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ST. JOHN — You've seen that movie where a car chase in the mountains has the good guy's brakes go out and he needs James Bond-like skills in negotiating dangerous curves to avoid crashing.

He has so many close calls, you swallow your gum.

That was the dilemma for desperate Merrillville and Lake Central squads in Friday night's Duneland Athletic Conference battle.

The Pirates brought in a 16-point per game margin of defeat; the Indians a 29-point per game difference.

But in a remarkably well-played game, Lake Central hung on for a 27-23 win.

Josh Williams, who had missed 3 1/2 games with a badly sprained left ankle, scored the winner on a 2-yard run with 1:42 left to play.

"I'm a big part of our offense so it was really hard on me standing on the sideline watching," said Williams, who rushed for 58 yards and two touchdowns. "It (the ankle) hurt today. It hurts now. I wasn't supposed to play but I had to suck it up for my team."

The Indians' winning score was aided by a pass interference call against Merrillville (1-7, 1-5) at the hosts' 6-yard line.

Merrillville also lost fumbles at its 1 and at the LC 22, with Connor Kaurich and Jackson Long recovering respectively. Kaurich later pounced on a fumbled kickoff that set up Williams' winning TD.

"I want to thank all my teammates for doing their job and that made things work out for me," Kaurich said. "We went through a rough season but we've got some good players.

"We're done taking beatings every week. With sectionals coming, this is a good time to be getting better."

Merrillville's big problem this season was the lack of offense — only 12 rushing touchdowns and four by passing — while injury-riddled Lake Central (2-6, 1-5) had a six-game losing streak.

"We've been through it all," LC coach Tony Bartolomeo said. "When you go through tough times, you learn a lot about people and our kids never stopped fighting or believing.

"These are my guys and I'm proud of their resiliency."

Zach Bundalo threw for 125 yards, including a 9-yard TD toss to Keon Sellers.

Merrillville had its big-play threats as well. Cameron Wright passed for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Justin Rhodes had 24 carries for 151 yards and a score. Tyjonn Lockett added four catches for 82 yards and a TD.

Even with the loss, Merrillville has beaten LC in 26 of the last 31 meetings.