Michigan City's defense was exceptional often and late, prevailing in a defensive slugfest over bitter nemesis La Porte, 7-3, on the road Friday night. The Wolves' 'D' forced three turnovers, including safety Brian Walker's two interceptions, and limited the Slicers to 132 yards of total offense on a rainy, cold night to spoil their Homecoming. "They were so aggressive in our style of play," City coach Phil Mason said of his team's defense. "And they were so fast to the football. We took away the edge, which we had seen a lot of teams not do, so they couldn't get their toss play going. Our defense did a great job." The Wolves (4-4, 3-3 Duneland Conference) took a 7-3 lead on Michael Bradford's 32-yard touchdown run early in the second period and never trailed again versus La Porte (1-7, 1-5 DAC).
City offensive player of the game: Michael Bradford
In addition to scoring the game-winning touchdown, the junior jack-of-all-trades tallied 10 yards-per-rush and had 60 yards on the ground. It was Bradford's first carry of the night and he made an instant difference. “We've talked about him making immediate impacts, so that was a conversation him and I had throughout the week,” Mason said. “So it was great to see him do that.”
La Porte offensive player of the game: Collin Bergquist
Despite missing the entire second half after injuring his left leg late in the first half, Bergquist shined. The sophomore quarterback rushed for a game-high 85 yards on 12 attempts, good for a 7.1 yards-per-carry average. "He was playing well," LP coach Jeremy Lowery said. "He was kind of our juice in the first half. We have a couple little special blocking schemes inside that were kind of giving them fits."
City defensive player of the game: Brian Walker
The Wolves' strong safety tallied a pair of interceptions and greatly helped that defense limit La Porte to a mere three points, just three yards per rush and force six punts. “I was just focusing really,” Walker said. “I was focusing on my man, not focusing on anything else. I was having fun with it.”
La Porte defensive player of the game: Zach Purnell
The diminutive linebacker was seemingly all over the field, making numerous tackles and trying to guide that unit with a few players out with injuries. He was pivotal in the Slicers holding City to only 18 yards passing. "He played outstanding," Lowery said.
Stat of the game: 14
The number of punts the two teams combined for, which speaks to the quality of both defenses. It was drastically different than two years ago, when La Porte prevailed 58-56 on a last-second Hail Mary pass, its last win over City.
Turning point: Only TD of the night.
Bradford galloped up the gut, then made a sharp cut to the left, running 32 yards to pay dirt for the contest's lone touchdown. That gave the Wolves a four-point cushion with 8:38 left before the break. “It felt good, knowing I can just go from defense, and he trusts me to just go in and move the ball like that,” Bradford said. “I felt like I made him feel good. As soon as I took the ball and saw No. 54 (Ernest Frierson) make contact, I knew it was over with."
Lowery on offensive woes: “We've got to be better. That starts with me as the head coach and the offensive coordinator. We've got to be better. There was some tough situations with our back-up quarterbacks. We didn't do a great job establishing anything in the second half."
Mason on message to his team at half with his team ahead 7-3: "We made a couple of adjustments offensively that we felt we could take advantage of. At times, we did. We just made some critical mistakes that got us behind the 8-ball, whether it was blocking or throwing. We threw a pick, which hurt us a little bit. We've got to get our offense on track."
Odds and Ends
La Porte starting safety Isaac Alexander, also a running back at times, didn't play due to a sprained knee he suffered a week earlier. Zane Eskridge started in his stead. Lowery said he hopes Alexander will return for this coming Friday's game. Slicer kicker Javier Robles also made a field goal for the second straight week, this time from 32 yards in less than ideal conditions.
Michigan City at Crown Point, 7 p.m. Friday; Portage at La Porte, 7 p.m. Friday
After a three-game losing skid, the Wolves have won two straight and strive to keep the good vibes going when they visit the Bulldogs (4-4) next week to close the regular season. At the same time, the Slicers host lowly Portage (1-7) in their regular-season finale, a winnable contest for La Porte, who's looking to build momentum for the postseason which starts on November 1.