Week 1 - Football Game of the Week Preview

2011 Season Opener...
5A Crown Point (8-4) at 4A Lowell (6-3)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



When:  7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, August 19, 2011

Where:  Lowell High School, Route 2, Lowell, IN (3 miles west of I-65)

$5 (for everybody)

WKIV (92.7) FM, WTMK (88.5) FM. Live updates of all local scores all night on WLPR (89.1) FM. Live Internet audio stream on www.USA-365.com.


Weather:  Tickets: $6 (new ticket price this season for Lowell and CP)

CP - 2,532; LOWELL - 1,296.

Mid-70s in the late afternoon. Maybe 70 at kickoff. Great for fans. A little warm for players, but for a game in August, this is as good as it can be. No heat wave conditions. The natural grass at Lowell was long and soft last weekend. No rain is predicted for Thursday or Friday. No problems on the weather front. But bring bug spray. Lowell's athletic complex, like Crown Point's, has basically bloomed in the field out behind the high school. That's where the mosquitoes live.

PARKING: Lowell has upgraded again since the last time Crown Point played there two years ago. You can park west of the stadium if you arrive early and there is a new concession stand north of the field (you can't miss it). Lowell parks a lot of visitors' cars on the practice field behind the visitors' grandstand east of the stadium. If you have not been to Lowell for four years, you may not know that there is a new, much larger visitor's grandstand. But the entire football capacity at Lowell is less than 3,000 and this game will draw at least that many. Many week one games see slim crowds because the kids are not yet in class. This is not one of those games. You are asked to arrive early.

WHAT's AT STAKE: Nothing really. CP's game with Merrillville in two weeks means much more to them as does Lowell's game with Griffith in three weeks. This is a neighborhood game played for pride. The wonderful "Leather Helmet Trophy," which is a beaten up old World War I era piece of leather headgear mounted on a wooden base. The idea is that the Lowell-Crown Point football rivalry goes back to when leather helmets were in use. At the end of the game, the leather helmet gets presented to the team captains on the winning side. Everybody then wishes everybody well because 4A Lowell and 5A Crown Pint cannot meet in the state tournament.

 As I said last year, the Lowell-CP games go back at least to 1903 but the history is contradictory. The Northern Indiana Football web site says that Crown Point first began playing football in 1924. But it also says that Lowell played CP in 1903 so my conclusion is that no one is sure. The oldest final score listed is CP defeating Lowell 71-0 in 1904, 107 years ago. CP played Hammond twice in 1906 and LaPorte in 1904 so they clearly played football before 1924. But lots of schools like Kentland (the forerunner of South Newton) and Morocco, the predecessor of North Newton, played eight-man football going back before World War I, so they almost certainly played Lowell in those days. There wasn't much of anybody else. Lowell and Crown Point are said to have played 103 times but that's probably inaccurate, even though they have been meeting for 107 years. Lowell is said to have started football in 1896 but there are no scores of games available until after 1900.

Lowell vs. CP played a home-and-home series for almost 20 years from 1934 to 1952. In the 30s and 40s, Lowell and CP were the only Lake County schools south of Griffith. There was no Munster, Highland, Merrillville, Andrean or Lake Central. This was clearly the biggest rivalry in South Lake County because it was the ONLY high school football rivalry in South Lake County. Those days, which were long before the state tournament, had to be fun. Since you weren't going to the state finals and there was only the conference to win for Lowell (they were in the Little 7 conference in the 1930s, the goal was 1.) To win all your games or 2.) to beat Crown Point twice.

In 1906, 07 and 08, East Chicago played five games a season and they played Crown Point twice each year. I'm not sure that Lowell and Crown Point weren't the first two schools in Lake County to play high school football. In 1909, Lowell played Morocco, Hammond, Whiting and Crown Point. Of schools that still exist, Whiting, Hammond, Crown Point and Lowell are the oldest football-playing schools in Lake County. That's why this is called the oldest rivalry in NE Indiana.

4A No. 4 LOWELL (0-0)
Coach: Keith Kilmer (6-4) 2nd-year

Enrollment: 1,224
2010 record: 6-4
Sectional titles: (11) 1992, 1994, 1999, 2003-2010
Regional titles: (6) 1994, 1999, 2005, 2007- 09
Semistate titles: (3) 2005, 2007, 2009
State titles: (1) 2005
*Lost 4S sectional 10 quarterfinal game 44-13 at Concord

LOWELL RED DEVILS (6-3 in 2010)
Coach: Keith Kilmer, 6-4 (2nd season)
Aug. 19 (F) Crown Point {8-4} 7:00 pm
Aug. 27 (Sat) at Morton {12-2} 7:00 pm
Sep. 2 (F) at KANKAKEE VALLEY {1-9} 7:00 pm
Sep. 9 (F) GRIFFITH {6-4} 7:00 pm
Sep. 16 (F) HIGHLAND {1-9} 7:00 pm
Sep. 23 (F) at HOBART {5-6} 7:00 pm
Sep. 30 (F) Hammond {3-8} 7:00 pm
Oct. 7 (F) at MUNSTER {7-4} 7:00 pm
Oct. 14 (F) ANDREAN {9-4} 7:00 pm

Coach: Chip Pettit - 63-47, 10 seasons)

2009 record: 8-4
Sectional titles (3) 1998, 1991, 2006
Regional titles: (1) 1991
Lost sectional championship 16-6 to Valparaiso

Crown Point Bulldogs (8-4 in 2010)
Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) games in CAPS
Aug. 19 at Lowell {6-4} 7:00 pm
Aug. 26 Hobart {5-6} 7:00 pm
Sep. 2 Merrillville {8-3} 7:00 pm
Sep. 9 at Lake Central {2-8} 7:00 pm
Sep. 16 at Portage {5-5} 7:00 pm
Sep. 23 Valparaiso {13-1} 7:00 pm
Sep. 30 LaPorte {4-6} 7:00 pm
Oct. 7 at Chesterton {6-4} 7:00 pm
Oct. 14 Michigan City {1-9} 7:00 pm

Oct. 21 Class 5A Sectional (1) One
with Michigan City, Portage, Valparaiso, Chesterton, Munster, LC and Merrillville

LOWELL UPDATE: Lowell does not have a large number of returning starters, but that is deceptive. Tyler Wright (6-4, 245) missed the last seven games last year with a knee injury, so he technically is not a returning starter. The same goes for tight end/ defensive end Nick Kijurna (6-3, 210), a tight end/defensive end. Tyler Kristoff (6-3, 211) hasn't played since his freshman year due to knee problems, but he is back and looking good. Throw in returning linemen Jake Hayden (5-11, 265), Luke Mitrisin (6-3, 308), wrestler Scott Pitrowski (6-3, 276) and junior basketball forward Spenser Kersey (6-2, 226) and Lowell is going to be able to challenge most 4A teams on the lines.


The new quarterback is Bryan Thomas (5-10, 260), the baseball MVP (he's a catcher) who is a very good ball handler and an inexperienced, but strong-armed passer. Lowell traditionally doesn't throw more than 10 passes a game and that's unlikely to change. The Devils have a tradition of 1,000-yard rushers and the two senior candidates this season figure to be Zach Wolfe (5-7, 162) and Nick Hamilton (5-9, 163). Clark Mikesell (5-9, 163) is a wild card choice and the future is a very inexperienced but gifted sophomore named George Fields (5-11, 160). All of these boys need to be ready because if Lowell's line plays as well as they hope it will, there will be a lot of carries to go around. The problem with all of them is that they are all too small to carry 200 times like Cody Midgett did last season. Midgett wasn't any bigger, but he was a state class sprinter. Wolfe probably has the best speed of the 2011 candidates although I don't know much about Fields.


Fullbacks Jeremy Crocker (6-2, 190) and Austin Magley (5-9, 186) may be asked to get short yardage and goal line TDs and Thomas is going to gain his share on run-pass option plays.
Tyler Hamm (5-8, 151) and Aaron Hamm (6-3, 180) are wide receivers as is senior Danny Reyes (5-7, 156) but they are going to be blockers on most plays.

Lowell is uncertain at kicker with sophomore Sebastian Zagarena (5-8, 177) taking over as place-kicker. His next kick in a varsity game will be his first. Kersey is set to be the
punterThe line backing group of Crocker, Magley, Kristoff and maybe Tony Mauer (6-3, 186) should be good and the lines will rotate Mitrisin, Hayden and Brandon Reed at tackles with Kijurna, Wright and Kersey at the ends.

The defense lost Joey Gruszkowksi, a 2010 starter who will miss 2011 due to off the field problems. But Wolfe, Mikesell and Hamilton are all veteran seniors. Kristoff can drop into a safety role and Tyler Hamm, who will not play Friday against CP due to injury, will eventually end up on the perimeter.

Lowell has all seniors with size in the front six on offense and only two juniors in the front eight on defense. This is going to be a good year for the Devils.

CROWN POINT: The Bulldogs start with QB Joe Hopman, who has started every CP game (22 of them) for two years. Hopman is 192 of 372 for 2,900 yards, 27 TDs and 23 interceptions in his career. That's about 16 passes a game for the 190-pound senior, Hopman has also run 150 times for 757 yards and nine TDs. He is steady, but his receivers are new with junior Braxton Rice (6-6, 180), junior baseball player Zach Plesac (6-1, 175) and senior Tyler Smith (5-9, 160). Fullback Peter Parks (6-0, 240) carried just 22 times last year for 112 yards and caught 13 passes for 166 yards. It would be a shock if he didn't carry more than two times a game this season.


Senior halfback Jake Lindeman (6-0, 190) carried 41 times for 197 yards last season, but many at CP can tell you about sophomore Tristan Peterson (5-11, 160), a speedy newcomer who will get playing time.

The offensive line will be senior-dominated with Stephen Hutchison (6-1, 285) and Michael Young (5-11, 285) joining Eric Huttle (6-0, 255), Blake Pals (6-1, 245) and Sean Jones (6-3, 235) up from with wrestler Tyler Kral (6-2, 215) at tight end. Crown Point ran the ball about 400 times last year and threw about 200 times.

The Bulldogs didn't stop the run that well against Andrean last week, but Cameron Tanner (6-1, 260) figures to be able to with defensive ends Kral, Parks and Billy Van Cleef. CP uses a five-linebacker set, which is difficult to block. Senior Drew Brueckman (6-3, 195) could be anywhere. He had 40 tackles in 2010. Jordan Krajci (5-10, 180), Adam Kutemeier (5-11, 175), Anthony Geisen (6-0, 175) plus others may be in play here. They don't have as much linebacker experience as they would like.


Smith, Logan McRae and Austin Stanley will man the secondary, but there will be extra help required here as well once CP faces passing teams.

Senior soccer star Brett Bayer kicked nine field goals in 11 attempts last season and he was 42 of 46 on extra points. He's not in the class of All-American Jake Schmidt at Chesterton, but he's a lot better than most teams have.

CROWN POINT (8-4) at LOWELL (6-3)
August 19, 2011 at Lowell High School  - "The Inferno" capacity: 3,000

Sagarin Rankings: Not available. These ratings truly do not apply until each team has played a game. For the record, CP would have been favored by 14 over Lowell at the end of last year, not surprising since they defeated the Devils by 21 to start last season.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN: Scrimmages are like National Football League exhibition games. Not only can you not form conclusions off them about anything but players' health, but they are misleading. They can show you something that isn't true. I don't think that because CP didn't move the ball in the scrimmage through the air in the scrimmage that they won't move it against Lowell. But I think Lowell is going to be able to run the ball at least as well as they didn't against Merrillville in that scrimmage.

The 'W' factor here is kicker Brett Bayer, who can score from 30-40 yards out. Lowell just doesn't have that weapon at this point. I think CP is going to capitalize on a Lowell fumble to run up a 10-0 early lead on a run by Joe Hopman and a field goal from Bayer.

Lowell's got a couple of 70-80 yard drives in them against CP and the first one should cut the lead to 10-7 at the half on a run by Nick Hamilton. Hopman's TD pass to 6-foot-6 Braxton Rice will put the visitors up 17-7, but the Devils will move the ball consistently after halftime. Zac Wolfe's first TD of the year will cut the lead to 17-14. Crown Point will pull away on a TD pass to Tyler Smith and a run by Peter Parks, but Lowell will rally on a long run by new QB Bryan Thomas and a second TD by Nick Hamilton.

This game traditionally has little bearing on how these teams will do later in the season and that will be the case here. Traditionally, there isn't much scoring in these games, but the offenses are stronger than the defenses this time. In perfect conditions, the difference in the kicking game will prove to be the difference in the ball game.


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Revised: August 15, 2011 .