MERRILLVILLE | This was Aaron Rodgers against the Glen Park Pop Warner -- George Clooney auditioning for a high school play.
Friday night's Class 6A Sectional 1 opener between Times No. 2 Merrillville and Lafayette Jeff would've been great basketball theatre.
But football? Not so much.
The 8-1 Pirates had won seven straight. The 1-8 Broncos were averaging only 12 points per game.
Shaking off a sluggish first half, Merrillville used three touchdowns and 230 yards rushing by steady Bryant Isabell in rolling to a 39-18 win.
Merrillville travels next Friday to Lake Central (8-2), which it beat 20-17 recently.
Lafayette Jeff came in ready to go down swinging.
"A scary, scary team," Pirates coach Zac Wells said. "The fastest team we've faced."
Merrillville took a 12-0 lead into the locker room in a first half that saw Ernesto Lopez miss a 24-yard field goal, a PAT kick, and quarterback DJ Wilkins get picked off at the Broncos' 6.
Jonathan Robinson's short touchdown run and Wilkins' six-yard scoring pass to Ryan Neal accounted for the only points.
The second half was all Bryant Isabell, who carried 32 times and averaged seven yards a pop.
"He's Mr. Consistent for us," Wells said. "He's a hard-working kid who will simply not give up."
Isabell said it's a trait shared by the entire squad.
"Coach tells me all the time, 'Two hands on the ball,' and the line blocked very well for me tonight. Without them, I'm just a regular guy," Isabell said.
"We don't give up. Everybody on this team has heart, and we work so hard, offense against defense, every day in practice."
Darian Green had 136 yards rushing for Jeff, including a 76-yard breakaway. But he left late in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Austin Albrecht had a pair of TD catches from Matt Johnson for the visitors, who never backed off.
The game had plenty of moments when laundry cluttered the field -- 21 penalties for 153 total yards -- and both coaches were left glancing to the heavens for answers.
"We've got to clean up some things like taking care of the football and penalties," Wells agreed.
The Pirates' defense did block two punts. The second was recovered by Jonathan Robinson and led to an Isabell TD.