Week 3 - Football Game of the Week Preview

6A Merrillville (2-0) at
6A Crown Point (1-1)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


When: Friday, September 3, 2021;  Kick-off:  7 p.m.

Where: Crown Point High School - 1500 S. Main (one mile south of the downtown square), Crown Point, Ind.


TV/Radio/Internet: No radio or TV.

Enrollment: CROWN POINT - 2,934; MERRILLVILLE – 2,044.
You’ll note the Crown Point number has changed. This is official updated enrollment for this school year on the IHSAA web site. There was a time when Merrillville was larger than Crown Point. A check of the 2005 Indiana High School Athletic Directory says that's when CP had 2,221 kids while Merrillville had 2,283 boys and girls. Go back 10 years to 1995 and Crown Point had only 1,817 teenagers, while Merrillville had 2,001 students.

WEATHER: The best night of the year so far. The forecast has temperatures in the upper 70s Friday and we should be in the upper 60s by the second half. Good for players and very good for fans. Should be a cool breeze out of the northeast. We’re going to like this.


PARKING: A big crowd is expected so don’t show up at 6:45 p.m. and expect to ease on in with no problem. The weather will be good so folks who like football will head to CP to check this one out. A reminder to Merrillville people. The earlier you get to this game, the shorter your walk to the stands will be. CP has plenty of parking, but this is a high attendance game so you want to get to Crown Point fairly early. Again, it's going to be a very pleasant night.


WHAT's AT STAKE: These are arch rivals in one of the best series in Northwest Indiana. Merrillville has won the last four games and 10 of the last 13. The Pirates lead the all-time series 48-37-1.
It's difficult for CP-Merrillville games not to matter. Since 1997, these two schools have met in week three of the season as the first Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) game of the season. You’re either 1-0 with six DAC games remaining or you’re 0-1. These two are also half of the field in Class 6A Sectional 1, so when they meet again (this is the 15th meeting of Crown Point and Merrillville in eight years) in October or November, the sectional trophy is on the line.

Last Year's Game...

Merrillville defeats Bulldogs  42-7
as Pirates defense dominates in DAC opener

Team 1 2 3 4 F
CROWN POINT (1-2, 0-1 DAC) 0 0 0 7 7
MERRILLVILLE (3-0, 1-0 DAC) 7 14 14 7 42

Friday, September 4, 2020 - 71 degrees, clear, Duneland Athletic Conference opener at MERRILLVILLE, Ind.

1st QtrMERRILLVILLE (7-0) Marcus Hardy, 14-yard pass from Angel Nelson. 58-yard drive, 5 plays. Austin Pupek kick. 10:19 left.
2nd Qtr
Lavarias Logan 28-yard run. 49-yard drive, 3 plays. Austin Pupek kick. 6:36 left.
Marcus Hardy, 16-yard pass from Angel Nelson. 47-yard drive, 4 plays. Austin Pupek kick. 0:01 left
3rd Qtr: MERRILLVILLE (28-0) Armani Glass, 43-yard pass from Angel Nelson. 43-yard drive, one play. Austin Pupek kick. 10:47 left.
Lavarius Logan, 2-yard run. 26-yard drive, 6 plays. Austin Pupek kick. 6:13 left.

4th Qtr: MERRILLVILLE (42-0) Phil Roche, 4-yard run. 78-yard drive, 4 plays. Austin Pupek kick. 10:23 left.
JJ Johnson, 11-yard run. 57-yard drive, 9 plays. Sammy Brewer kick. 0:27.

CROWN POINT (19 carries, 70 yards):
Matthew Walters (HB) 18 carries, 27 yards; Will Pettit (QB) 2 carries, 53 yards (2 sacks – minus 15); JJ Johnson (WR-QB) 8-46 yards, TD; Chris Walsh (WR) 1-2 yards.
MERRILLVILLE (25 carries, 224 yards, 3 TDs): Lavarisus Logan (HB) 17 carries, 144 yards, 2 TDs; Paris Hewlett (QB) 2-76 yards, Phil Roche (HB) 4-10 yards, TD.


CROWN POINT (4 of 15, 16 yards) Will Pettit (QB) 4 of 15, 26 yards. MERRILLVILLE (4 of 15, 16 yards) Angel Nelson (QB) 13 of 18, 216 yards, 3 TDs.


CROWN POINT: JJ Johnson (WR) 1 catches, 5 yards; Matthew Walters (HB) 3-11 yards.
MERRILLVILLE : Armani Glass (WR) 4 catches, 74 yards, TD; Marcus Hardy (WR) 2-30 yards, 2 TDs; Jo Jo Johnson (WR) 7-112 yards.


CROWN POINT – 76 yards, 6 first downs, 0 turnovers;
MERRILLVILLE – 431 yards, 12 first downs, one turnover.


MERRILLVILLE (9-04-2020) Neither game between Crown Point and Merrillville was competitive last season. Nine weeks after this Labor Day weekend game, Merrillville shut out Crown Point 39-0 in 6A Sectional 1. Crown Point was held to 76 total yards, most of them on the final fourth quarter touchdown drive. The Pirates seemed unstoppable because they darn near were. The Pirates beat Hobart, a team which reached the 4A state final game, 23-7. They beat Jefferson, which was 10-0 at the time, by the outrageous score of 48-14. Merrillville lost two games; to Bishop Chatard, which won the Class 3A state title, 45-28, and to Westfield, which reached the 6A title game 41-23. The last Northwest Indiana team to beat Merrillville was Valparaiso in 2019 - the year Valparaiso went to the Class 5A title game.


The HISTORY:  Merrillville is older than it might appear. In the mid-1800s, two brothers William and Dudley Merrill, moved to an area known largely for wagon trails to Joliet, Illinois. The village they helped build took their name, Merrillville.


Merrillville is also wider than it appears. The town stretches from 53rd street to 101st street north to south and from Whitcomb on the west to the Lake County line on the east. Population? What time of the day is it? Merrillville has about 35,000 residents, but that number doubles many days due to the shopping malls, stores and businesses that bring in employees and shoppers.

Pierce Middle School in Merrillville is the original site of Merrillville High School in 1928. The current Merrillville High School opened in 1953. Football began in 1946 at the old high school and the 1949 Merrillville team went 10-0 under original coach Dick Demaree (164-114-14 in 29 years), for whom the present-day Merrillville stadium is named. Merrillville has had seven coaches in the entire history of the school and they all have winning records. New Crown Point defensive coordinator Zac Wells was 82-31 as Merrillville’s head coach from 2006 to 2014. The all-time, 75-year record for Merrillville football is 509-261.

In 1946, the third high school football game Merrillville ever played was against Crown Point. The two teams met every year and from 1963-69, CP-Merrillville became the opening game of the season. In 1976 and 77, the CP-Merrillville game was taken off the schedule. There was also no Pirates vs. Bulldogs game from 1980 to 82. I don’t know why.

But CP-Merrillville came back on the schedule in 1983 and, after 13 more years of being the season-opening game, in 1997, the Pirates and Bulldogs moved their game to the third week of the season where it is to this day. This is the 25th consecutive season that Crown Point and Merrillville meet in week three of the high school football season.


The Distant Replay...

Merrillville defeats Bulldogs 26-21 in storm-delayed,

back-and-forth DAC opener

Team 1 2 3 4 F
CROWN POINT (1-2, 0-1 DAC) 0 0 7 14 21
MERRILLVILLE (1-2, 1-0 DAC) 0 7 6 13 26

Friday, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 2018 - (Game suspended Friday night due to lightning with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
Game resumed Saturday as 12noon, 80-degrees, humid) - Duneland Athletic Conference opener at MERRILLVILLE, Ind.

1st QtrNo Scoring.
2nd Qtr
MERRILLVILLE (7-0) Jeremiah Howard, 34-yard pass from Aahric Whitehead. 77 yard drive, 12 plays. Time of Possession (TOP) = 7:58 min. Austin Pupek kick. 7:20 left.
3rd QtrCROWN POINT (7-7) Scott Mills, 18-yard run. 74 yard drive, 7 plays. TOP = 3:18 min. Justin Robinson kick. 5:53 left.
MERRILLVILLE (13-7) Jeremiah Howard, 31-yard pass from Aahric Whitehead. 48 yard drive, 5 plays. TOP = 1:49 min. Kick hit the goal post. 3:56 left.
4th Qtr: MERRILLVILLE (20-7)  Darius Schultz, 1-yard run. 32-yard drive, 8 plays. TOP = 2:34 min. Austin Pupek kick. 10:26 left.
CROWN POINT (13-20) Tysen Cazy, 10-yard pass from Will Pettit. 63 yard drive, 7 plays. TOP = 3:43 min. Justin Robinson kick. 3:11 left.
CROWN POINT (21-20) Anthony Gonzalez, 7-yard pass from Will Pettit. 47-yard drive, 8 plays. TOP = 1:14 min. Justin Robinson kick. 2:00 left.
MERRILLVILLE (26-21) Darius Schultz, 4-yard run. 60 yard drive, 6 plays. TOP =  1:04 min. Austin Pupek kick. 0:57 left.

CROWN POINT (25 carries, 33 yards, one TD, no fumbles):
Scott Mills (HB) 21 carries, 60 yards, TD; Will Pettit (QB) 4 (minus-27) yards. (3 sacks-minus 25).

MERRILLVILLE (36 carries, 81 yards, 2 TDs):
Darius Schultz (HB) 27 carries, 88 yards, 2 TDs; Peter Rodriguez (QB) 6-18 yards; Aahric Whitehead (QB) 3 sacks - minus -35 yards.

CROWN POINT: Will Pettit (QB) 16 of 28, 158 yards, 2 TDs, one interception.
MERRILLVILLE: Aahric Whitehead (QB) 7 of 11, 122 yards, 2 TDs, no interceptions; Peter Rodriguez (QB) 3 of 7, 33 yards, no TDs, no interceptions.

CROWN POINT: Scott Mills (HB) 1 (minus 1) yard; Anthony Gonzalez (WR) 5-66 yards, one TD; Tysen Cazy (WR) 4-51 yards, one TD; David O’Toole (WR) 4-28 yards; Felix Meeks (TE) 1-8 yards; Ben Uran (TE) 1-3 yards.

MERRILLVILLE: Armani Glass (WR) 6-66 yards; Jeremiah Howard (WR) 3-83 yards, 2 TDs; Josh Benton (WR) 1-9 yards.

MERRILLVILLE (1) Will Fulton


CROWN POINT: 191 yards, 7 first downs, one turnover.
MERRILLVILLE: 285 total yards, 7 first downs, no turnovers.


Merrillville halfback Darius Schultz (40) tries to stiff arm CP's Adam Hilliard (48) at Demaree Stadium, 08-31-2018. (Photo by Mark Smith)

MERRILLVILLE (9-01-2018) One of the best games of the series as Merrillville earned a 20-7 lead before CP quarterback Will Pettit led two fourth quarter drives to put the Bulldogs ahead 21-20. Pirate halfback Darius Schultz would cap off a late Pirate winning drive with his second touchdown of the game. This game was unusual because it was suspended Friday night with 4:11 left in the first quarter. Playing in the daylight the next day, both sides fired up their offenses and the game was an entertaining roller coaster.

I grew up in Illinois so, as far as I knew, football was supposed to be played on Saturday afternoon. Easier to play. Easier to watch. Easier to attend. So I really don’t mind when games are postponed on Friday nights and, of all the ‘bumped to Saturday’ games I’ve seen in my time, this was the best. Nine weeks after this game. Crown Point upset Merrillville 17-13 to win the Class 6A Sectional 1 title. The Pirates finished with a 7-4 record while Crown Point, which lost the regional championship game 23-6 at Valparaiso the next week, ended the season with a 5-7 record.


2021 (6A) Merrillville (2-0)
10-2 (2020), 11-2 (2019), 7-4 (2018), 1-9 (2017)
Coach Brad Seiss (7th year, 43-28) Duneland Conference games in CAPS
8-20 (W) 47-21 (2A) Andrean (1-1)
8-27 (W) 41-14 (4A) Hobart (0-2)
9-4 at (6A) CROWN POINT (1-1)
9-10 (6A) PORTAGE (1-1)
9-17 at (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (2-0)
9-24 (5A) LaPORTE (1-1)
10-1 at (5A) VALPARAISO (2-0)
10-8 at (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (2-0)
10-15 (6A) CHESTERTON (2-0)

Class 6A Sectional 1
vs. CP (1-1), Lake Central (2-0) and Jefferson (0-2)


SECTIONAL CHANGES: The change here is that Jefferson is 0-2 after going 38-5 the last four seasons. Jeff’s 49-21 loss to Lawrence Central (1-1) suggests they are not the Top-5 team they’ve been the last four seasons. That makes Merrillville a big time favorite in Class 6A Sectional 1 with only Crown Point as a team with an outside chance to beat them.

Merrillville offensive/defensive lineman Kenneth Grant (78).
(Photo by Mark Smith)


Merrillville’s offense has rolled through two opponents. Quarterback Angel Nelson (5-9, 165) leads an attack that has not truly been stopped for any length of time so far. Nelson is 28 of 42 for 498 yards and six touchdowns. His next interception will be his first. Defenses must respect tailback Lavarion Logan (5-10, 205) who has run 37 times for 256 yards and four TDs. Logan has also caught two passes for 112 yards, scoring two TDs.

Senior Silas Mathis (5-10, 140) has been quick and fast on the outside with 12 receptions for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Justin Marshall (5-11, 175) is another one of the purple boys with speedy feet. Marshall has caught three passes for 132 yards and two more touchdowns.

The Pirates’ offensive live works around center Adonnis Rodgers (6-0, 230) and the big right guard, three-year starter Kenneth Grant (6-4, 345) is a future Division I college player.

Merrillville is a little inexperienced in the line with junior tackles Jaylen Scroggins (5-10, 215) and Theodore Sparks (6-3, 280) plus sophomore guard James Veal (6-1, 250). The Pirates usually show you four wide receivers challenging you to stop either Logan, who gained almost 1,500 yards (254 for 1,492 yards) last season, or Nelson (who completed 125 of 193, 2,398 yards and 24 TDs in 2020) and his pass catching pals. Senior kicker Jaiden Almaraz is 10 of 12 on extra points and he hasn’t needed to kick any field goals as of yet.

The Pirates' defense is anchored around Grant and Ken Gresham (5-1-0, 250) at tackles and linebackers Jay Powers (5-9, 175) and veteran Rondell Latiker (5-9, 205).

Cornerback Phil Roche (6-0, 185) has two interceptions in the first two games and Grant, probably a better defensive player than he is an offensive player, has blocked two punts.

Nelson averages 35.5 yards per punts and Marshall (24 yards a return) is a threat on kickoff returns.

Andrean passed for about 250 yards against Merrillville, but that may say more about the 59ers than it does about the Pirates defense. Merrillville seems very confident and they should be. The Pirates are 23-4 in the last three years and three of the losses are to Indianapolis area powers.

And with five wins in a row over Crown Point, the Pirates will imagine good things happening again for them this Friday night.

2021 (6A) Crown Point (1-1)
3-4 (2020), 6-5 (2019), 5-7 (2018) 7-5 (2017) 6-6 (2016)
Coach Craig Buzea (1-0 - 1st year) 214-87 in 27 years

8-20 (W) 28-14 at (4A) Lowell (1-1)
8-27 (L) 7-21 (2A) Andrean (1-1)
9-3 (6A) MERRILLVILLE (2-0)
9-10 at (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (2-0)
9-17 at (6A) PORTAGE (1-1)
9-24 (5A) VALPARAISO (2-0)
10-1 (5A) LaPORTE (1-1)
10-8 at (6A) CHESTERTON (2-0)
10-15 (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (2-0)

6A Sectional 1
10-30 vs. (Lafayette) Jefferson, Merrillville or Lake Central.


A LOOK AT THE SCHEDULE: Five of the DAC teams went 2-0 in nonconference play and none of them went 0-2. It’s a good year in the DAC, in part, because of returning quarterbacks at Merrillville, Michigan City, Chesterton, Valparaiso and LaPorte. Crown Point’s schedule gets harder than a dirt road in the second half when they take on four rough riders including ranked teams Chesterton, Michigan City and Valparaiso.

Crown Point senior defensive linemen Niko Paic (52) and Elijah Davis (48) check the sideline during the week-2 Andrean game,  08-27-2021.  (Photo by Mark Smith)


CROWN POINT (9-03-2021)
I think the Bulldogs were very surprised they could not score on Andrean until the final minute of play in the 21-7 loss to Andrean last week.

An early injury to lineman Logan Pokropinski (6-4, 265) may have limited what CP could do and quarterback JJ Johnson took a lot of punishment from the hard-charging Andrean defense.

Junior running back Elijah Tiawhan (6-0, 215) broke loose on a 53-yard run late in the fourth quarter and finished with 124 yards on 18 carries. Sophomore receiver Landen Derlich (6-3, 175) caught eight passes for 76 yards. Junior Crown Point QB JJ Johnson is 21 of 31 for 216 yards and three TDs after two weeks.
The Bulldogs defense was able to contain Andrean running back Drayk Bowen in week two, but they did not stop quarterback Scott Ballentine, who threw for two touchdowns and over 240 yards. The front line, led by co-captain Niko Paic (6-3, 295), held Andrean to 41 yards rushing on 10 carries.

If Crown Point can keep Lavarian Logan under 100 yards and take away the big plays from the Pirate passing attack, they have a chance.

The Bulldogs forced six Andrean punts but they were not able to get off blocks and disrupt Andrean’s quick wide receiver screen passes.

Crown Point would hope to get more of a quick pass rush than they did against Ballentine, but more likely, the Bulldogs have to control the time of possession, something they did not do in either of the first two games. They have to keep the Merrillville offense off the field because stopping the Pirates attack is not something that has happened much in the last three years. Give Merrillville 10 possessions and they win. If the Pirate offense gets only seven or eight possessions, it's not so certain.

If CP’s offensive line can control the defensive front of Merrillville, an upset is possible. Playing Andrean was probably a very good prep for facing Merrillville, especially for the Bulldog defense.

What Crown Point may likely gain from this game is experience. The Bulldogs almost certainly will play Merrillville again in 6A Sectional 1 in eight or nine weeks. Friday’s game is not a must-win for Crown Point. The game in two months is.

at CP Stadium - capacity: 4,800

Sagarin computer ratings:  MERRILLVILLE by 29.

Merrillville won 39-0 and 42-7 over Crown Point last year and this season, the Pirates won by 26 points over an Andrean team that beat Crown Point by 14. The computer sees little chance for the home team here and I don't have a contrary argument.


For the record, Andrean was a 12-point favorite over Crown Point last week and the 59ers won 21-7.


CROWN POINT (09-03-2021) Look for the Bulldogs to start strong in front of the home fans. JJ Johnson gets into the end zone for a 7-0 lead. Crown Point kicker Sammy Brewer gets on the board with a field goal and a 10-0 edge. But the Pirates roar back with Angel Nelson tossing two TD passes to give the Pirates a 14-10 lead at the half.

Lavarion Logan gets going in the second half, scoring twice to put the Pirates up 28-13.


Crown Point rallies to within 28-20 on a second Brewer field goal and a TD from Johnson to Randy Lach.

But a Nelson TD run and a field goal from Jaiden Almaraz creates the final score in what should be an entertaining game. Crown Point’s offense will rebound from week two, but the offensive attack of the Pirates really hasn’t been contained in a couple of years. I don't see it happening Friday.


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Revised: September 01, 2021.