Week 10-  Football Game of the Week Preview

Lowell (7-2) at Highland (4-5)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Lowell QB Ethan Igras (16), who was not at quarterback when Highland met Lowell in September, will be looking to throw over the Trojans' defense in the Class 4A Sectional 17 quarterfinals Friday in Highland. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m., CDT, Friday, October 19, 2018.

Where:  Highland High School  - 9135 Erie Street (2 blocks east of Kennedy Ave.), Highland, IN.
Tickets: $6
TV/Radio/Internet: WTMK (88.5) FM live.

Enrollment: Highland 1,050; LOWELL - 1,186

Weather: Better than last week’s ‘winter preview.’ The sectional quarterfinal forecast calls for highs in the low 50s during the daylight hours with some early afternoon rain. I’m seeing a chance of wind in the 15-20 mile an hour range, which would affect the game. Highland has natural turf, so it will be a bit wet. But no rain during the game (hopefully) and a better night than last week.


PARKING: Those of you who were there four weeks ago know that it's true: Highland high is in a quiet neighborhood that does not have a lot of parking for visitors from the south end of the county. Highland has played well this fall, despite the record. So I think a good crowd shows up to see if the Trojans can upset Lowell. And a ‘good crowd’ means the parking lot will be a little crowded.

‘Mr. Obvious’ adds: It's not that easy to get up and down Kennedy Ave. at 6 p.m. on Friday night, not to mention US 41 or the Borman Expressway. You might want to leave a little extra time for your trip to the game.




4A Sectional 17
East Chicago (5-4) at Hammond (0-8)
Morton (7-2) at Gavit (4-5)
LOWELL (7-2) at Highland (4-5)
Gary West Side (1-8) at Griffith (7-2)


SECTIONAL 17: Lowell advances to host Griffith (most likely) with a win. Being in the bottom of the sectional bracket, Lowell would also host Morton, if the Governors and Devils win twice. A Highland upset sends the Trojans to Griffith for a semifinal game.


The HISTORY: The recent history of this football series is as one-sided as any in Northwest Indiana. By my count, Lowell has defeated Highland 18 times in a row dating back to a 23-13 Highland win in Highland on September 13, 2002.


This Friday’s game will be the fourth meeting of Lowell and Highland in the last two seasons. Lowell has won the first three 27-0 and 35-0 in 2017 and 7-0 four weeks ago.

I’m guessing that Highland’s seniors know these numbers and this game will be like the National championship to them. The Trojans have nothing to lose and they know Lowell as well as any opposing team can, although Red Devil QB Ethan Igras was not the Lowell QB in the previous meeting this season.

In that 7-0 game back in September, Highland just missed a halfback pass trick play which might have tied the game late in the fourth quarter. Lowell had six sacks of Highland QB Dean Fondos, three by Lowell’s Blake Jansky. Neither team was exciting to watch as Highland outgained Lowell 149-145. Highland seniors have never played on a winning team at the varsity level. This is their last chance and they will be excited about the opportunity.


Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) FINAL

1. ANDREAN (5-0) 8-1
2. LOWELL (4-1) 7-2
3. Hobart (3-2) 7-2
4. Highland (2-3) 4-5
5. Munster (1-4) 2-7
6. Kankakee Valley (0-5) 2-7


NCC UPDATE: Andrean rolled to an undisputed NCC title, defeating all league teams by at least three touchdowns. The 2017 NCC champ, Lowell, finished second with the final game win over third place Hobart. Munster beat KV 20-13 last week to stay out of last place. It's small consolation to Hobart, but the Brickies finished with a 4-0 record outside of NCC play defeating Chesterton, LaPorte, East Chicago and Culver Academy.

(4A) Highland (4-5)
4-7 (2017), 5-6 (2016), 4-6 (2015), 6-5 (2014)
Coach Pete Koulianos (1st year) 4-5 all NCC games in CAPS
8-17 (L) 6-16 at (4A) Morton (7-2)
8-24 (L) 10-14 (6A) Crown Point (3-6)
9-1 (W) 56-6 at (3A) Clark (3-6)
9-7 (W) 37-7 at (4A) Gavit (4-5)
9-14 (W) 30-20 at (4A) MUNSTER (2-7)
9-21 (W) 7-0 (4A) LOWELL (7-2)
9-28 (L) 14-28 at (4A) HOBART (7-2)
10-5 (W) 20-19 (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-7)
10-12 (L) 0-28 at (3A) ANDREAN (8-1)


4A Sectional 17
10-19 (Fri) vs. LOWELL (7-2)
10-26 (Fri) at Griffith (8-2)



HIGHLAND – Highland is a good team that simply does not score enough. Even with the 56-point game against Clark, the Trojans still average just 19.2 per game. They only scored 206 points (18.7) in 11 games last season. I think they’ve improved this season, but the won-loss numbers don’t show it.

The Trojans senior quarterback Dean Foundos (6-1, 160) is the key to everything. Halfback Kent Smolar has carried 120 times for 636 yards and eight TDs, but Fondos (51 of 118, 734 yards, 4 TDs, 6 interceptions) is going to be throwing the ball a dozen times or so.

For the Trojans to score enough to beat Lowell, Fondos has got to have more success than he had back in September when he was 11 of 19 for 83 yards.

Senior end Trent Slaven (6-1, 190) has caught 23 of Fondos’ 43 completions for 288 yards. Senior wingback Rafael Rios (5-8, 170) has 331 yards on 51 carries and getting him the ball has to be ‘Plan B’ for the Trojans.

I don't know how much Highland can change offensively, but when you haven’t scored a point in three games against a team, you will change something. Even if it's just adding a different formation for the same play or adding a trick play, if only to convince your boys that they have a chance to score on this team that keeps beating them.

The Trojans' defense held Lowell’s Tyler Wildman to just 57 yards on 27 carries, but with Ethan Igras back at QB and backup QB John Alessia back at wide receiver, Lowell is a different team offensively.

I believe that Highland has to score early or their spirit may slip away quickly.

(4A) LOWELL (7-2)
14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 73-31) NWC Conference games in CAPS

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

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-20 (Fri) at Highland (4-5)
10-27 (Fri.) vs. Griffith (8-2)
11-3 (Fri) Sectional 17 championship


LOWELL Update:

Last week’s 34-7 win over Hobart was probably Lowell’s best game of the season and it came at the right time, after the 21-point loss to Andrean. On defense, Lowell has stayed strong. The Devils have 24 quarterback sacks (6 last Friday) led by senior Blake Jansky (9.5) and linebacker Mike Langen (5). Tackle Chandler Austgen has 14 tackles for losses, which is an especially high number for a lineman who is not an edge rusher.

Junior Aaron DuBord (6-2, 205) has been in on 41 tackles and sophomore defensive back Adam Bank has 21 tackles and six pass breakups. Lowell’s defense has given up just 65 first downs and 10 touchdowns all season. These rushing details do not seem real, but they are. Opponents have carried the ball 235 times for just 314 yards this season against Lowell. No player or team has rushed for 100 yards against the Devils.

Lowell junior kicker Nate Gard may be approaching a school record (David Lang was 10 of 15 on field goal attempts in 2007) with eight field goals in nine games.

Senior receiver and defensive back Shawn Mooney may have given his team a big lift when he returned from what looked like a serious injury in week eight against Andrean and reported for duty against Hobart last week. Mooney (5-10, 145) caught a pass for 30 yards, made three tackles on defense and appeared to be 100% after being carried off the field in Merrillville.

With the freshman and junior varsity seasons over, all teams get an extra bench player or two, something Lowell (with 44 varsity players this season), could use.

Lowell does not have (or has not yet shown) a big, short yardage running back, but senior Tyler Wildman (5-10, 145) has scored 11 TDs. Wildman (220 carries, 960 yards), who gained 885 yards on 189 carries in 2017, needs just 40 yards Friday night to reach the 1,000-yard mark.


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 (2-15) 347-1,931 yards
8.  Matt Pernick (1996) 229-1,827 yards
9.  George Fields (2012) 277-1,811 yards
10. Michael Pickett (1993) 273-1,687 yards
11. Brandon Grubbe (2007) 281-1,675 yards
12. Justin Henley (2002) 167- 1,552 yards
13. Cole Midgett (2010) 195-1,481 yards
14. Justin Henley (2003) 227-1,447 yards
15. Mike French (2000) 200-1,382 yards
16. George Fields (2013) 209-1,377 yards
17. Matt Pernick (1995) 175-1,349 yards
18. Max Znika (2006) 224-1,302 yards
19. Mike French (1999) 226 carries, 1,280 yards
20. Sean Anderson (2001) 242-1,048 yards
21. Nick Holley (1997) 131-1,014 yards
22. Tyler Wildman (2018) 220 carries, 960 yards

4A No. 11 Lowell (7-2) at Highland (4-5)


Highland' Zip Sypult Field: capacity 2,500


Lowell has defeated Hobart, Morton and Crown Point, teams that all beat Highland and there was the earlier meeting, won by the Devils. The computer suggests Lowell is a slightly better team now than they were in September. For the record, in week six of this season. Lowell was favored over Highland by 12 points on the computer and they won 7-0.




LOWELL (10-19-2018) Lowell gets off to a fast start here on a rushing TD from quarterback Ethan Igras in the first quarter. Highland probably threw the ball too much (19 times) in the earlier meeting, so they will play conservatively with Kent Smolar and Rafael Rios taking time off the clock.


But an Igras pass to Blake Jansky goes deep into Highland territory when Tyler Wildman scores on a short run. A sack and a fumble sets up a third Lowell TD, again by the QB Igras. This game will be close well into the third quarter, but Highland hasn’t posted one TD on Lowell in three games. Without a Red Devil turnover that gives them an easy scoring chance, it's hard to see the Trojans upsetting Lowell.


LOWELL 21, Highland 0

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Revised: October 18, 2018 .