LAPORTE | Two Duneland teams that are having very different seasons faced off in LaPorte on Friday night.
On one end of the spectrum was Merrillville, which came into the game undefeated in the DAC with a high-powered offense. On the other the Slicers, a team filled with underclassmen that have yet to win a game this year.
The Pirates made sure those trends remained in place, dominating LaPorte, 41-0.
All the scoring Merrillville would need on the night came in the first half, as the Pirates (5-1, 4-0) racked up 34 points.
Senior quarterback Jake Raspopovich led the way, completing 10 of 11 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns, and running for 29 yards and another score all before halftime. He ended up with 218 yards passing on the night before he was pulled from the game early in the second half.
“He’s been really solid for us,” Merrillville head coach Zac Wells said of Raspopovich. “He has been really great the last five weeks. Having a guy like that back there to set the tone – it makes some things a little easier.”
Senior wide receiver Brian Jenkins was the favorite target for Raspopovich, catching for 75 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
The running game also had its moments, particularly in the second quarter when junior running back Bryant Isabell ran the ball. He ate up valuable clock during one scoring drive in which he carried the ball seven times for 48 yards and a series-capping touchdown.
Wells said the offense responded after he challenged them during game preparation this week.
“I don’t think we had a great week of practice offensively,” he said. “We had a pretty intense film session (Thursday) after practice and I think they responded.”
The Pirates also had a solid showing on defense, racking up two sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery on the night.
It is that type of overall effort that Wells said Merrillville will need heading into the last three games of the regular season, when the Pirates will host Times No. 10 Valparaiso, followed by No. 2 Lake Central, and wrap up conference play with a visit to No. 1 Chesterton.
“You want to make sure you are going into a tough part of your schedule and ending the season on a positive note,” Wells said. “Offense, defense and special teams are all clicking together right now.”