Merrillville shows respect in win over LaPorte
By Michael Osipoff firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-2485 September 27, 2013 11:28PM
The LaPorte Slicers bow their heads during a moment of silence before Friday night's game at Merrillville to remember their teammate Jake West who died earlier this week during practice. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 29, 2013 6:11AM
MERRILLVILLE — The game took a back seat — or would relegated to deep in the trunk be more accurate? — on Friday night.
But Merrillville defeated LaPorte 34-13, two days after the death of Slicers junior Jake West.
“The way that they have handled it has just been tremendous. I’m so proud of these kids,” LaPorte coach Bob Schellinger said. “They came out tonight and competed. We never gave up, they played right to the end.”
The Pirates (5-1, 4-0 Duneland Conference) nicely found a delicate balance between respect for the Slicers (0-6, 0-4) and focusing on the task at hand.
“Our kids played hard, and that’s what we asked them to do,” Merrillville coach Zac Wells said. “When it’s all said and done, this is a high school football game — we’re in a kid business.
“I’m really proud of our guys. And I’m really proud of the LaPorte guys. It’s a class program — always has been.”
Merrillville has four former LaPorte players on its coaching staff.
“We feel we have a connection. We’ve benefitted from the LaPorte football family, to say the least,” Wells said. “They’ve been very good to us. My heart goes out to them.”
Merrillville sophomore quarterback D.J. Wilkins ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns (15 yards, 16, 40) on seven carries (one after halftime), and threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Tyrie Fuller. Bryant Isabell rushed for 112 yards on 15 carries in less than three quarters.
Craig Burns had an interception, Jairus Perry a fumble recovery, and Joel Martin an interception for the Pirates, all preceding touchdowns.
LaPorte sophomore quarterback Eric Mazany suffered a left leg injury — Schellinger said it was thought to be an Achilles’— getting sacked with 4:16 left in the first half, and did not return to the game.
The Slicers still scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns, both by Charles Salary, who had 68 yards on 24 carries.
“This shows what we’re made of, the community of LaPorte. … We draw strength from each other,” Schellinger said of the support his team has received, also praising Merrillville’s approach to the circumstances.
“It was just a night that was full of class on both sides.”