CROWN POINT — Tyler Gomez and his father, Bill, spent most of their lives in autumn bleachers watching high school football games.
Excited. Thrilled. Overjoyed.
Most of the games they attended in past years were in Crown Point, where they live. But sometimes they attended other big games in the Region, taking it all in with nervous breaths.
Tonight, Bill Gomez will be in the stands at Portage, watching his son try to lead his Bulldogs to their second straight sectional championship.
"My dad and I love football, we always have," Gomez said. "He's my inspiration. We talk football all the time."
The two do still sit together often watching football, but that happens on Saturdays now.
"We go to Notre Dame games all the time," Gomez said.
This is a classic Region story. Families, communities, coming together to watch football, hoping against hope that the team they love and support can advance in the IHSAA state tournament.
Crown Point (6-4) travels to Portage (5-5) in the Class 6A Sectional 1 championship game. The Bulldogs won this title last year at Merrillville.
There is, however, a big difference between this year and last. And it all starts with Gomez.
Last season, his first as a starter, Gomez rushed for 686 yards on 205 carries with four touchdowns.
This season he's carried the ball 243 times for 1,501 yards and 18 touchdowns.
"Tyler has come a long way, he's really matured," Crown Point coach Kevin Enright said. "He understands the game better. He's become extremely patient in getting behind his blockers and reacting to their blocks.
"I think his support staff is much better this year."
Enright credits Crown Point's big and strong offensive line, along with Ben Fridrich and other wide receivers for block downfield while the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Gomez keeps his feet chopping in the right direction.
"I think our chemistry is better this year," Gomez said. "We have a solid bond to make plays together and to execute at a high level."
On Sept. 15 the Bulldogs went to Portage and lost 27-10. So while C.P. is the defending sectional champion and the Indians haven't won a sectional title since 2003, Crown Point knows it's in for a tough game tonight in Porter County.
"Playing in this game last year helps us because we're used to it and we shouldn't have any jitters because we've been here before, but that won't win us the game," Lopez said. "Against Portage or defense is a huge factor. We have to slow them down.
"Our offensive line a key for us. It's really important than we move the ball and control the clock and our special teams have to play well. Portage is a very good team and we have to be ready."
Gomez's football ride with his father could end tonight, or continue this autumn or on into the future. He hopes to play college football but that door hasn't opened yet.
Enright knows that Gomez will find a place where he can play in the future.
"Tyler is running with more authority," Enright said. "He keeps his feet moving, he's lowering his body and moving the pile. He's a big part of what we're doing and we want to keep it going."