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CROWN POINT — Whenever Crown Point running back Scotty Mills scores a touchdown, he celebrates like any other football player. He chest-bumps, high-fives and hugs his teammates, but he also takes a moment to point to someone who isn’t on the field.

“I remember being a kid,” Mills said. “My dad was in bed lying down, and I came up to him. And he said, ‘This is our thing.’ We cross our (index and middle) fingers and point to each other. And that means to always play your heart out, always go full go. So every time I score a touchdown it goes back to him and why I do what I do.”

Mills said his father started coaching him when he was 4 or 5 years old. And during his final high school campaign, he has honored him 11 times.  As the focal point of Crown Point’s offense this season, Mills has scored 11 rushing touchdowns and totaled 247 carries for 975 yards — surpassing 100 yards and reaching the end zone in both of the Bulldogs’ postseason victories.

He said he is confident his offensive line will continue to make holes for him when Crown Point tries to win its first regional championship in 30 years by knocking off Valparaiso on Friday. The Class 6A regional final is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Valparaiso.

The Vikings are currently on a nine-game winning streak — which includes a 38-7 home victory over the Bulldogs on Sept. 21 — and are coming off arguably their best performance of the year. Valparaiso (9-2) took down defending regional champion Penn on the road, winning 21-0, and its defensive line wreaked havoc on the Kingsmen all night.

But despite the dominant showing, Valparaiso head coach Bill Marshall still believes Crown Point (5-6) has the upper-hand when it comes to one of sports’ biggest teachers — experience.

“Something we have against us is that this is their third regional championship in a row,” Marshall said. “They’re in familiar territory right now, where our guys are in unfamiliar territory. The last time we played in a regional was in 2010, so you know they do have that advantage.”

Marshall said his team will try to build on some of the positive takeaways from its 31-point victory over Crown Point earlier this season, but he’s cautioned his players to not become overconfident. He added that earning Valparaiso’s seventh regional title won’t be easy, and teams led by Bulldogs coach Kevin Enright always get better as the year goes on.

After Crown Point suffered a 48-0 loss to Michigan City to end the regular season, Marshall’s assessment holds true. The Bulldogs turned things around and have the opportunity to bring home their second regional title in school history.

Even though Valparaiso has home-field advantage and Crown Point has lost three of its last four meetings against the Vikings, Enright isn’t worried about the game being too big for his players. 

“We know about them, we’ve played there,” Enright said. “We truly respect them. But communicating with my group of teenagers, I think at this point they’re ready for it.”