Dorulla a big part of 'Buz' madness in CP: Bulldogs A.D. knew the coaching hire could reap dividends
By STEVE HANLON
CROWN POINT – The Hub was howling. Joyful madness was everywhere. Insanity with a smile it was.
The community gala was seen on the faces of the 5,000-plus fans dancing on the field at Crown Point High School on Friday night. Exploding smiles and tears on cheeks were all around, celebrating the Bulldogs 38-31 double overtime win over Westfield in the Class 6A semistate.
These Bulldogs, who started playing football on a much different field in 1901, advanced to the program’s first state championship game in history. And they became the first Region team ever to advance to the 6A state title game.
And right in the middle of all this hysteria was Craig Buzea, the legendary high school football coach who arrived in C.P. just three years ago.
“I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think this was possible,” Buzea said after the victory.
Just a few moments before the 60-plus year old cancer survivor had a moment that is becoming ritual in these parts. After a nail biting 'W', the Bulldogs started chanting “Coach Buz, Coach Buz, Coach Buz” awaiting the next thing to happen. Then, in an instant, Buzea runs and dives head first on top of the shoulders of these young men, a fitting symbol to what’s going on in these parts.
“It’s not about me,” Buzea said humbly. “It’s about these kids. I’m so proud of them.”
Buzea has now surpassed John Dillinger as the most known person who did something big in Lake County’s County Seat.
But this history is not his story alone.
As great as Craig Buzea is as a high school football coach, and he is, credit must be given to Crown Point athletic director Bill Dorulla. The veteran administrator was the one who got Buzea to come back to Indiana after a very successful stint in Illinois.
In his first year as a head coach, Buzea took Portage to the 5A state championship game in 1994. He then brought Michigan City out of the basement in his three autumns there, followed by 11 seasons at Homewood-Flossmoor, where he made the Illinois state playoffs 10 times and was the Class 8A state runner-up in 2014.
“He changed the culture here,” said Dorulla of Buzea. “I knew something like this could happen here with him leading the way. I just wasn’t sure it would happen in three years.”
Dorulla did something similar in softball. The Bulldogs had been very good for many years but with little postseason success. So he brought in veteran coach Pete Iussig and C.P. won the Class 4A state title in 2017 in Iussig’s first year on the job.
Dorulla hired Chris Seibert as C.P. 's girls basketball coach and those Bulldogs won the Class 4A state championship in 2021, waking up the echoes of Tom May’s three straight state finals appearances and two crowns in the 1980s.
The athletic director at Crown Point since 2003 has taken a second-tier sports town to the top.
“When he was stepping down at H-F, I gave him a call,” Dorulla said of Buzea. “We had a lot of really good candidates, too. But he was the best. He got every one of our kids to buy in and believe. You should see our practices. They are like a Division-I practice. And he brought a great staff with him.”
Yes, Buzea did. There are six former head coaches on the sidelines each Friday night and they will be with him Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium when the Bulldogs (13-0) take on Indianapolis Ben Davis (12-1) with all eyes in Indiana watching.
Sean Granger, Tom Cicero, Zac Wells (Merrillville), Eric Schreiber (Hammond), Joe O’Connell (River Forest), Danny Aultman and Matt Torres help the cause in a big way.
“We couldn’t have done this without them,” Buzea said.
It was like a Who’s Who collection of Bulldogs at the field on Friday night, when the house was packed two hours before kickoff, reminiscent of Hobart's old Brickie Bowl in the Don Howell days. State champion wrestling coach Scott Vlink was there. Former football coach Dave Egofske was pulling for the red and white. And longtime football coach Brad Smith sat in the southern end zone, shaking hands with former players like he was the Pope.
Smith coached Crown Point to its only other semistate game in 1988. He then became the athletic director in the ‘90s and started the fight to build the new school. He lost and moved on, but his logic and understanding of facilities would live past his days in C.P.
The old school and football stadium downtown was beautiful, with the lights on the clock tower of the old Lake County Courthouse lighting up Friday nights. But Smith understood you could not build a winner at a place with leaky walls and smelly locker rooms.
Now, this state power is in the middle of a $350 million upgrade to facilities in the district.
Football isn’t blue collar these days. Not anymore.
“I’ve been a lot of places but Crown Point will always be my home,” Smith said. “I’m so proud of what they’re doing here. 'Buz' is doing a great job. He has a great staff and what they’re doing is remarkable, historic. This game is for these kids, but it’s also for all the Bulldogs who played here before. I just love this community.”
And so, too, does Buzea.
This team practices like never before. Twice a day. Morning and after school. They break down film like a college team. Nutrition isn’t a pickup truck driving to McDonald’s after practice like the old days. The C.P. community provides healthy, nutritious food for the players to keep their minds sharp and their muscles firing on all cylinders.
After losing to Lafayette Jeff 38-28 in last year’s sectional, Buzea saw how much team speed was an issue. So the training staff began a project of improving foot speed for all of the names on the roster.
And that could be seen all over the field against the Shamrocks.
An athletic director. A head coach. A coaching staff. A group of teenage boys. An entire community coming together, this is what it takes to do something this remarkable.
So when Jacob Jones knocked away Westfield’s fourth-down pass to seal the win, an explosion of joy shook the field and The Square just a few blocks north.
“A few years ago, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be here,” Buzea said of his bout with leukemia. “I just love these kids so much. I am so proud of them.”
Crown Point coach Craig Buzea leaps into the waiting arms of Bulldogs players after Friday's double overtime win over Westfield in the Class 6A semistate. CP is the first Region team to reach state in the class. Photo by Crown Point Athletics
Crown Point Athletics Director Bill
Dorulla walks onto the field to present the
Class 6A semistate trophy to coach Craig
Buzea and the Bulldogs Friday.
Photo by Steve Hanlon