Week 12 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Morton Governors (9-2) at
Lowell Red Devils (9-2) 

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



It's almost game time in Lowell. The Sectional 17 trophy is ready to go and somebody takes it home after this Friday's Morton-Lowell championship game.
(Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018

Where:  Lowell High School, 3 miles west of I-65 on US 2 in Lowell.


TV/Radio/Internet:  WTMK (88.5) FM live.


ENROLLMENT: Morton 1,300; LOWELL - 1,186

WEATHER: Similar to last Friday. A chance of rain during the day but dry and cold for the kickoff. Daytime temperatures in the upper 40s and probably mod-40s at kickoff.
The field should be in decent condition but it may be a little wet./
Morton plays all home games on artificial turf but they have played on the natural grass at Clark and Gavit.

PARKING: I’d like to see a big crowd from Morton fill the visitors' grandstand Friday. The Governors have had a good season. But it won't happen. Morton does not bring a lot of fans to Lowell. Not in recent history. So Lowell fans will have the parking lot largely to themselves this week.


WHAT's AT STAKE: This is it. This is why you lift all those weights. No matter how good or bad you have been, every school thinks about winning the sectional championship in Indiana high school football. Morton and Lowell can complete the journey tonight.


CLASS 4A (sectional numbers, followed by competing teams and records)
17: Morton [9-2] at Lowell [9-2]
18: (South Bend) St. Joseph [7-4] at No. 2 Mishawaka [10-1]
19: No. 1 Northwood [11-0] at No. 5 Angola [11-0]
20: No. 6 Bishop Dwenger [10-1] at (Fort Wayne) Wayne [9-2]
21: No. 4 Marion [11-0] at Mississinewa [10-1]
22: Greenwood [4-7] at No. 7 Mooresville [10-1]
23: No. 3 East Central [10-1] at Edgewood [8-3]
24: No. 9 Boonville [11-0] at No. 8 Evansville Central [10-1]


The HISTORY: Morton (138-74 in the last 19 years) has been Hammond’s top football school the last 20 years even though they’ve lost eight games in a row to Lowell.


Under coach Roy Richards, the Governors rose to power after hitting rock bottom (1-28 from 1995-1997) a generation ago. Morton had great teams before the state tournament began in 1973. But the best of the state tournament era? It's hard to say.

In 2009, Morton was 11-2 with a 34-25 loss to Lowell in August and a season-ending 42-0 loss to the Lowell team that went to the state finals. In 2010, Morton won four state playoff games before losing 48-12 to eventual 4A state runner-up Bishop Dwenger.

In 2011, Morton won a dramatic 27-26 victory over Griffith for the 4A Sectional 17 championship before losing 33-20 at home to South Bend Washington.

The Governors won the 2012 sectional championship, but beating Highland, Clark and East Chicago before losing 39-7 on the road at Mishawaka, again, a team that lost in the state finals.

That four year run of consecutive sectional championships, including a 34-6 record from 2009 to 2011 and four year record of 21-4 in playoff games, was Morton’s peak, an impressive rebuild for a program that had winless seasons a decade earlier.

It's common for the 4A Sectional 17 championship to involve Lowell or Morton or both. Lowell, under coach Kirk Kennedy, won four Sectional 17 championships from 2003 to 2006. The Devils were then moved to Sectional 18 for six seasons from 2007 to 2012 and coach Russ Radtke and Griffith won Sectional 17 in 2007 and 2008. Morton and Roy Richards then took over, winning four sectionals in a row from 2009 to 2012. Lowell and new coach Keith Kilmer returned to sectional 17 and won four consecutive sectionals from 2014 to 2017.

The only school other that Lowell, Griffith or East Chicago to win 4A Sectional 17 in the last 16 seasons? East Chicago, a 46-44 winner over Gary West Side in a high-scoring Class 4A 2013 championship game.

(4A) Morton (9-2)
8-3 (2017), 4-7 (2016), 6-5 (2015), 10-2 (2014)
Coach Sean Kinsey (3rd year) 21-12 all GLAC games in CAPS

8-17 (W) 16-6 (4A) Highland (4-6)
8-24 (L) 13-33 (6A) Lake Central (2-8)
8-31 (L) 0-38 at Lowell (9-2)
9-7 (W) 25-13 (5A) Munster (2-8)
9-14 (W) 52-6 at (4A) Gary WEST SIDE (1-9)
9-21 (W) 31-0 at (4A) GAVIT (4-6)
9-28 (W) 41-6 (4A) HAMMOND (0-9)
10-5 (W) 56-9 at (4A) EAST CHICAGO (6-5)
10-12 (W) 46-0 at (4A) CLARK (3-7)

4A Sectional 17
10-19 (W) 55-20 at Gavit (4-6)
10-26 (W) 48-9 East Chicago (6-5)
11-2 (Fri) at Lowell (9-2)

4A Regional
11-9 (Fri) vs. Mishawaka (11-1) or St. Josephs (8-4)


MORTON Update:

Morton has won eight in a row, the last seven by 31 points or more. They are led by mobile junior quarterback Credell Prather, who completed 20 of 27 passes for five touchdowns and a career-high 359 yards in last week’s 48-9 win over East Chicago.

Operating much of the time out of a one back, four-wide receiver formation, Prather (6-1, 180) has completed 107 of 202 for 1,899 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The junior right-hander is a good runner with 483 yards and six TDs on 58 carries. Prather has somewhat of a slow windup, but a strong arm. He was 13 of 24 for 223 yards in the 38-0 loss at Lowell in September.

The No. 1 receiver for Morton is Prather’s senior brother Kashon Prather (6-3, 180) who has caught 37 passes for 771 yards and 10 TDs. The No. 2 receiver for Morton is junior Tiare Spence (6-0, 184) who has 21 catches for 309 yards. So the Governors spread the ball around somewhat in the passing game. But Prather throws the ball to his brother more than anyone else and sometimes he’ll force the ball to his 6-foot-3 brother Kashon who has good leaping ability.

Morton’s run game is based on two-year starter Eric Johnson (5-11, 198) who has 1,043 yards and 12 TDs on 102 carries. Johnson reportedly was not healthy for the earlier Lowell-Morton game and he gained just two yards on five carries.

Backup Demaris Rias carried 15 times for 103 yards against East Chicago last week. I would guess that Johnson will be starting this week.

The problem for the Governors is that they have to pass block against a Lowell defense that has sacked opposing quarterbacks 30 times in 11 games. Does Morton use a tighter formation, play conservatively and run more than usual? Or do they stay with their spread formation and hope the five offensive linemen can block Lowell with no help?

Morton’s defense is better than the 38-0 score in September would indicate. Lowell ran a fumble and an interception back for TDs against Morton nine weeks ago.

The Governors have 13 pass interceptions and 33 quarterback sacks, including seven by free safety Cassius Waite (6-1, 190), seven from junior linebacker Jawan Coney (6-0, 170) and six from senior Chase Collins (5-11, 185).

Waite has been in on 116 tackles and he leads an aggressive Morton defense that overran a couple of plays at Lowell in September. In the earlier game, Lowell did run 36 times for 286 yards, but much of that came in the second half. The score was 10-0 at halftime.

Morton’s perimeter players seem strong, but this game comes down to whether the offensive line can give the Governors' skill players enough time to do their thing.

(4A) LOWELL (9-2)
14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 74-32) NCC Conference games in CAPS

8-17 (W) 17-7 at (6A) Crown Point (4-6)
8-24 (L) 3-7 (6A) Portage (4-6)
8-31 (W) 38-0 (4A) Morton (9-2)
9-7 (W) 51-0 at (3A) Clark (3-7)
9-14 (W) 13-10 (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-8)
9-21 (W) 7-0 (4A) at HIGHLAND (4-6)
9-28 (W) 21-12 (5A) MUNSTER (2-7)
10-5 (L) 15-36 (3A) at ANDREAN (10-1)
10-12 (W) 34-7 (4A) HOBART (7-3)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-19 (W) 34-14 at Highland (4-6)
10-27 (W) 45-14 vs. Griffith (8-3)
11-2 (Fri) vs Morton (9-2)

Class 4A Regional
11-9 (Fri) at Mishawaka (11-1) or St. Joseph’s (8-4)


LOWELL Update:

Lowell was too strong in the lines for Griffith last week, gaining 507 total yards and winning 45-14. Both quarterback Ethan Igras (14 carries, 181 yards) and halfback Tyler Wildman (26 carries, 130 yards) scored two touchdowns as the Devils had a season high 15 rushing first downs.

Igras was just 6-of-16 passing, but he hit two TD passes to wide receiver John Alessia and tight end Blake Jansky. Igras, who did not play quarterback in the Lowell win over Morton in September, has run 39 times in his last three games for 314 yards. His threat to run has forced opponents to take manpower away from the pass defense to stop Igras and Wildman, who has run 70 times for 290 yards and six TDs in his last three games.

Igras has completed just 14 of 34 in his last three games, but the 14 completions have been for 389 yards.

The return of Igras to QB also meant that Alessia returned to his multiple positions as wide receiver, kick returner and defensive back. The junior now has 13 catches for 224 yards, 21 tackles and four interceptions. Blake Jansky, Lowell’s starting defensive end has been a part time tight end all season. Last week he caught two passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. Because Lowell runs the ball 40 times a game, opponents stop thinking of the tight end as a pass catcher.

Lowell’s defense has allowed 107 points in 11 games. Last week was the 10th time the Devils held an opponent to 14 points or less. Defensive tackle Chandler Austgen (6-2, 283) has 5 1/2 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Defensive back Sean Mooney has 10 pass breakups.

The 2017 Lowell defense, the best in the state tournament era (since 1973) of Lowell football, allowed 103 points in 15 games.

Last week, when including Lowell’s list of 1,000-yard rushers, I left out Brandon Grubbe’s 2008 season where he gained 1,831 yards. Sorry, BG.

Junior kicker Nate Gard booted his 11th field goal of the season, tying David Lang’s 2007 total, which I believe is the school record.

I believe that Ethan Igras’ three-year passing numbers (159 of 313, 2,799 yards, 26 TDs) are school records. Before the state tournament began in 1973, high school teams did not play more than 10 games in any season. That’s why I assume that single season totals compiled since that time are school records.

For example, Grubbe’s 2,417 yards in 2009 is almost certainly the Red Devil record because for someone to gain more than that in the early years (Lowell won-loss records for varsity football go back to 1898) they would have had to do it in nine or 10 games. It's likely that Blake Jansky’s totals of 11.5 sacks (this season) and 28.5 (career totals) are also school records.
Lowell is 17-4 in post-season games in the last five seasons.


Lowell 1000-yard Rushers
... in the state tournament era (1973-present):

1. Brandon Grubbe (2009) 403 carries, 2,417 yards
2. Ike James (2014) 319-2,411 yards
3. Scott Gray (2005) 323-2,336 yards
4. Michael Pickett (1994) 339-2,256 yards
5. Trevor Espravnik (2016) 329 carries, 1,947 yards
6. Toby Goetz (2004) 276-1,939 yards
7 Ike James (2015) 347-1,931 yards
8. Brandon Grubbe (2008) 316-1,831 yards
9. Matt Pernick (1996) 229-1,827 yards
10. George Fields (2012) 277-1,811 yards
11. Michael Pickett (1993) 273-1,687 yards
12. Brandon Grubbe (2007) 281-1,675 yards
13. Justin Henley (2002) 167- 1,552 yards
14. Cole Midgett (2010) 195-1,481 yards
15. Justin Henley (2003) 227-1,447 yards
16. Mike French (2000) 200-1,382 yards
17. George Fields (2013) 209-1,377 yards
18. Matt Pernick (1995) 175-1,349 yards
19. Max Znika (2006) 224-1,302 yards
20. Mike French (1999) 226 carries, 1,280 yards
21. Tyler Wildman (2018) 261 carries, 1,144 yards
22. Sean Anderson (2001) 242-1,048 yards
23. Nick Holley (1997) 131-1,014 yards

4A Morton (9-2) at 4A No. 11 LOWELL (9-2)

Lowell Stadium (The Inferno): capacity 2,500



A lot of this spread comes down to the 38-point Lowell win over Morton in September. Note that the computer doesn't believe that Lowell is 38 points better than Morton, just 20. Morton’s schedule hurts them in cyberspace. The computer has the Governors’ 2018 schedule ranked 283rd of the 321 football playing high schools. That doesn’t mean Morton’s eight-game winning streak isn’t showing improvement. It just means the extent of that improvement has yet to be determined. For the record, Lowell was favored by nine over Griffith last week and they defeated the Panthers 45-14.




LOWELL (11-02-2018) I don’t see a high-scoring game. A Morton turnover early sets up Ethan Igras for a TD run and a 7-0 first quarter lead for Lowell. The Devils double the lead on a TD pass from Igras to Blake Jansky.

Morton gets on the board in the second quarter on a pass from Credell Prather to his brother Kashon.

A Nate Gard field goal makes it 17-7, but it wont be over. I think the Governors abandon the running game and throw everything they’ve got in the second half. The younger Prather will throw 35 passes and keep the Lowell defense running most of the second half.

An interception by John Alessia leads to a Tyler Wildman TD run to complete the scoring. Morton has not scored a point the last two times they’ve played Lowell. They will be very aggressive and attacking all night.

But it comes down to whether the Morton's offensive line can block the Lowell defensive front and protect the QB. I don't think they can.



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Revised: November 01, 2018 .