Hobart comes out on top of NCC battle with 39-27 win over Lowell

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



The playing surface at the Brickyard is now dedicated as 'Don Howell Field.' Don Howell coached the Brickies to state championships in 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1993. (All photos by Mark Smith)
Lowell senior Spencer Barta, right, and junior James Langen (30) help some instruction during a late time out at Hobart.
Lowell sophomore James Malachi (32) causes a special teams' fumble early in the Lowell game at Hobart (09-17-2021).
Hobart freshman quarterback Noah Ehrlich (6) looks to fire away against Lowell. Ehrlich was 12 of 15 for 209 yards and two TDs.
Lowell's Joe Heuer (21) and Hobart's Josh Tejeda (19) battle it out during Heuer's 48-yard run in the third quarter (9-17-21) at Hobart.
Lowell junior Riley Bank (19) finds open space against the Brickies. Bank carried 23 times for 160 yards at Hobart.
Hobart's Colton Charo (21) and Ryan Flores (44) team up to block Lowell quarterback Riley Bank (19) late in Friday's game at Hobart.
Lowell junior tackle Colton Quale (74) stands in the way of Hobart pass rusher Jake Izizarry (16) during the Lowell-Hobart game. The two teams combined for almost 800 total yards.
Lowell halfback Joe Heuer (21) rumbles with Hobart's Ryan Flores (44) in the Devils game at Lowell. Hobart led all the way and held off Lowell 39-27.
Hobart halfback Trey Gibson (3) scored two touchdowns and had a third called back on a penalty against Lowell. Gibson has keyed a Hobart offense that averages 33 points a game.
Lowell's Riley Bank passed for two TDs as the Devils rallied from a 19-0 third quarter deficit at Hobart. The Brickies defeated Lowell for the fourth time in a row.
In the end for Lowell in week five, there were too many Brickies. Alec Pickett (5) Jake Simpson (42), Josh Tejada (19) and Gavin Miiller (20). (All photos by Mark Smith)
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Revised: October 02, 2021 .
Team 1 2 3 4 F
LOWELL (2-3) 0 0 14 13 27
Hobart (3-2) 0 12 7 20 39

Friday, October 17, 2021 - 80 degrees (at kick-off) at HOBART, IN


1st QtrNo scoring.
2nd Qtr: HOBART (6-0) Miki Djankovich, 31-yard pass from Noah Ehrlich (68-yard drive, 6 plays. Kick wide, 3:34 left.
HOBART (12-0)
Trey Gibson, 19-yard pass from Noah Ehrlich. 19-yard drive, one play after Jake Irizarry recovered a fumble. 2-point pass incomplete. 1:49 left.

3rd Qtr: HOBART (19-0) Trey Gibson, 75-yard run. (1st play after second half kickoff.) Niki Djankovich kick. 11:47 left.
LOWELL (7-19)
Joe Heuer, 1-yard run. 65-yard drive, 3 plays. Chris Jancosek kick. 1:18 left.
LOWELL (14-19)
Riley Bank, 40-yard run. 79-yard drive, 12 plays. Chris Jancosek kick. 2:30 left.

4th Qtr: HOBART (26-14) Noah Ehrlich, 1-yard run. 44-yard drive, 8 plays. Niki Djankovich kick. 11:16 left.
LOWELL (20-26)
James Langen, 49-yard pass from Riley Bank. 79-yard drive, 7 plays. Kick failed. 8:17 left.
HOBART (32-20)
Noah Ehrlich, 10-yard run. 60-yard drive, 8 plays. 2-point pass incomplete. 4:41 left.
LOWELL (27-32)
Jaxson Skinner, 23-yard pass from Riley Bank. 55-yard drive, 3 plays. Chris Jancosek kick. 0:23 left.
HOBART (39-27)
Ryan Flores, 45-yard kickoff return. Niki Djankovich kick. 0:16 left.



LOWELL (62 carries, 307 yards, 2 TDs, one fumble):
Joe Heuer (HB) 28 carries, 145 yards, one TD; Riley Bank (QB) 22 carries 160 yards, one TD; Ryan Marx (WB) 1-2 yards.

HOBART (25 carries, 144 yards, 3 TDs, 2 fumbles): Trey Gibson (HB) 23 carries, 151 yards, fumble; Noah Ehrlich (QB) 2 (minus-7 yards) TD, fumble.

LOWELL (10 of 16, 151 yards, 2 TDs, one interception) Riley Bank (QB) 10 of 16, 151yards 2 TDs, one interception.

HOBART (12 of 15, 209 yards, 2 TDs, no interceptions. Noah Ehrlich (QB) 12 of 15, 209 yards, 2 TDs no interceptions,

LOWELL: Johnny Johnson (WR) 3 carries, 52 yards, TD; Joe Heuer (HB) 2-26 yards; James Langen (TE) 1-49 yards, TD; Jaxson Skinner (WR) 1-35 yards; Kyle Simmons (FB) 1-8 yards; Ryan Marx (HB) 2-6 yards.

HOBART: Kris Velasquez (WR) 4 catches, 48 yards Miki Djankovich (WR) 6-107 yards, TD; Anthony Williams (TE) 1-35 yards, Trey Gibson (HB) 1-19 yards, TD.

LOWELL : 458 yards, 20 first downs, one turnover;
HOBART : 353 yards, 10 first downs , 2 turnovers.

HOBART (10-17-2021) Hobart was better than Lowell Friday. Hobart is better than I thought they were. The Brickies led all the way in topping Lowell 39-27 in some late-summer heat at the Brickyard.

But when I totaled up statistics after the game, I didn't believe them. I didn’t believe my own numbers. I had to count everything again.

Still didn’t believe it.

Lowell gained 441 yards and recorded 19 first downs at Hobart in a game they lost by 12 points. The Devils never led and were down two touchdowns most of the time after the first quarter, but they dominated time of possession 28:54 to 19:06.

But watching the game, Hobart (3-2) was clearly the better team. Yes, the score was 32-26 in the final minute of the fourth quarter, but the Brickies led 19-0 on the first minute of the third quarter.

What went on here?

“You’ve got Lowell-Hobart here,” answered Hobart coach and icon Craig Osika, about the mood swings of this game.

“It's always going to be this way. You go back in the history of our series. Last year it was 10-7 and a battle right down to the end. If you talk to Keith (Lowell coach Keith Kilmer) these games are probably always going to be third way. It's going to be tough. It's going to be physical. Really, this is what we expected.”

Neither coach was very happy with how the game went.

“We’ve got some guys free lancing, doing their own thing,” said Osika. “We want to do their own things. We have to correct that.”

“It’s always nice to play a game like this with momentum swings. But we’ve got a long way to go. We’re going to see this team again (in 4A Sectional 17 in November) We have some guys who haven't played a whole lot for us. We’ve got to grow.”

“We tried some things out,” said Lowell coach Keith Kilmer. “We have given our quarterback a little more leeway with audibles. On a lot of plays, he called his own number and it was working for us. We wanted to win this week for sure, but the next one (the potential Sectional 1 meeting) is the one that counts.”

Hobart showed what the future could be like as freshman quarterback Noah Ehrlich completed 12 of 15 for 209 yards and two touchdowns. I do not recall a freshman starting at quarterback for a relatively large school in Northwest Indiana, but Ehrlich has proven he can handle the position.

The 15-year-old had upper class help. Junior halfback Trey Gibson was outstanding again with 23 carries for 151 yards and Lowell had to concentrate on the all-area runner to the extent that Ehlich had wide open receivers.

But this was Lowell’s best offensive game of the season and most certainly was Riley Bank’s best game. The left-handed junior QB played with serious confidence running the quarterback option (24 carries, 132 yards, one TD) with halfback Joe Heuer (29 carries, 161 yards, one TD) at full speed and zipping sharp passes (9-of-14 passing for 143 yards and two TDs) once the Hobart defense creeped up to stop the running game.

On a night that eventually saw 65 points on the scoreboard, this was a game that was scoreless with five minutes to go in the first half.

Lowell (2-3) punted to the Hobart 32 and Hobart mounted the game’s first scoring drive. After two passing first downs, Ehrlich hit senior Miki Djankovich all alone slanting through the secondary untouched for the first TD with 3:34 left in the half.

Lowell was at the Red Devil 42-yard line. A direct snap play went to backup quarterback Joe Johnson, who was run over by the Brickie pass rush and fumbled. Hobart’s Chris Irizarry grabbed the fumble and ran it back to the Lowell 27-yard-line.

On the first play, Ehrlich fired another slant pass to halfback Trey Gibson, also running untouched through the secondary for a 12-0 lead with 1:49 left in the half.

Hobart then took the second half kickoff and handed the ball to Gibson, the all-stater who gained 1,569 yards and 22 touchdowns on 214 carries for Wheeler in 2020.

Gibson (6-0, 190) broke though the line and outran the Lowell defense for a 75-yard TD and a 19-0 Hobart lead on the first scrimmage play of the third quarter. The Brickies (3-2) had scored 19 points in a four minute span.

Lowell, as is their habit, mounted a third quarter rally.

Joe Heuer broke loose for a 48-yard run on Lowell’s first scrimmage play of the third quarter. Two plays later, Heuer scored from the 1-yard-line to cut Hobart’s lead to 19-7.

Ehrlich completed a 39-yard pass to Djankovich, but the Brickies turned the ball over on downs at the Lowell 23 yard line moments later.

The Devils rumbled back down the field on a 13-play drive and quarterback Riley Bank (5-10, 187) broke loose on an option run for 30 yards and a TD with 2:30 left in the third quarter, making it 19-14.

Gibson then ran the second half kickoff back 86 yards for a touchdown that was called back on a penalty. The Brickies scored that touchdown anyway on an 8-play drive and a broken play as Ehrlich stumbled over an offensive lineman and dived into the end zone from the one-yard-line with 11:16 left in the game.

Lowell, which lost the 4A Sectional 17 championship last November 10-7 at Hobart, rallied again with a 79-yard drive. On a 1st-and-10 from the Brickies' 49-yard line, Bank, who had his best total yardage game (9 of 14, 143 yards, 2 TDs passing; 24 carries, 132 yards, one TD rushing ) of the season, fired a slant pass to junior tight end James Langen, who completed a 49-yard TD play with 8:11 left in the game.

Leading 26-20, Hobart marched down the field with key third down passing plays from Ehrlich, 35 yards to Anthony Williams and 12 yards to Djankovich. On a 3rd-and-9 from the 10 yard line Gibson, who has gained 673 yards and 13 touchdowns on 97 carries this fall, sprinted 10 yards straight ahead to score and make it 32-20 with just 4:41 to go.

Lowell then drove into Hobart territory where Marc Enslen intercepted Bank. Hobart punted four plays later and Lowell drove down for the 32-26 score on a pass from Bank to Johnson with just 23 seconds to play.

The Devils tried an onside kick, but that back fired when Brickie linebacker Ryan Flores grabbed the ball and ran away for Hobart’s sixth touchdown of the night in the final seconds.

“We’re going to try to put the ball on our best players’ hands and obviously,” said Osika. “Trey is one of our best players. We made some big plays with guys catching the ball, but we have to eliminate turnovers. Too many blown assignments. We gave up too many points tonight.”

“If we play the way we played tonight at Andrean (next Friday, September 24), we won't beat them.”

Lowell ran the ball for 294 yards on 54 carries. Bank and Heuer ran the ball violently.

“Once we found what worked,” said Kilmer, “we kept doing it. We moved the ball in the first half. We just didn't sustain blocks. That one penalty will kill you. On 2nd-and-12 we’re just not very good.”

“But we started coming off he ball better, harder, maintaining our blocks longer. And that was something we just didn't do in the first half.”

In a losing effort in a relatively close game, Lowell ran the ball 28 times for 206 yards in the second half.

Senior James Johnson (5-11, 220) and juniors Brett Thiele (5-11, 220), Jacob Kissel (5-11, 232) Colton Quale (6-0, 265) and Adam Maleve (5-11, 250) were the blocking unit much of the time with tight end Spencer Barta (6-4, 225).

“Bank and Heuer run then ball hard,” Kilmer said. They’re going to be tough to stop. But it's all about what’s up front. We gave a little more effort. We started to execute. And we put a couple in the end zone.”

“We’ve got to get better. We’re not as good as we think we are. We’ve got the talent. We just have to get going.”

DEVIL NOTES: This was the fourth consecutive Hobart victory over the Red Devils, all in the last three seasons.

How likely is it that Hobart and Lowell will meet again in the six-team Class 4A Sectional 17?

The other four teams (other than Lowell and Hobart) in Sectional 17 are Griffith (2-3), East Chicago (1-4), Highland (2-3) and Gary West Side (3-1). West Side lost 20-14 last week at Morton (1-4). East Chicago has scored 40 points all season. Lowell led Griffith 42-0 in the first half on September 10. Hobart beat Griffith 49-13 on September 3. Griffith beat Highland 38-21.

Junior Trey Gibson (6-0, 190) does a bit of everything for Hobart. Along with 673 yards rushing on 97 carries, the junior has caught 11 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns.

Gibson also plays a very active free safety (he had five tackles against Lowell) for Hobart, mostly on passing downs.

“We were very lucky to get him,” said coach Craig Osika. “He’s bigger than you think. We’ve got him for another year and I think he can play at the next (college) level. I don't know which level, but he clearly has the talent to play somewhere.”

Senior Lowell lineman Ray Ambassi missed the game with a non-Covid illness. Ambassi (5-9, 210), who had 19 tackles for losses last season, was on the sidelines Friday in Hobart.

Lowell’s struggles on special team are not easily correctable.

“You’ve got to get your starters off the field sometime,” said coach Keith Kilmer. “Young guys have to step up.”

Noah Ehrlich was 50 of 79 for 522 yards, four TDs and no interceptions after five games.

No one seemed certain but Ehrlich might be the first freshman ever to start the season as quarterback at Hobart. Noah’s older brother Sam Ehrlich played defensive back and quarterback (he was 33 of 76 for 442 yards and six TDs as a senior in 2017) from 2015 to 2017 at Hobart.

Lowell is 28-13 in the last three seasons. Four of the 13 losses are to Hobart and three are to Andrean.

Craig Osika played for Hobart on the 1996 state championship game before graduating in 1998. Osika played center and tight end at Indiana University. He was twice selected as an all-Big-10 player and was a team captain in his senior year.

Osika was on three teams’ rosters (Cleveland, San Francisco and Jacksonville) in four years in the National Football League as an offensive lineman. Osika is also Dean of Students for the sophomore class and a co-principal at Hobart.

Coach: Keith Kilmer, 95-43 in 12th year at school
Aug. 20   Crown Point 6A L 14 28    
Aug. 27 at Portage 6A W 26 21    
Sep. 3 at New Prairie 4A L 14 24    
Sep. 10   Griffith 4A W 42 20    
Sep. 17 at Hobart 4A © L 27 39    
Sep. 24 at Kankakee Valley 4A © W 49 7    
Oct. 1   Highland 4A © W 35 14    
Oct. 8 at Munster 5A © 7:00 pm    
Oct. 15   Andrean 2A © 7:00 pm    

Coach: Craig Osika, 33-12 in 4th year at school
Aug. 20   Chesterton 6A L 14 20    
Aug. 27 at Merrillville 6A L 14 41    
Sep. 3 at Griffith 4A W 49 13    
Sep. 10   Culver Academy 4A W 49 6    
Sep. 17   Lowell 4A © W 39 27    
Sep. 24 at Andrean 2A © L 28 31    
Oct. 1   Kankakee Valley 4A © W 56 24    
Oct. 8 at Highland 4A © 7:00 pm    
Oct. 15   Munster 5A © 7:00 pm    

Lowell's next Opponent:

Coach: Jason Grunewald, 5-32 in 4th year at school
Aug. 20   Lake Central 6A L 0 28    
Aug. 27   Hanover Central 3A L 6 35    
Sep. 3   East Chicago Central 4A W 44 8    
Sep. 10   Hammond Morton 5A W 21 16    
Sep. 17   Kankakee Valley 4A © L 21 35    
Sep. 24 at Highland 4A © L 0 28    
Oct. 1 at Andrean 2A © L 13 42    
Oct. 8   Lowell 4A © 7:00 pm    
Oct. 15 at Hobart 4A © 7:00 pm    

  W-L Pts OP W-L Pts OP Streak
Andrean 3-0 111 55 5-  2 212 143 Won 4
Hobart 2-1 123 82 4-  3 249 162 Won 1
Lowell 2-1 111 60 4-  3 207 153 Won 2
Highland 1-2 56 73 3-  4 193 172 Lost 1
Kankakee Valley 1-2 66 126 3-  4 165 231 Lost 2
Munster 0-3 34 105 2-  5 105 192 Lost 3
Friday, Sep. 24
Andrean 31, Hobart 28 ©
Highland 28, Munster 0 ©
Lowell 49, Kankakee Valley 7 ©
Friday, Oct. 1
Andrean 42, Munster 13 ©
Hobart 56, Kankakee Valley 24 ©
Lowell 35, Highland 14 ©
Friday, Oct. 8
Hobart at Highland ©, 7 pm
Kankakee Valley at Andrean ©, 7 pm
Lowell at Munster ©, 7 pm
©conference game