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Football: Lowell, Merrillville see room to improve, but there’s plenty to like, too

Lowell's Tyler Hopkins (center) gets caught between Merrillville defenders Cantrell Henders(left) Eine Harmduring scrimmage held Merrillville High School Merrillville Ind.

Lowell's Tyler Hopkins (center) gets caught between Merrillville defenders Cantrell Henderson (left) and Eine Harmon during a scrimmage held at Merrillville High School in Merrillville, Ind., Friday, August 16, 2013. | Guy Rhodes/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 18, 2013 6:13AM



MERRILLVILLE — The first words from Lowell head coach Keith Kilmer after Friday night’s scrimmage against Merrillville probably summed up the thoughts of every coach in the state.

“(Former Crown Point head coach) Chip Pettit used to say that you do your best improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, and we’re going to count this as Week 1,” he said.

While room for improvement exists on every team scrimmaging on Friday night, there were still plenty of worthwhile moments on both sides.

Workhorse running back George Fields figures to be the focal point of Lowell’s offense again in 2013, but it was junior running back Tyler Hopkins breaking off an early 44-yard run during the Devils’ first series.

“We’ve been excited with our depth at some of the skill positions all season,” Kilmer said. “It’s great to have George back, but Hopkins has had a great offseason and a great camp for us. That opens us up and allows us to do some different things.”

The drive slowed down considerably from then on, as the Pirates defense clamped down inside its own 20. Lowell would eventually put one in the end zone, thanks to a 5-yard touchdown pass from QB Seth Anderson to WR Joshua Bottos.

“I think we have a chance to have a pretty good defense this year,” said Merrillville head coach Zac Wells, who was missing three starters from that defense on Friday night. “(Lowell) is a good running team; it’s what they do. I think we saw some good things there.”

Merrillville had a similar methodical drive during its first 15-play series of the night. The biggest play came in the form of an 11-yard run by senior running back Bryant Isabell. Unlike the Devils, however, the Pirates were unable to put one in the end zone during that opening series.

Later in the scrimmage, Fields plunged in from 1 yard out, providing the only touchdown during the Red Devils’ 10-play goal-line series. The Merrillville offense, meanwhile, got into the end zone twice during its goal-line session. Isabell scored on a 3-yard TD run and Terrance Grayson caught a touchdown pass from Tyrie Fuller.

But the starting QB for Merrillville this year, sophomore DJ Wilkins, had his best pass of the night during the Pirates’ third offensive series, connecting with Grayson on a 17-yard touchdown pass into the corner of the end zone.

“He missed a throw earlier but he made a really, really nice throw to the corner there,” said Wells. “That’s what we’ve seen from him more in camp than the missed one. We know what his potential is. It was good to get him into the fire at the varsity level.”



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