MICHIGAN CITY -- It looked like the lackluster performance of a football team that had nothing left after losing the most hyped game of the regular season a week earlier.
That Michigan City lost to unbeaten Merrillville on Friday before a homecoming crowd at Ames Field wasn't that much of a surprise. That it lost to them by yielding 46 unanswered points in the first two quarters and experienced the indignity of having the game played under a running clock after the break was astounding.
"Never," Pirates coach Brad Seiss said of that possibility after the 46-7 beatdown. "We were their "get right" game the last couple years. We still have some memories obviously of what they've done to us the last couple years. This was a big game for us to keep pace (in the conference), but more importantly to beat a good team. They've done a lot of good things the last couple years."
Wolves coach Phil Mason didn't speak to the team at length on the field and was at a loss for answers, choosing to praise the Pirates rather than to condemn the reeling Wolves (2-3, 1-2 Duneland Athletic Conference).
"This isn't the way I wanted them to respond," he said. "We had a (bad) night. That's what we saw today, for whatever reason that was. I don't know if it's the football gods coming back at me for something. That's the best football team that I've played in a long time. They're really good. They're athletic. They got in our grill, they got after us. Hats off to Brad. He's worked hard for this."
City fell under .500 for the first time in Mason's four years, suffering the second worst margin of defeat of his tenure. It probably would've been the worst save for the continuous clock that results from a spread of 35 points or more at the break.
"I don't even really know what that rule is," Mason said as the Wolves ran the ball to finish out the first half. "We just had to get in at halftime and talk a little bit."
Even with the thrashing, City actually scored the first points of the game, taking advantage of a busted coverage for a 96-yard Gio Laurent to Kaydarious Jones pass to go up 7-0 at 10:16 of the opening quarter.
"We came out of the gates fast as usual, but for whatever reason, it wasn't our night," Mason said.
City had a chance at a two-score lead as Jeremiah Newsome recovered an Aahric Whitehead fumble at the Pirates 32, but MC was stopped on downs. On the next play, the Wolves had their own secondary breakdown as Whitehead found Jeremiah Howard running free deep and he coasted in for a 75-yard score. On the next possession, he went 60 yards down the sidelines on a bubble screen after a block cleared him near the line of scrimmage.
"We have big play potential offensively, so when people play man coverage on us, we feel we have a chance to do some good things," Seiss said. "When (Peter) Rodriguez comes into run the ball, we're pretty dynamic as well."
A'veyawn Madry intercepted Laurent on his next two passes, then Jaden Clark made it three picks in three throws against the sophomore. The Bucs turned each mistake into a touchdown to lead 32-7 at 9:40 of the second quarter.
"Wherever the ball is, I've got to get there," said Madry, who nearly had a third INT. "We were getting so much pressure. They're monsters (up front). Their quarterback was running all over the place, he doesn't know where to go, he just has to throw it up. As a team, we fed off each other. We gave them good field position, we know they're going to score."
Rodriguez added his second and third rushing scores to complete the scoring before the homecoming festivities as queen candidates easily outnumbered Wolves points.
"They've been whooping us the last two years, it felt good to finally be able to reverse that score," Madry said. "We weren't shocked. We know what we have. We expected a good game, we expected it to be kind of tight. We were able to keep our grind up. We didn't want it to happen like the Crown Point game. We had to keep the pressure on them."
Laurent threw for a deceptive 153 yards in the first half. In addition to the trio of picks, Merrillville (5-0, 3-0) smothered what has been a strong City run game, limiting them to 37 yards on 20 first-half carries.
"I never thought we would shut their run game down the way we did," Seiss said. "That's what they want to do. We did a really good job once we got the momentum of keeping the gas going. We haven't been able to do that the last few weeks."
What's next for City? It was hard telling where their minds would be this week, and after this debacle, it's still a mystery.
"We're going to have to regroup and get them focused," Mason said. "We're out of the DAC race, but that doesn't mean the season is over. We'll get 'em back. I'm not worried about that. They'll respond. We've got business we've got to take care of next week."
Merrillville 46, Michigan City 7
Gio Laurent threw for 153 yards but had three interceptions.