MERRILLVILLE | A three-minute stretch in the second quarter was all Merrillville needed to changes its fortune against Portage.
The Times No. 2 Pirates scored 17 points in the final 3:03 of the first half to turn a deficit into a 10-point lead, and Merrillville went on to claim a 31-17 win over the Indians in a Duneland Athletic Conference game Friday.
The Pirates scored on offense, defense and special teams in taking the lead in the second quarter.
Ronnie Giles put the Pirates (3-1, 2-0 DAC) ahead for good when he picked up a Portage fumble and raced 49 yards for a touchdown to put the Pirates up 14-7.
“He makes a lot of impact plays for us, and that was huge,” Merrillville coach Zac Wells said. “A lot of guys will dive on that, and he picked it up and put us back on the scoreboard before half.”
The Giles score came 1:09 after the Pirates tied the game on a 52-yard pass from DJ Wilkins to Jonathan Robinson.
Robinson, who caught three passes for 87 yards, beat the defender on an out-and-up move and went untouched into the end zone.
Wilkins completed 11 passes for 189 yards, and he added 87 yards on the ground.
“He made good decisions throwing the ball, including when to throw it away,” Wells said of Wilkins. "He showed a little bit more of his ability to run too.”
Ernesto Lopez closed out the half with a 33-yard field goal after a short punt and a Portage penalty set up the Pirates with a short field.
Merrillville finished with a 409-203 edge in total yards. The Pirates had 220 yards on the ground.
“The offense did a nice job of regrouping at halftime, and we stopped shooting ourselves in the foot,” Wells said. “We played a lot better and more consistent in the second half.”
The Pirates scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives in the second half to answer scores from Portage. Bryant Isabell and Kyrie Fuller each had three-yard scoring runs.
Bryant finished with 84 yards on the ground.
Gage Pearman completed passes to eight different receivers for Portage (1-3, 0-2). He finished with 173 passing yards.
Nathan Cherry had two rushing scores for the Indians. Cody Maldonado hauled in six passes for 47 yards.