posttrib
DELIGHT 
Weather Updates

Hutton: Merrillville can overcome mistakes, Crown Poin can’t

Merrillville's AarDye celebrates touchdown with Daniel Jankulowski after receiving touchdown pass second quarter giving Pirates 17-0 lead over Crown Point

Merrillville's Aaron Dye celebrates a touchdown with Daniel Jankulowski after receiving a touchdown pass in the second quarter, giving the Pirates a 17-0 lead over Crown Point at halftime | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 39440317
tmspicid: 14567416
fileheaderid: 6647100
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: December 4, 2012 6:14AM



MERRILLVILLE — Rules of engagement for playing Merrillville.

Don’t turn the ball over.

Take advantage of any mistakes they make.

Don’t turn the ball over.

Make sure you’re special teams play is sharp.

Don’t turn the ball over.

Avoid superfluous, extraneous penalties.

And finally, don’t turn the ball over.

One more: Make sure you keep Pirates wide receiver Aaron Dye wrapped up a like a baby in a blanket in a winter storm.

The Bulldogs violated every one those tenets Friday in a 24-14 loss to the Pirates Friday in the sectional championship.

They had four false starts in the first half. They punted the ball three times for just 39 yards in the first half and they missed a 22-yard field goal and they still made a game of it.

Merrillville violated many of the same tenets but, hey, they’re the big-play-we-can-overcome-any-obstacle Pirates and that is no exaggeration. They can. And they did. Remember: The same rules just don’t apply to them. They are the Teflon team. Mistakes, at least in games in the 219 area code, generally roll off them. They know how to forget the bad stuff and chug forward without hesitation or regret. They know how to damn the consequences. Usually when they do, good things happen.

Crown Point of course, suffered the consequences of its sloppiness.

Let’s put it this away. Merrillville is good enough to get away with an occasional loose play.

In fact, each team turned the ball over three times.

The Pirates dealt with the mistakes — one cost them a touchdown. The Bulldogs tried to overcome their mistakes. They just couldn’t. That’s the difference, aside from having Jake Raspopovich and Dye, which quite frankly seems unfair, on the same team. Dye finished with 115 yards, two touchdowns and four receptions.

The Bulldogs actually didn’t play badly — but they also didn’t play nearly well enough to stop the Pirates. Surprisingly, to the Bulldogs credit, this turned into a defensive contest. Crown Point was stingy on the defensive front, holding a team that was averaging 41 points per game, 17 below its average.

They held Jake Raspopovich to negative 24 yards rushing before he busted one for a 47-yard TD late in the fourth that sealed the victories. That’s how it goes for the Pirates. They put the ball on the ground twice in the second half in bizarre, broken, hair pulling types of plays if you’re a Pirates fan.

Then they bust one for a touchdown — and everything is better.

Raspopovich, the single most explosive and valuable player in the region, is relentless. He was running backwards for most of the second half, almost getting sacked for a safety after Crown Point scored in the third quarter, before breaking free for the touchdown. Took him a while but Raspopovich figured out the Bulldogs were keying on running backs Dylon Collins and Bryant Isabell. He faked the hand-off and ran the opposite direction for the score.

For him, it’s about never letting down.

“I have to stay focused all the time,” he said. “All the time.

For the Bulldogs, or just about any team that plays the Pirates, it’s one of those deals you just have to accept.

Your team has to be closer to perfect than the Pirates. It’s just the way it is.

“Sure, we made some mistakes that hurt us,” Crown Point coach Kevin Enright said.

The victory was redemptive for the Pirates, who won their fourth sectional title under Zac Wells since the 2007.

They lost to Crown Point last year by three touchdowns in the sectional championship. Wells said the “taste from that loss” will never leave him. That’s OK. He can enjoy the taste of this one — at least for a few days.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.