MERRILLVILLE | It was a slow start, but once Times No. 1 Merrillville got things in gear, it ran away from South Bend Clay in a 41-7 drubbing.
"We got to kick-start it a little bit, and that was good to see because that's a big part of what we do with the tempo and stuff," coach Zac Wells said. "We like to be able to put some points on the board."
Senior running back Bryant Isabell was a big-play machine, breaking off touchdown runs of 64, 54 and 31 yards en route to 187 yards on 16 carries.
"Coach told me to run hard. I ran hard and got the job done," Isabell said. "We knew what we had to do going into the game. We executed and finished."
The Colonials (0-1) did not have positive yardage in the first quarter as the Pirates defense racked up four tackles for losses. Shawn Streck and company were in the backfield early and often.
Streck, a sophomore, finished the game with six tackles for losses and half of a sack. Cantrell Henderson, the other defensive tackle, returned a fumble 80 yards for a score in the third quarter.
"Our D-line has been playing really well," Wells said. "It's kind of been a major point of emphasis for us this off-season and in the preseason."
Merrillville (1-0) finally got on the board after a sluggish first quarter on the first play of the second frame when Isabell scampered 64 yards for his first touchdown run.
The Pirates drove 95 yards on their next possession, finishing in a 25-yard scoring pass from Wilkins to Terrance Grayson to make the score 14-0 with 5:55 left in the half. Merrillville scored three times in less than four minutes in the third and fourth quarters to put the contest out of reach.
"It felt good," Isabell said. "We came out a little low tempo, but in the second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter we picked it up real good."
Clay made some headway in a pair of second quarter drives. The first ended when Craig Burns picked off Dillon Bergin's deep pass at the Pirates five-yard line. The second was squashed by the clock as the buzzer sounded for the break.