MUNSTER | The alarm clock kept ringing. Thank goodness Merrillville woke up just in time to smack the heck out of the snooze bar.
No rest for the big favorites when the playoffs begin.
The Pirates woke up from a huge nap just in time to save their season – with a stunning 28-21 come-from-behind victory over an inspired Munster squad Friday night in Class 5A Sectional 1 action.
“Thank goodness we made some (big) steps defensively,” Merrillville coach Zac Wells said. “We didn’t make a ton of adjustments (at halftime). The kids just played better.”
Thankfully, Merrillville’s offensive line and the hard running of Bryant Isabell answered the bell with the Pirates (8-2) on the ropes. Down 21-7 midway through the third quarter, Isabell responded with 104 yards rushing and both of his rushing touchdowns in the second half.
“It was a good thing we got the (running game going) because (in last week’s loss to Chesterton) we didn’t run the ball overly effective either,” Wells said. “Obviously that was a huge boost because it allowed us to open up throwing and get some big plays there.”
Freshman Demond Wilkins was 9-for-12 passing for 153 yards and a TD – a sweet 53-yard hookup with Aaron Dye to put the Pirates up for good.
Munster’s Trace McCarthy threw three interceptions, including two to Ryan Neal, who iced the game with his final pick on a Hail Mary at the Merrillville 9-yard line as time expired.
Munster (2-8) stayed in the game thanks to a monster game from senior Ernest Carter, who had 202 yards on seven carries with two TDs by the break. The key, however, was Merrillville held him to only 37 yards in the second half. The Mustangs had 296 yard rushing in the first half, but followed with only 74 in the second half.
Merrillville had a 90-yard kickoff return nullified by penalty, one of 12 flags for a mammoth 140 yards. Brian Jenkins had 7 receptions for 105 yards and a TD for the Pirates, who racked up 400 yards of total offense, including 23 first downs.