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Osipoff: Merrillville offense shows what it can do on way to regional title

Merrillville's DylCollins celebrates sholders his teammates after defeating Ft. Wayne Carroll Merrillville High School Friday November 9 2012. | Jim

Merrillville's Dylon Collins celebrates on the sholders of his teammates after defeating Ft. Wayne Carroll at Merrillville High School on Friday November 9, 2012. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 11, 2012 6:14AM



MERRILLVILLE — Fort Wayne Carroll’s statistician called it “big boy football.”

Yep, the Chargers likely hadn’t seen anything on their schedule along the lines of Merrillville, especially with the way the Pirates were humming along in Friday night’s Class 5A regional.

From the outset, Merrillville overwhelmed Carroll, dominating for a 50-21 win. And, really, the game wasn’t that close.

Merrillville scored the first 50 points.

The Pirates went to their reserves late in the third quarter, giving those players some experience and a taste of late-postseason play, and — equally as importantly, if not more so — affording their front-line players a break.

And, boy, had those guys shined.

Jake Raspopovich completed 13-of-18 passes for 268 yards — with 256 coming in the first half — and three touchdowns with an interception.

He connected with five different receivers— only once with standout Aaron Dye, for a 45-yard touchdown on the game’s opening possession.

He also ran for 108 yards and a score against Carroll, which had entered allowing 19.2 points per game. Brian Jenkins had eight catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns.

“I think we executed really well early,” Merrillville coach Zac Wells said.

And in the middle of the game and late, for that matter.

The Pirates consistently found their slot receivers for major chunks of yardage.

A second-quarter swing pass to Dylon Collins about summed up the game, a play it wasn’t too difficult to see developing. He caught the ball, got to the edge with his speed, then showed his power by bowling over a Carroll defender for additional yardage.

Quite simply, the Pirates were too big, too strong, too fast for the Chargers.

“You never expect at this level for it to be a wide margin of victory,” Wells said.

Wells was asked just how well Merrillville played against Carroll, and how well his team has been playing in general in relation to other teams around the state. He said his entire focus had been on the Chargers.

Now, the Pirates are just one win away from returning to Lucas Oil Stadium, where they had opened their season with a loss to Warren Central.

It was only in 2009 when Merrillville last won a regional title, and the Pirates now have won four in the last eight seasons. Carroll has never won a regional title, and was coming off its first sectional since 2001, with this season its first title at the Class 5A level.

The Pirates’ pedigree was evident.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t play our best at the beginning of the game,” Carroll junior Drue Tranquill said.

Merrillville had, oh, just about everything to do with it.



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