Covaciu’s conversion kick gave the Pirates a 7-6 edge at the break.
The Bulldogs, however, scored on a 2-yard run by Tyler Downing to take a 13-7 lead on their second possession of the third period.
Merrillville later answered that score with a seven-yard TD pass from Wilkins to Diante Montgomery on a third down-and-seven play. “Diante is a first-year basketball kid for us and we’ve had some success with kids like him in the past,” Wells said. “That was a big play for us. We made some big plays when we needed to tonight.”