Crown Point 'far exceeds' expectations; Portage gets into Duneland win column
Part of him wondered what could have been in Friday's 41-28 loss to Michigan City, but in the big picture, first-year Crown Point coach Craig Buzea is feeling pretty good about where the Bulldogs are as they finish the regular season.
"For us to go 5-4, tie for third in the conference, it far exceeds our expectations," Buzea said. "We had nobody back on offense. We've got a bunch of young bucks, freshmen and sophomores, running around out there, so we're extremely pleased. The arrow's pointing up. I said it before, if you're going to get us, you're going to get us early. I think we're going to be pretty competitive as we go along. We'll get there."
Junior quarterback JJ Johnson gave Michigan City fits and most of his targets, including Ray Santiago (four catches, 117 yards), Randy Lach (17-yard touchdown), Seamus Malaski (13-yard touchdown) and Landen Delich, are all underclassmen, along with running back Elijah Tiawhan.
"Our best tight end (Lach) went out," Buzea said. "He was a big part of the game plan, so that hurt. The positive thing was, six weeks ago, the way we started (down 28-7), that would've been a running clock. The kids are fighting. We've made extreme progress. After the Valpo game, we went with a youth movement on defense. They shut out La Porte and held Chesterton to seven, but this is the first time they've seen that type of speed. If you don't have it, it's hard to simulate it. For our guys to be able to compete like that with guys who are so much faster than them, we're coming along."
Portage at La Porte: Colton Wilkie, making just his second start, ran for 221 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries to lead Portage to a 35-13 win that broke a seven-game losing streak and pulled the Indians into a three-way tie for sixth place in the DAC with the Slicers and Lake Central.
"We've been down and haven’t won since the first week of the season, so to come out here right before postseason and get a lot of points on the board, it’s big for us,” Wilkie said. “The biggest thing for us is just doing it every quarter. We started getting comfortable in the second quarter there for a little while with our lead and we weren’t moving the ball. We gotta keep going 100 (percent). Step on the throat and finish the games.”
While the defense has held its own against most teams, the offense simply hadn't been pulling its share of the weight.
“They’ve been really stellar for us all year,” coach Terry Chestovich said. “The biggest thing is that the struggles on offense have left the defense on the field for a long time which puts them at a disadvantage. We’re not very big, so we try to use our speed to our advantage and when you’re out there for a long time, that’s a big thing.
Chestovich credited his team for sticking with it through the struggles and it will now take some momentum into its sectional game in two weeks against Chesterton.
“That was kind of the thing, to get this one and build up for (sectionals),” he said. “We’ve been telling them the same things like to work hard, be prepared and worry about what you can control. We’ve had some injuries and those types of things, but that’s not an excuse, we gotta continue to get better.
The kids have done a great job in doing those things and staying with the program and believing in what we’re doing. Credit to them and the other coaches because obviously they’re the ones that make this stuff happen.” -- CJ PETERS