Week 1 - Football Game of the Week Preview

6A Crown Point (5-7)
at 4A Lowell (10-3)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Returning CP quarterback Will Petit (7) will be in the spotlight Friday when the Crown Point Bulldogs invade Lowell. Lowell won 17-7 at Crown Point one year ago. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When: 7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, August 23, 2019.

Where: Lowell High School, 3 miles west of I-65 on State Route 2.
TV/Radio/Internet: Live Internet audio stream on www.USA-365.com, (our 16th year of streaming Bulldogs Football!)

Tickets: $6

Enrollment: CROWN POINT - 2,869; LOWELL - 1,128. For the record, in 1986, IHSAA records said that Crown Point had 1,774 students.

WEATHER: We get a break. After a good, solid summer of mid-80s heat everyday, Friday’s high temperature is set to be about 75 with a northwest wind that should make this a very pleasant night. This will be a blessing for players who have practiced in overheated, non-football conditions all month. The cool of the evening should improve the atmosphere on opening night. We’ve all seen August games where players and fans alike were limited by heat and humidity.

For those who have never been to Lowell, fans in the visitors stands can be looking directly into the setting sun in the first half during games in late August. You may need your sunglasses at night, at least until about 8 p.m.


PARKING: Get to Lowell early. I believe the Lowell field seats about 2,500 with room for about 1,000 on the visitors’ side. Assuming that more than 1,000 people are coming from Crown Point Friday night, CP folks should arrive early.
There is parking next to the Red Devils’ field but there is more room in front of the school, along side Route 2. There is a lot of parking here for a Class 4, 1,200-teen school but the configuration has been redone since the time Crown Point last played here. Let the ‘event staff’ show you where to go. It's not obvious.

With that said, let me be ‘Mr Obvious.’ Lowell is half the size of Crown Point and the stadium is half the size of the CP stadium. You’re helping everybody concerned if you get to the field at 6:30 for the 7 p.m. kickoff.


WHAT's AT STAKE: It’s a nonconference matchup, but this is the game of the night in our area. This is the 23rd consecutive season that Crown Point and Lowell have met on the opening night of the high school football season and it features two programs that are doing well.

Both Lowell and CP won sectional championships in each of the last three years so this game is not the end of the world. Lowell and Crown Point cannot meet in the state tournament, so this is the only time they will see each other all year. They are hardly bitter rivals, but these two schools have met literally for over 100 years. The Devils and Bulldogs point to this game all spring and summer and there’s all the nervous electricity of opening night. Only with 2,500 witnesses.

Just between you and me?

Setting the quality of teams aside, there are three games I look forward to every year. Lowell vs. Griffith. Crown Point vs. Merrillville and Lowell vs. Crown Point.

If you are from someplace else where the high school football stands are half full, the energy level is low on game night and the boys don't always play hard, you should come see Lowell play Crown Point Friday night.

If you are a freshman or your son is a freshman and you have never seen a high school football game, this should be your first one.

As the ‘old guy from the newspaper,’ I sometimes walk on the field at the start of the game to get a picture of the ‘coin toss’. Both teams send four co-captains to the center of the field and the game referees decide who will kickoff and who will receive. When I’ve taken what I hope is the right photo, I turn around and run to the sidelines.

At the Lowell-CP game, when I turn around, I see one entire team standing along the sideline in front of a grandstand full of that team’s fans. And if look back over my shoulder, I see another team in uniform in front of another full grandstand.

Sometimes I stop running and walk just to look around. When Lowell’s stadium is full it looks unusually small from the center of the field. Crown Point plays a lot of games in places like Merrillville and Michigan City where you’re closer to the county line than you are to the playing field. At Lowell, the people and players seem to be right on top of you. It's like a ‘theatre in the round’ and the middle of the field is the stage. The closeness is more like what Indiana high school football is when you get outside of the city and suburbs.

I’ve stood on the sidelines to watch the boys play for 100 years, but the view of a capacity crowd from the center of the field stunned me the first time I saw it. It's still energizing even after all these years. And it gives you an insight to why boys who have only previously played junior varsity games in front of empty stands would be very nervous on this night.

I’ll repeat myself: If you are new to high school football and you have never seen a varsity game, you should come to see Crown Point play at Lowell Friday night.

It's a classic game played in a classic place.


The HISTORY: The website NorthernIndianaFootball.com says the first Lowell-CP game was held in 1903 but the earliest score I can find comes from October 22, 1904 when CP beat Lowell 71-0. It is believed that Lowell and CP played football in the late 1890s which would make them the South Lake County football pioneers. In the early 1900s there were no schools between the Gary-Hammond-East Chicago area and South Lake County.

These two South Lake County schools played a home-and-home series for almost 20 years from 1934 to 1952 and they must have drawn good crowds or they wouldn’t have been playing each other twice.

These two are natural geographic rivals (before Hanover Central was built in the 1960s, CP and Lowell were border schools) and that’s probably why they have played for so long. Lowell didn’t go north much in those days. In the 1930 season, Lowell played Kentland (which consolidated into South Newton), Morocco (now North Newton), Monticello (now Twin Lakes) and Rensselaer. The only times they went north were to Hobart, CP and Hammond Tech (now Hammond high).

In the years that CP played Lowell twice, they also scheduled Hobart, Rensselaer (Rensselaer was a monster in the early 20th century) and Valparaiso.

Crown Point leads what is the longest series in this part of the state 66 wins to 44 for Lowell with two ties, but the series is tied 11-11 in the last 22 seasons.

The Lowell-CP winner gets the 'Leather Helmet Trophy', a tribute to the days when Lowell and Crown Point were both pioneers in high school football. Actually the pre World War I games wouldn't have had helmets or pads of any kind. Or buses. Or lights for night games.

Early CP-Lowell games would have been played in the late afternoon. There may or may not have been crowds or even referees.

It's funny to think about that heading towards a Friday when 2,500 people will find a reason to show up out behind Lowell high school to watch some local boys play a game they have played in parts of three centuries now.

The 'Distant' Replay:  Lowell comes back to beat Crown Point 23-14 in season opener

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

Team 1 2 3 4 F
CROWN POINT (0-1) 14 0 0 0 14
LOWELL (1-0) 0 3 14 6 23

Friday, Aug. 17, 2007,  71 degrees, clear & dry, season opener at Lowell, IN

1st Qtr CP ( 7-0) Russell Chick, 56-yard run. 1 play, 55-yard drive. Michael Lipton kick.  9:54 left.
CP (14-0) Russell Chick, 2-yard run. 5 plays, 63-yard drive. Lipton kick. 1:18 left.
2nd Qtr:  LOWELL  (3-14) David Lang, 20-yard field goal. 13 plays, 82-yard drive. 7:39 left.
3rd Qtr:  LOWELL  (10-14) Steffan Peck, 1-yard run. 10 plays, 37-yard drive. Lang kick. 5:03 left.
LOWELL (17-14) Brandon Grubbe, 68-yard run. 1 play, 68-yard drive. Lang kick. 3:20 left.
4th Qtr:  LOWELL (23-14) Brandon Grubbe, 2-yard run. 6 plays, 54-yard drive. Kick blocked. 4:27 left.


(47 carries, 211 yards, 3 TDs, one fumble) Steffan Peck (TB) 30-106 yards, TDs, fumble; Brandon Grubbe (TB) 6-91, TDs;
Johnny Black (FB) 6-20 yards; Kurt Monix (QB) 4-8 yards (1 sack-minus-14 yards).
  CROWN POINT (24 carries, 93 yards, 2 TDs) Russell Chick (TB) 18-114 yards, 2 TDs; Blake Mascarello (QB) 1-6 yards (4 sacks - minus-27 yards) Evan Nikrin (FB) 1-0.

- Kurt Monix (QB) 4-4, 63 yards, TD; CROWN POINT - Blake Mascarello (QB) 3-10, 69 yards.

- Jeff Barker (TE) 2-45 yards; Jacob Belt (WR) 1-8 yards; Eric Roadruck (WR) 1-10 yards;
CROWN POINT - Zach Cecich (TE) 2-58 yards, Ron Burton (WR) 1-11 yards..

TURNOVERS:  LOWELL (1); CROWN POINT (1). CP lost the ball on downs after a dropped punt snap.

LOWELL (8-17-2007) – Twelve years ago, these two football programs were riding high. Lowell was just 7-6 in 2006 but three of those wins earned them the 4A Sectional 17 title. And the Devils were 11-4 in 2005 and 9-4 in 2004. Crown Point came into the 2007 opener off consecutive undefeated regular seasons and carried an 18-game win streak. The Bulldogs were 11-1 in 2005 and 12-1 in 2006.

The Devils, who returned 15 players from that 7-6 team were expected to do well, but not on this night. CP began the 2007 season rated 6th in the state with four returning linebackers and QB Blake Mascarello, a future Purdue pitcher who had passed for 2,000 yards in 2006.

CP was ahead 14-0 so quickly, on two TDs by senior halfback Russell Chick, that this looked like a CP win.

But the Devils held Crown Point scoreless the remainder of the game. In an 11-game season, this was only the third time CP would be held to less than 20 points.

In the interest of full disclosure, I picked CP to win this 2007 game 20-10 and, when the Bulldogs led 14-3 at the half, the way I saw it was the way it was. But this was ‘old school Lowell’. QB Kurt Monix ran the ball just four times while future 1,000-yard rusher Stephan Peck gained 100 yards and an unknown sophomore Brandon Grubbe scored twice in the decisive second half. Grubbe would go on to be Lowell’s all-time leading rusher.

I remember calling this an upset, but it turned out not to be. Crown Point (8-3) would win eight of their next nine games before losing to arch rival Merrillville 13-7 in the then Class 5A Sectional 1 title game. The Bulldogs tied Merrillville (12-2, 6-1 DAC) for first place in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) in 2007 with a 6-1 record.

What happened to Lowell after this night?

Everything. Lowell would lose 28-27 to Griffith three weeks later and then go on a 10-game winning streak.

Playoff wins on the road at Plymouth, Griffith and Concord and a 10-7 home upset of 4A No. 1 Bishop Dwenger made this one of Lowell’s greatest seasons.

The Devils lost the 2007 state title game 33-14 to Reitz, but they would come back in 2008 and go 13-1.

And in 2009, Lowell would go 13-2 losing the state title game to Reitz again.

In the years that have passed, I wonder what would have happened to Lowell this season if Crown Point had scored on their first possession of the second half and taken a 21-3 lead? You can make an argument that Lowell’s three year run of 36 wins and five losses began this night.

And it began with the Devils trailing Crown Point 14-3 at halftime.

2018 (6A) Crown Point (5-7)
7-5 (2017) 6-6 (2016), 1-9 (2015), 8-2 (2014)
Coach Kevin Enright (7th year) 41-37

8-17 (L) 7-17 (4A) Lowell (10-2)
8-24 (W) 14-10 at (4A) Highland (4-6)
8-31 (L) 21-26 at (6A) MERRILLVILLE (7-4)

9-7 (W) 21-3 (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (2-8)
9-14 (L) 12-14 (6A) PORTAGE (4-6)
9-21 (L) 7-38 at (6A) VALPARAISO (10-3)

9-28 (W) 24-21 at (5A) LaPORTE (4-7)
10-5 (L) 14-17 (6A) CHESTERTON (3-7)
10-12 (L) 0-48 at (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (10-3)

6A Sectional 1
10-27 (W) 12-7 Portage (4-6)
11-2 (W) 17-13 at Merrillville (7-4)
6A Regional
11-9 (L) 6-23 at Valparaiso (10-3)

2019 (6A) Crown Point (0-0)
5-7 (2018) 7-5 (2017) 6-6 (2016), 1-9 (2015)
Coach Kevin Enright (7th year) 41-37

8-23 (Fri.) at (4A) Lowell (10-2)
8-30 (Fri.) vs. (4A) Highland (4-6)
9-6 (Fri.) vs. (6A) MERRILLVILLE (7-4)

9-13 (Fri) at (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (2-8)
9-20 (Fri.) at (6A) PORTAGE (4-6)
9-27 (Fri.) vs. (6A) VALPARAISO (10-3)

10-4 (Fri.) vs. (5A) LaPORTE (4-7)
10-11 (Fri.) at (6A) CHESTERTON (3-7)
10-18 (Fri.) vs. (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (10-3)

6A Sectional 1
11-2 (Fri.) sectional quarterfinal vs. Merrillville, Jefferson or Lake Central.



- To me, there are two types of high school football teams in the pre-season. Those who return their starting QB and those who do not. The advantage of having a boy starting a full season the year before is probably more than I know. The idea that everyone in the program knows who the QB will be all spring and summer is topped only by the fact that the returning QB knows exactly what it's like to play. He knows the offense and he knows what he needs to work on.

Crown Point returns the starting quarterback in junior Will Pettit (6-foot-2, 195), who started all 12 games for the Bulldogs in 2018.

And CP returns all of their receivers. Tight ends Ben Uran and Felix Meeks plus wide receivers David O’Toole and Tysen Cazy combined for 74 catches and 946 yards. I’m looking for big things from Pettit who completed 107 of 248 passes for 1,129 yards, eight TDs and 12 interceptions last year.

The key will be if CP can find a couple of running backs. CP averaged only 3.3 yards a carry in 2018 and gained just 1,096 total rushing yards.

The Bulldogs' offensive line will be the focus and they will be big. Michael Wolf (6-1, 245) and Jack Darlington (6-5, 250) will start around center Zach Milly (6-2, 300). The tackles are senior returning left tackle Cael Begley and big right tackle Carl Watroba (6-7, 310).

Add Uran (6-5, 210) and Meeks (6-3, 240) and whoever runs the ball (senior Matt Walters will start Friday) should do better than 3.3 yards per carry.

The Bulldogs return five starters on defense and this unit should also be good. Word is the front line of Colin Flavin (6-2, 240) Silas Reeves (6-1, 220) and Calvin Pawlowski (6-1, 210) did well in last week’s scrimmage against Penn.

The Bulldogs’ five linebacker formation will be led by seniors Danny Sopczak (5-9, 180) and Jacob Woods (5-10, 225).

The question marks are running back and placekicker and ‘question marks’ can be answered in the affirmative.

Crown Point hasn't won more than five regular season games in any of the last four seasons. That will change in 2019.

(4A) LOWELL (10-3)
14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 75-33) NCC Conference games in CAPS

8-17 (W) 17-7 at (6A) Crown Point (5-7)
8-24 (L) 3-7 (6A) Portage (4-6)
8-31 (W) 38-0 (4A) Morton (9-3)
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 (2-8)
10-5 (L) 15-36 (3A) at ANDREAN (10-2)
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 (W) 20-14 vs Morton (9-2)

Class 4A Regional
11-9 (L) 14-28 at Mishawaka (12-2)

2019 (4A) LOWELL (0-0)
10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 75-33) NCC Conference games in CAPS

8-23 (Fri) vs. (6A) Crown Point (5-7)
8-30 (Fri) at (6A) Portage (4-6)
9-6 (Fri) at (4A) Morton (9-3)
9-13 (Fri.) vs. (4A) Griffith (8-3)
9-20 (Fri.) vs. (4A) at KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-8)
9-27 (Fri.) vs. (4A) HIGHLAND (4-6)
10-4 (Fri.) at (5A) MUNSTER (2-8)
10-11 (Fri.) vs. (3A) ANDREAN (10-2)
10-18 (Fri) at (4A) HOBART (7-3)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-25 (Fri) quarterfinal vs. Griffith, East Chicago, Gavit, Morton, Highland. Gary West Side and Hobart.


LOWELL Update:

LOWELL - Lowell’s entire offense is a question mark.

The Devils graduated all five linemen who began the playoffs last season and other than former one-way defensive lineman Trevor Mantovina, I'm not sure who will start up front.

I’m also not sure who will start at QB, but it could be Ryan Marx who carried 11 times for 145 yards last year in limited duty. I’m pretty sure the QB won't be senior wide receiver John Alessia III, who excelled as a multi-position player (wide receiver, cornerback, kick returner) who grabbed 17 passes and four interceptions in 2018. Senior Aaron DuBord (6-2, 205) will do double-duty at tight end and linebacker.

Lowell looks like they have a some speed on the perimeter and that’s going to have to be a factor on a fast-dry track this Friday. The Devils are gong to be undersized by 20-30 pounds per man.
Traditionally, Lowell ‘finds’ linemen. Boys who didn't play the year before who step in and do just enough to allow the Devils to control the pace of the game.

There are candidates on the roster, but we’ll know a lot more about 10 p.m. Friday.

If this game is close in the end and it comes down to the kicker, Lowell wins. Senior Nate Gard set a Lowell record in 2018 with 13 field goals in 20 attempts and 33 of 35 on extra points. Gard also averages 36.8 yards per punt.

Ryan Marx (5-6, 145) and Adam Bank (5-9, 150) should give the Devils some juice on kick returns, but this is a Lowell team where we are not sure who the QB is and we aren't that sure who the staring running back is.

I’m guessing the Devils use more than one QB this Friday and they may use more than two. The Devils appear to be a good defensive team with an offense that can go a lot of ways.

I’ve learned not to predict how rookie players will do in their first home game. Can they move the ball against a rival on opening night?

I’ll find out when everybody else does.

CROWN POINT (5-7) at LOWELL (10-3)

Lowell Stadium "The Inferno": capacity 2,500



SAGARIN RATINGS: Sagarin ratings can't be used before the season begins because they are computer ratings based on results. No results. No real ratings. For the record, the final 2018 ratings had Lowell one point better than CP. But again. The teams that will play this Friday night are not the teams with those computer rankings. For the record, the Sagarin numbers favored Lowell by six points last August and the Devils won 17-7.



LOWELL (08-23-2019) The usual late August heat will not be factor on this night. That will favor the bigger Bulldogs. Give Nate Gard an early Lowell field goal and watch an exchange of punts before CP starts moving the ball. The size difference between these two teams will be obvious on the first scrimmage play.

CP might be tempted to protect the passer and challenge Lowell’s secondary, but that’s probably not the way to beat the Devils. Somebody from CP gets 100 yards rushing. CP rushes for 200 total yards on 40 carries and they lead most of the way. To sum this up. The only way Lowell can win is if they get two or three turnovers. To me, the lines don't match up.

CP will be up 10 points at the half and the game won't be within seven points in the fourth quarter.

I admit that on several occasions in this series, I have taken a look at Lowell and then taken a look at Crown Point, ended up picking CP and then watching Lowell win. But CP has a distinct size advantage, a far more experienced offense and a returning starting quarterback.

Crown Point has not won at Lowell since 2013 and CP seniors have never beaten Lowell at the varsity level.

I think that changes on this night.



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Revised: August 22, 2019 .