Week-5 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Crown Point (2-2)
at Portage (1-3)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

When:  Friday, September 17, 2021

Where:  Portage High School, 6450 US Hwy. 6, Portage, IN, 46368

TV/Radio/Internet:  No TV. No radio.

CROWN POINT - 2,934; Portage 2,401.

15 years ago, Portage was listed with 2,657 students in the IHSAA directory while Crown Point had 2,221.

Long range forecasts say there could be a chance of rain. Upper 70s at kickoff and, hopefully, upper 60s by the end of the game. It's going to be more humid, but if the rain holds off, it’ll be okay. Portage, like all the DAC schools, has artificial turf, so mud is not in the forecast.

There’s a ton of parking at Portage and this may not be the most highly-attended game of the season as the home team has lost three in a row. Portage is a comfortable place and I’m always intrigued by the Auerelio’s Pizza east of the parking lot. In the days when I could eat anything at anytime, I used to love going to Portage so I could pick up a small sausage and cheese before I headed back to Lake County.


WHAT's AT STAKE: Not a lot. These are not sectional rivals. Portage is out of the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) race with two losses and CP only has outside hopes sitting at 1-1. There is no real rivalry between these two schools. But it will be the return of coach Craig Buzea to Portage, where he was so successful in the 1990s. Of course, that was before any of the boys (and a few of the coaches) on the field Friday were born. Portage is still trying to post their first winning season since 2016. Crown Point was certainly lifted by the 42-7 win last week at Lake Central and they want that high to continue in Porter County.

Crown Point really did not play Portage until they joined the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) in the 1993-1994 school year. It didn’t go well, at first. After a 19-14 win in ’93, Portage stomped on CP three years in a row by scores of 56-24 in ’94, 28-10 and 20-17 (in ’95) and 35-7 and 48-7 in 1996.

CP didn't compete well in hardly any sports when they initially joined the DAC and years in the old Lake Suburban Conference. But the Bulldogs, under coach Dave Eqofske turned back Portage 22-6 in 1997. The Bulldogs lost six in a row to Portage (twice in 2002 and 2003) after that until the Bulldogs' undefeated team (9-0) in the regular season in 2005 topped the Indians 31-21 for coach Chip Pettit.

Things have changed. Crown Point has won six of the last nine meetings with Portage, including a 24-21 triumph last fall.


The 'Distant Replay'...

Bulldogs recover from early mishap to defeat Portage 21-7,
improve to 4-1


Team 1 2 3 4 F
PORTAGE (0-5) 7 0 0 0 7
CROWN POINT (4-1) 0 7 14 0 21

Friday, September 19, 2014 -  63 degrees, cloudy at CROWN POINT, Ind.

1st QtrPORTAGE (7-0) Taylor Sebben, 21-yard pass from Nate Cherry. 73-yard drive, seven plays. (1st possession) Josh Gonzalez kick. 6:08 left.
2nd Qtr: CROWN POINT (7-7) Morgan Kral, 19-yard pass from Artie Equihua. 49-yard drive, 10 plays. James Priddy kick. 0:29 left.

3rd Qtr: CROWN POINT (14-7) Artie Equihua, 13-yard run. 69-yard drive, nine plays. James Priddy kick. 2:27 left.
CROWN POINT (21-7) Jesse Martin 21-yard run. 28-yard drive, 3 plays (after fumble recovery). 0:21 left.

4th Qtr: No scoring.



PORTAGE (25 carries, 85 yards, 0 TD, one fumble): Nate Cherry (QB) 20 carries, 73 yards; Avery Sanders (HB) 5-12 yards.


CROWN POINT (43 carries, 206 yards, 2 TDs, 0 fumbles): Troy Grady (HB) 9 carries, 17 yards; Artie Equihua (QB) 22 carries, 121 yards, TD; Luke Polus (HB) 7-23 yards; Jesse Martin (HB) 4-37 yards, TD; Patrick Messer (WR) 1-8 yards.

PORTAGE: Nate Cherry (QB) 4-7, 73 yards; Ian Collier (QB) 1-7, 10 yards.

CROWN POINT: Artie Equihua (QB) 3 of 12, 73 yards, one TD, one interception.


PORTAGE : Marquis White (WR) 2-16 yards, Taylor Sebben (WR) 3-67, TD. CROWN POINT: Morgan Kral (TE) 2-39 yards, TD; Dax Jones (WR) 1-34 yards.



PORTAGE (1) fumble.
CROWN POINT (1) interception.


CP's junior quarterback Artie Equihua on the sidelines in 2014. (Photo by Mark Smith)

CROWN POINT (9-19-2014) Seven years ago, Portage was in the middle of a down season when they came to Crown Point for a game the Bulldogs were very much expected to win.

And then, Portage took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field to take a 7-0 lead. And then Crown Point got the ball and they had to punt. Next time. Another possession. Another punt. Was this finally Portage’s night?

Well, no.

CP got a TD right before halftime and the offense, led by Artie Equihua, pulled away in the second half, while CP’s defense held strong. Equihua had 22 carries for 121 yards. There were dark times on the gridiron for Portage. They won just one of 10 games and they were 1-10 in 2015.

For Crown Point, 2014 was an 8-2 season and Equihua set he Bulldogs quarterback rushing record with 1,374 yards and 14 touchdowns on 215 carries. Halfback Troy Grady gained 882 yards on 127 carries and I remember rooting for Troy to get over the 1,00 yard mark. I do not believe that Crown Point football has ever had two 1,000 yard rushers in the same season.

2021 (6A) Portage (1-3)
3-4 (2020), 6-5 (2019), 5-7 (2018), 7-5 (2017), 6-6 (2016)
Coach Terry Chestoyovich (4-10, 2nd year) - all DAC games in CAPS
8-20 at (5A) Morton (0-4)
8-27 (L) 21-26 (4A) Lowell (2-2)
9-3 (L) 7-14 at (6A) LC (3-1)
9-10 (L) 12-43 at (6A) MERRILLVILLE (4-0)
9-17 (6A) CROWN POINT (2-2)
9-24 (6A) CHESTERTON (4-0)
10-1 at (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (2-2)
10-8 (5A) VALPARAISO (4-0)
10-15 at (5A) LaPORTE (1-3)

6A Sectional 2
10-30 vs. Elkhart (2-2), Penn (0-4) or Chesterton (4-0)


SCHEDULE CHANGES: As Penn fades, this sectional looks winnable for Portage or Chesterton. Trouble is, Portage would have to beat Chesterton and no one has yet. Elkhart vs. Penn this week will suggest how winnable anything is here.


– Portage beat Morton, but everybody has so far and the Indians have lost three in a row. The Indians' offense is centered around senior running back Dewan Howard (5-11, 180), who has run 37 times for 311 yards. Howard has also caught nine passes for 108 yards. Senior quarterback Josh Bloom (5-10, 160) has made some big plays. He is just 23 of 49 in the first three games but his passes gained 379 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Colton Wilke (6-3, 170) is a big target and he has caught nine passes for 195 yards and three of the Indians' passing touchdowns.

Portage has averaged just 16.8 points per game and they lost leads against both Lowell and Lake Central.

Defensively, Portage gave up 45 points last week to a Merrillville team that averages 45 points a game.

Senior lineman Corey Hill, who had 52 tackles last fall, has 24 stops in four games this season. It's not a great sign if your corner back is your leading tackler, but corner Mike Dzyacky (5-8, 150) is easily the team’s leading tackler with 32 tackles and 21 solo stops.

Linebacker Djuan Washington (5-7, 210) has 14 solo tackles while middle linebacker Cam Walker (5-9, 195) has 19 tackles and 13 solo stops. Junior outside linebacker Aidan Barney (6-0, 205) has been in on 19 tackles in four games.

Senior Bryce Hufford is the kicker and punter. He has no touchbacks but he averages 36.5 yards a punt. Hufford is 7 of 9 on extra points and he has not attempted a field goal so far.

The challenge will be for Portage to not get run over at the line of scrimmage against a Crown Point team that rushed for 210 yards last Friday. The Indians are not overly large defensively so they may need a couple of turnovers to come out on top in this game. This is just the second Portage home game this fall and here’s a chance to turn the season around. Can they take it?

2021 (6A) Crown Point (2-2)
3-4 (2020), 6-5 (2019), 5-7 (2018) 7-5 (2017) 6-6 (2016)
Coach Craig Buzea (1-2, 1st year) 214-87 in 27 years Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) games in CAPS

8-20 (W) 28-14 at (4A) Lowell (2-2)
8-27 (L) 7-21 (2A) Andrean (2-2)
9-3 (L) 13-50 (6A) MERRILLVILLE (4-0)
9-10 (W) 42-7 at (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (3-1)
9-17 at (6A) PORTAGE (1-3)
9-24 (5A) VALPARAISO (4-0)
10-1 (5A) LaPORTE (1-3)
10-8 at (6A) CHESTERTON (4-0)
10-15 (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (2-2)

6A Sectional 1

10-30 vs. (Lafayette) Jefferson, Merrillville or Lake Central.


A LOOK AT THE SECTIONAL: Jefferson is taking some hits and they lost again last week 56-41 at Harrison (3-1). In four games, the Jeff Bronchos have scored 145 points and allowed 153 points. Entertaining, but not a winning formula for November when they will see Crown Point, Lake Central or Merrillville.

Bulldogs sophomore Landen Delich (11) junior JJ Johnson (2) and junior Elijah Tiawhan (5) during the Crown Point at Lake Central game, 09-10-2021. (Photo by Mark Smith)


CROWN POINT (9-10-21)
It was a big rebound for Crown Point last week. After losing 50-13 in week three, the Bulldogs won 42-7 in week four. Obviously, Merrillville, who topped CP, is much better than Lake Central, the team CP defeated, but the turnaround could not be more dramatic.

Quarterback JJ Johnson is having a strong rookie season with 34 completions in 61 attempts for 441 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. Johnson (6-0, 165) has also run 50 times for an unofficial 198 yards. Watching Johnson play, I worry about the amount of times JJ gets hit hard, but he clearly does not.

Junior running back Elijah Tiawhan (6-1, 215) is also busting loose in his rookie year with an unofficial 352 yards on 56 carries. Crown Point has 670 yards rushing on 129 carries in four games.
Sophomore receiver Landen Delich (6-3, 175) is also making a strong debut with 12 catches for 167 yards. Senior Nate Woodrick (5-11, 170) has eight catches for 130 yards.

Crown Point has started to play with a quick pace. No huddle snaps. Quick decisions on fourth down.

Defensively, senior Matt Woods (6-1, 215) who missed all of last season after an injury in the scrimmage, had three quarterback sacks last week at Lake Central. If you take away the 50-13 loss to Merrillville (I know you can't do that), the Bulldog defense has allowed just 14 points on average in the other three games.

Kicker Sammy Brewer had two touchbacks last week, but he is mastering the ‘squib kick,’ hoping for Bulldog opponents to fumble. This is a key game for Crown Point. Are they improving the way they appeared to be last week? Or was that a ‘one night only’ flash by a team that’s too young?

  W-L Pts OP W-L Pts OP Streak
Chesterton 2-0 69 26 4-  0 131 40 Won 4
Merrillville 2-0 95 26 4-  0 183 61 Won 4
Valparaiso 2-0 105 54 4-  0 211 67 Won 4
Lake Central 1-1 21 49 3-  1 91 49 Lost 1
Crown Point 1-1 55 57 2-  2 90 92 Won 1
Michigan City 0-2 48 76 2-  2 145 92 Lost 2
LaPorte 0-2 32 98 1-  3 74 149 Lost 2
Portage 0-2 20 59 1-  3 67 91 Lost 3

September 3
Chesterton 27, Michigan City 20
Lake Central 14, Portage 7 
Valparaiso 56, LaPorte 26 

September 10

Chesterton 42, LaPorte 6 
CROWN POINT 42, Lake Central 7 
MERRILLVILLE 45, Portage 13 
Valparaiso 49, Michigan City 28 

Friday, Sep. 17 - all games at 7 p.m.
CROWN POINT at Portage 
Lake Central at LaPorte 
MERRILLVILLE at Michigan City
Valparaiso at Chesterton 

Friday, Sep. 24 – all games at 7 p.m.
Chesterton at Portage 
Michigan City at Lake Central 
Valparaiso at CROWN POINT

Friday, Oct. 1 –all games at 7 p.m.
Lake Central at Chesterton
MERRILLVILLE at Valparaiso 
Portage at Michigan City 

Friday, Oct. 8 – all games at 7 p.m.
MERRILLVILLE at Lake Central 
Michigan City at LaPorte 
Valparaiso at Portage
CROWN POINT at Chesterton

Friday, Oct. 15 – all games at 7 p.m.
Chesterton at MERRILLVILLE
Lake Central at Valparaiso 
Portage at LaPorte
Michigan City at CROWN POINT

CROWN POINT (2-2) at PORTAGE (1-3)

Portage Stadium: capacity 5,000



Point spreads get into the ability to score points and that probably explains this spread. Portage has scored just 67 points (16.8 per game) in four games. The head to head games also don’t look good for the home team. Lake Central defeated Portage 14-7 while CP defeated Lake Central 42-7. Plus Crown Point defeated Lowell 28-14 while Lowell beat Portage 26-21. For the record, Crown Point was a four point favorite at Lake Central last week and they won 42-7.



PORTAGE (09-17-2021)
This game is close, maybe even tied, at the half. But Crown Point then hogs the ball and slowly pulls away. The Indians’ Dewan Howard may get in the end zone early and Josh Bloom probably has a TD pass in him but the tide will turn.

What struck me was Portage’s home game with Lowell on August 27. Lowell ran the ball 38 times for 311 yards in a come from behind win. On a warm night in Porter County, the Bulldogs will dominate the second half and pull away.

I’m looking for both Elijah Tiawhan and JJ Johnson to get 100 yards, while Boedy Burandt catches a TD pass.

CP improves to 3-0 on the road with an impressive win.

CROWN POINT 31, Portage 14

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Revised: September 15, 2021 .