Week 11 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Griffith (8-2) at 4A Lowell (8-2)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Senior Rylee Torrence (3) has run for second half touchdowns the last two weeks for Lowell. The Devils host Griffith in the Class 4A Sectional 17 semifinals this Friday night. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When: Friday, October 26, 2018

Where:  Lowell high school, 3 miles east of I-65 on US-2, Lowell, Indiana.

Tickets:  $6 - (for everybody).

Kickoff:    7:00 p.m.
Radio-TV:  None

Enrollment: Griffith – 787; LOWELL - 1,186.

WEATHER: Not warm, but not that cold. Low 50s for the high Friday, which means about 45 degrees by the start of the second half. Right now, there’s no rain forecast for Friday, but that could change. It did last week. Griffith plays on artificial turf at home so they will have to adjust to the slower footing in Lowell. I’d bet Griffith is practicing on real grass this week, but teams that have artificial turf at home often struggle at Lowell. We’re in ‘November mode’ already. There aren’t going to be any more warm nights. Do what you have to do to stay warm.


PARKING: Griffith has had a good year and the Panther football followers have been to Lowell many times. I would expect the largest visitors' crowd of the year. A large home crowd is a good bet as well. The Devils are looking good but Griffith has always been a big rivalry. Lowell needs the home field advantage and I think it will show up this week.


HISTORY: This will be the 89th matchup between Lowell and Griffith. According to Northern Indiana Football.com, the Panthers lead the all-time series 50-35-3. Griffith began playing varsity football in 1934 and they have played Lowell every year to this day. That streak figured to end when Griffith left Lowell’s Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) last season, but the two schools have met in the post-season two years in a row.

Griffith dominated the series in the last century, but Lowell has won 10 of the last 12 meetings. Griffith has lost enrollment and may soon drop to the Class 3A playoff level which is why they left the NCC for the smaller Greater South Shore Conference.

The Panthers are the South Division champs of the GSSC. They will win games and titles in that league. But as long as Griffith remains a Class 4A school (and I doubt they will much longer), the Panthers will still have to defeat their old NWCC rivals in the playoffs.

If last year was an example, that’s going to be a problem. One year ago……...


Team 1 2 3 4 F
GRIFFITH (10-2) 7 0 0 0 7
LOWELL (12-0) 14 21 7 0 42

Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 - 45 degrees, 4A Sectional 17 Championship game at LOWELL, Ind.

1st Qtr: GRIFFITH (7-0) Cole Cervantes, 90-yard kickoff return. Jacob Damski kick. 11:43 left.
LOWELL (7-7) Ronald Bergstrom recovered Ethan Igras fumble in the end zone. 21-yard drive, 6 plays after Jordan Jusevitch recovered a fumble. Ryan Farmer kick. 7:04 left.
LOWELL (7-14) Ethan Igras, 5-yard run. 54-yard drive, 7 plays. Ryan Farmer kick. 1:40 left.

2nd Qtr: LOWELL (7-21) Jordan Jusevitch, 5-yard run. 54-yard drive, 4 plays. Ryan Farmer kick. 10:16 left.
LOWELL (7-28) Jordan Jusevitch, 36-yard punt return. . Ryan Farmer kick. 2:54 left.
LOWELL (7-35) Jaeger Gill, 49-yard pass from Ethan Igras. 49-yard drive, 1 play. Ryan Farmer kick. 2:09 left.
3rd Qtr: 
LOWELL (7-42) Cedric Caschetta, 4-yard run. 38-yard drive, 5 plays after Logan O'Hanlon interception. Ryan Farmer kick. 2:33 left.
4th Qtr: No scoring.

GRIFFITH (29 carries, 40 yards, 0 TDs, 1 fumble): Fred Winston (QB) 14 carries, 5 yards (3 sacks, minus 22 yards), Tayvien Walker (HB) 6-22 yards, Khadafi Coleman (FB) 8-13 yards; Ernie Johnson (HB) 1-0 yards.

LOWELL (37 carries, 212 yards, 3 TDs, 0 fumbles): Tyler Wildman (HB) 16 carries, 105 yards; Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 3-5 yards, TD; Cedric Caschetta (HB) 6-36 yards, TD; Jake Post (RB) 1-1 yard, Ethan Igras (QB) 12-66 yards, 2 TDs.

GRIFFITH: Fred Winston (QB) 2 of 10, 29 yards, 2 interceptions;
LOWELL:  Ethan Igras (QB) 9 of 13, 133 yards, 2 TDs, 0 interceptions.

GRIFFITH: Khadafi Coleman (FB) 2-29 yards..
LOWELL: Jordan Jusevitch (WR) 3-41; Jaeger Gill (WR) 4-83, TD; Jake Post (FB) 1-0 yards; Jared Sojka (FB) 1-9.

GRIFFITH (0); LOWELL (2) Jordan Jusevicth, Logan O'Hanlon

GRIFFITH (0); LOWELL (1) Jordan Jusevitch

GRIFFITH = 69 yards, 3 first downs, 3 turnovers;
LOWELL = 345 yards, 15 first downs, 0 turnovers.

LOWELL (11-4-2017) It's been my experience that the team that scores the first touchdown in a playoff game usually wins. And a team that runs the opening kickoff back for a TD usually wins. That didn’t happen a year ago when Lowell met Griffith. When Cole Cervantes went all the way with the opening kickoff, it did not seem to affect Lowell at all. Lowell led 14-7 at the quarter and 35-7 at the half. The final score could have been more than 42-7.

What carries over to this Friday’s game is the perception that Griffith did not physically match up with Lowell. Only 69 total yards and just three first downs. A lot of the names in that 2017 box score are graduated and gone. But the 2018 Griffith schedule is exactly what the 2017 schedule was. We all talk about the benefits of playing a difficult schedule and the Panthers have no choice but to play Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC) teams now that they chose to move to that league.

And if Griffith drops to 3A in the next classification, this become irrelevant because they will have seen the last of Lowell for the foreseeable future. But the question leaving the field that night is the question that gets off the bus with Griffith Friday.

Can the proud Griffith football program, which has won 15 sectional and five regional titles, still compete with old rivals like Munster and Morton and Lowell when they now play much smaller schools during the regular season? I don't know.

WHAT's AT STAKE: Everything. It's win or go home. The winner plays for the Sectional 17 championship next Friday, Nov. 2 against either Morton or East Chicago. Griffith came to Lowell to try to win the sectional title last season and they lost by 35. I’d imagine the seniors who return from that team are determined not to let that happen again.

Lowell has had a good year, but they haven’t won anything yet. The Devils lost the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) showdown against Andrean. So the sectional, as it usually is, is everything.

Class 4A Sectional 17

East Chicago 28, Hammond 12
Morton 55, Gavit 20
Griffith 53, Gary West Side 0
LOWELL 34, Highland 14

Semifinals – Sectional 17
East Chicago (6-3) at Morton (8-2)
Griffith (8-2) at LOWELL (8-2)

Class 4A Sectional 18

Mishawaka 35, Hobart 7
(South Bend) Riley 40, (South Bend) Clay 6
St. Joseph’s 38, Kankakee Valley 21
New Prairie 56, (South Bend) Washington 7

Semifinals – Sectional 18
New Prairie (7-3) at St. Joseph’s (6-4)
Riley (6-4) at No. 2 Mishawaka (9-1)

Regional Outlook
There were no upsets in the quarterfinal round so eight winning teams are playing this Friday in Sectionals 17 and 18. In this week's games, there are two rematches. EC has already lost to Morton 56-9 on October 5th. St. Joseph’s lost to New Prairie 41-28 on September 7th.

Lowell and Griffith have not met since the 2017 sectional championship game, won by Lowell 42-7. Mishawaka has not played Riley since 2014. A statistical oddity: Hobart played Lowell and Mishawaka on back-to-back Fridays. The Brickies lost 34-7 at Lowell, seven days before they lost 35-7 to Mishawaka.

This is the fourth meeting of Morton and East Chicago in the last two seasons. Morton has won 42-10, 27-0 and 56-9.

This will be the 89th matchup between Lowell and Griffith. According to Northern Indiana Football.com, and the Panthers lead the all-time series 50-35-3. Griffith began playing varsity football in 1934 and they have played Lowell every year to this day. That streak figured to end when Griffith left Lowell’s Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) last season but the two schools have met in the post-season two years in a row.

(4A) Griffith (8-2)
10-2 (2017), 8-4 (2016), 4-7 (2015), 1-9 (2014)
Coach Ben Geffert (4th year) 30-15 all NCC games in CAPS

8-17 (L) 0-53 at (5A) Michigan City (7-2)
8-24 (L) 6-30 at (2A) Whiting (10-0)
9-1 (W) 48-6 (2A) River Forest (2-8)
9-7 (W) 35-20 (3A) at Calumet (6-3)
9-14 (W) 53-17 (3A) WHEELER (4-5
9-21 (W) 29-14 at (2A) BOONE GROVE (8-2)
9-28 (W) 41-0 at (1A) SOUTH CENTRAL (3-7)
10-5 (W) 55-0 (4A) at LAKE STATION (0-8)
10-12 (W) 21-19 (3A) HANOVER CENTRAL (5-5)

4A Sectional 17
10-19 (W) 53-0 Gary West Side (1-9)
10-26 (Fri) at Lowell (8-2)
11-3 (Fri) vs. Morton (9-2) or at East Chicago (7-4)



Griffith successfully rebuilt their team from the 2017 squad that won 10 and lost two. They graduated 17 seniors off last year’s team, but the 2018 Panthers have rebounded from a slow start to win eight in a row coming into this Friday’s game.

The new Griffith quarterback is sophomore Carson Crowe (6-1, 170) who completed 58 of 113 passes for 782 yards, nine TDs and seven interceptions during the regular season. Crowe appears to be a better runner than he is a passer with 725 yards gained (with nine TDs) on 88 carries. The rookie has rushed for 100 yards three times in 10 games. He’s more fast than quick. Good in the open field. There are lots of highlights of Crowe scrambling out of a pass formation for a first down or a long throw. The Panthers use a lot of the now-common four wide receiver, one back formations although I wonder if they will come up with a two tight end set occasionally just to try to move the Lowell defensive front.

Speedy halfback Ernie Johnson (5-7, 160), who scored 14 TDs in 2017, has 716 yards and 11 TDs on 83 carries this fall. He carried 10 times for 65 yards and two TDs last week in the 53-0 win over West Side. Baseball star Cole Cervantes (5-10, 160) has 322 yards on 20 receptions at wide receiver. He caught four passes for 66 yards last week. Sean McSmith (5-8, 155) has 12 catches for 104 yards and he has run eight times for 130 yards on those ‘Jet sweeps’ where you hand the ball to the man in motion. The Panthers have also thrown more than a couple ‘run-right, throw-left’ screen passes.

McSmith, Johnson and Cervantes played on last year's Griffith team so they know what they’re signing up for coming to Lowell for a playoff game. Griffith doesn’t appear to have the personnel to line up and run right at you. They are a speed and passing team now and they will attack Lowell on the perimeter.

Defensively, I honestly do not know how good the Panthers are. Griffith allowed only 76 points in seven Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC) games. But there are no Class 4A teams in the GSSC.
Griffith has played only one close game all season, a 21-19 victory over Hanover Central (5-5). All other wins and losses have been lopsided.

The Panthers’ Cesar Valdez (5-8, 210), Drew Davenport (6-2, 197) and Lowell transfer Payton Schreiber (6-1, 207) are key men up front. Sean Martinez, Josh Peterson (5-9, 170) Cervantes and Sayvion Miles (6-2, 156) form a good secondary. Griffith is not a big team physically at all, but they clearly have good athletes with speed at skill positions.

4A) LOWELL (8-2)
14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 73-32) NCC 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 (8-2)
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 (9-1)
10-12 (W) 34-7 (4A) HOBART (7-3)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-19 (W) 34-14 at Highland (4-6)
10-27 (Fri.) vs. Griffith (8-2)
11-3 (Fri) vs Morton (9-2) or at East Chicago (7-4)


LOWELL Update:

Lowell gained a season-high 412 yards last week at Highland sparked by two long distance pass plays. Senior quarterback Ethan Igras and wide receiver Collin Sanfratello connected on passes of 55 and 78 yards to break down the Highland defense. Igras also carried the ball 10 times for 58 yards, allowing a relatively light night for halfback Tyler Wildman who carried a season-low 15 times. Wildman did score two touchdowns at Highland and he became the 16th Lowell player since 1990 to run for 1,000 yards.

Defensively, Lowell gave up a season high 171 rushing yards on 30 carries, but they held Trojans quarterback Dean Fondous to 9 of 29 passing for 90 yards. Lowell defensive back John Alessia was in on 10 tackles and grabbed an interception. Blake Jansky, Trevor Matovina and Chandler Austgen recorded quarterback sacks. Lowell has 27 QB sacks this season. They sacked the QB 21 times in 2006 and 23 times in 2007.

For those of you who like records and landmarks (count me as one), Lowell’s Jansky has 27 1/2 sacks in 36 (he missed 3 games in 2017) career games. I’d guess that is a school record. Ethan Igras has completed 153 of 297 passes for 2,637 yards. I do not believe a Lowell QB has thrown for 3,000 career passing yards.


And a correction for what was printed here last week about field goals. The ‘modern day’ field goal record (Lowell football goes back to the late 1890s, so nobody is sure about records) for Lowell is probably 11, set by David Lang in 2007. I should have known that because Lang’s 11th field goal, a 30-yard kick with six seconds to play, gave the Devils one of their greatest victories, a 10-7 win over top-ranked Bishop Dwenger in the 2007 Class 4A semistate championship game in Lowell. Lowell kicker Nate Gard booted field goals of 38 and 42 yards last week to give him 10 field goals this season.


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) 235 carries, 1,014 yards

Griffith (8-2) at LOWELL (8-2)

Lowell Stadium, 'The Inferno' capacity: 2,500 (est.)




I think this spread is a bit low. Griffith has played one Class 5A school and then nothing but 1A, 2A and 3As. Lowell has played two Class 3A schools and then nothing but 4A, 5A and 6As. Griffith and Lowell are rare sectional rivals in the respect that they have no common opponents this season. No one on Lowell’s schedule is on Griffith's schedule. When I see a ‘large’ school (4A or 5A) that has more than one Class 1A school on their schedule, that is a big ‘red flag’. You can't get ready for the 4A playoffs playing 1A and 2A schools. For the record, on the computer, Lowell was favored to beat Highland by 14 last week and the final score was 34-14.




LOWELL (10-26-2018) This game eventually comes down to whether Griffith can block the Lowell defensive front. The Panthers will surely start with a lot of energy and some screen and quick-style passes to get the ball into open spaces quickly. But Griffith will need to take a lot of time off the clock and that style of play won't do that.


Lowell ‘s Ethan Igras and Tyler Wildman will both rush for 100 yards and Igras will toss a TD pass to Blake Jansky. Add three field goals by Nate Gard and this game will not be close at the end.

The Panthers' lines don’t appear to match up with Lowell and, while the Panthers will start with a lot of energy, the game will end much as it did in 2017.


LOWELL 30, Griffith 7


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Revised: October 24, 2018 .