MERRILLVILLE | The biggest game of the season Friday night, No. 1 vs. No. 2, and no DyLon Collins, no 999 yards rushing, no 10 touchdowns.
"Torn ACL. Out for the season. We just learned (Thursday) night," Merrillville coach Zac Wells said moments after his Times No. 1 Pirates overwhelmed No. 2 Lake Central 38-17 in a huge Duneland Athletic Conference showdown.
Collins, a senior, suffered the injury in the second half of last Friday's game with Valparaiso.
Fortunately for the Pirates (7-1, 6-0), they had Bryant Isabell ready in a phonebooth to jump out and save the day against L.C. (6-2, 4-2)
The 5-foot-9, 200-pound junior rushed for 113 yards and one touchdown as the Merrillville defense held L.C. to three second-half first downs, the first not coming until Luke Taylor's 64-yard TD run with 3:02 left to play.
"It's a tough thing. You not only lose a weapon, you lose a teammate, you lose a buddy," Wells said of Collins' injury. "Isabell would've been a great back for us had we not had DyLon getting a majority of carries."
Collins watched from the sidelines in his No. 4 jersey.
Jake Raspopovich was on fire once again, throwing for 312 yards and four touchdowns -- two of them going to Aaron Dye.
"We depended on DyLon a lot so I had to step up," Isabell said. "It's a privilege. It's great being on the field. We've just got to keep playing through (the loss) and stay focused."
David Yancey led L.C. with 122 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries but was shut out the second half.
Yancey's touchdown was set up by a Raspopovich fumble at his 49 on Merrillville's first drive.
It's been a good news-bad news situation this season for the Pirates, who came in averaging an impressive 44 points per game while allowing a dangerous 27.9.
Lake Central's stat sheet might be considered more impressive by observers who know the sport. Coach Brett St. Germain's club was averaging 33.7 ppg. while giving up only 9.3.
In fact, the defensively-sound Indians had allowed 17 points or less in 13 of their last 16 regular season games prior to squaring off against Merrillville.
All that changed Friday night as Merrillville beat L.C. for the 16th straight time.
"We got down to business," said defensive standout Kevin Wilkerson, who also caught a 2-yard TD pass from Raspo. "We've got the potential but we got to learn to play at the same level without having ups and downs."