Week 2 - Football Game of the Week Preview

4A Lowell (0-1) at
6A Portage (1-0)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith




When: 7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, August 27, 2021.

Where: Portage High School, 6450 US 6 in Portage, Ind. (five miles east of I-65)
TV/Radio/Internet: Region Sports Network – rrsn.com video – 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: $6

Enrollment: Portage 2,401; LOWELL – 1,107.

Portage is twice the size of Lowell, but the matchup has been very even on the football field. The Indiana have faced Lowell in the last six seasons and the two teams have split 3-3. The Devils have had winning teams in each of the last six seasons while Portage has finished with losing records in five of the last six years. Portage had 2,680 students 10 years ago.

WEATHER: No help from the weatherman. Warm and humid all day Friday. Maybe 80 degrees at kickoff with little wind. Another good night for summer-loving fans, but a hard night for the players. Looking ahead, it’s supposed to be cooler in week three, but weather predictions are like my football predictions. Don't put money on them.

PARKING: Parking is not a problem at Portage. This is a school of well over 2,000 students. There is just a sea of room to the east of the school and the southeast of the stadium. The Indians have not done well on the field in recent years, but attendance at football games is still pretty good when the weather is good. This is the Portage home opener and the win last week should bump up the attendance on a warm night.


WHAT's AT STAKE: This is the ultimate nonconference game because these schools have almost nothing to do with each other. The football teams are in different classes and can't meet again and Portage and Lowell have no rivalry that I know of in any sport.

In the last six years, Lowell and Portage have split six games. Before that, they had not met since the Devils and Indians played five times in the 1960s, the final time in 1968.

Realistically, Portage could get to 3-0 with wins over Lowell and Lake Central next week. Lowell doesn't like the sound of an 0-2 record heading to New Prairie next Friday.

But I don’t think this week’s game is a turning point for either the Indians or Devils.


The 'Recent Replay'...
Heuer's 5 rushing TDs leads Red Devils to 37-19 win
over Portage in home opener

Team 1 2 3 4 F
PORTAGE (1-1) 0 13 0 6 19
LOWELL (2-0) 13 6 12 6 37

Friday, August 28, 2020 - 80 degrees, nonconference in LOWELL, IN


1st Qtr: LOWELL (6-0) Joe Heuer, 3-yard TD run. 21-yard drive, 5 plays. Bad snap on kick. 9:45 left.
LOWELL (13-0)
Joe Heuer, 42-yard TD run. 52-yard drive, 4 plays. Michael Jenkins kick. 3:53 left.

2nd Qtr: LOWELL (19-0) Joe Heuer, 15-yard TD run. 38-yard drive, 3 plays. Kick wide, 4:39 left.
PORTAGE (6-19)
Devan Howard, 42-yard pass from Tylee Swopes. 40-yard drive, 4 plays. Bad snap on kick. 3:53.
PORTAGE (13-19)
Tylee Swoopes, 1-yard run. 79-yard drive, 6 plays. Johnson kick. 0:41
3rd Qtr: LOWELL (25-13) Joe Heuer, 15-yard TD run. 37-yard drive, 5 plays. Kick blocked, 4:39 left.
LOWELL (31-13)
Riley Bank, 75-yard fumble recovery. 2-point pass incomplete, 0:47 left.

4th Qtr: PORTAGE (31-19) Devan Howard, 4-yard pass from Tylee Swopes. Bad snap on kick. 2:26.
LOWELL (37-19)
Joe Heuer, 37-yard run. (last play of the game) 51-yard drive, 5 plays. 0:00

PORTAGE (35 carries, 127 yards, 0 fumbles, one TD): Jakar Gordon (HB) 10- 55 yards; Jermain Mead (FB) 9-46 yards; Tylee Swopes (QB) 16 carries, 26 yards.

LOWELL (46 carries, 287 yards, 5 TDs): Joe Heuer (HB) 31 carries, 232 yards, 5 TDs; Jacob Chandler (HB) 2-9 yards; Ryan Marx (HB) 1-6 yards; Dylan Ohlenkamp HB) 4-6 yards, fumble; Johnny Johnson (QB) 3-12 yards; Cam Stojancevich (QB) 6-28 yards.
PORTAGE: Tylee Swopes (QB) 12 of 15, 158 yards, 2 TDs, 0 interceptions;
LOWELL: Cam Stojancevich (QB) 4 of 12, 35 yards, 0 TDs, one interception.

PORTAGE: Devan Howard (WR) 9 catches, 144 yards, 2 TDs, one fumble, Danny Puplava (WR) 3-18 yards, Colton Wilke (WR) 1-5 yards.
LOWELL : Michael Havel (WR) 2 catches, 13 yards; Adam Bank (WR) 2-22 yards.


PORTAGE: 292 yards, 12 first downs, 2 turnovers;
LOWELL: 323 yards, 15 first downs, 2 turnovers.

COMMENT: I remember thinking that this game was a little more wide open than either both sides wanted. 600 total yards, 27 first downs and six TDs. Portage’s 19 points was the fourth highest total against Lowell all season.

Joe Heuer’s five TDs was a career high and Riley Bank’s 75-yard fumble recovery was his first career TD.

Portage would top Lake Central in week three, but then go on to lose six of the last seven games to finish the season at 3-7. Lowell was 7-0 last season before losing to Andrean. The Devils lost the sectional championship game at Hobart 10-7 and finished at 9-2.


The HISTORY: I’ve always been intrigued by the history of Portage. Portage Township (one of the 12 townships in Porter County) was founded in 1835. But Garyton, the oldest of three areas that formed Portage, began as land that was sold to settlers by Potawatomi Indians in 1812. I can't find out why the city is called Portage, but if your name is Robbins and your family has always lived in Northwest Indiana, you may be related to Samuel Robbins, one of the first settlers in Portage in 1835. 

Portage only became a city in 1967, a few years into the steel boom. National Steel opened in 1959 in Portage. Bethlehem Steel opened in 1963. Portage grew from 11,000 people in the early 60s to almost 35,000 now and it feels more like a suburb than Chesterton and Valparaiso do. But to call Portage a suburb of Gary, while technically true, doesn't seem to fit, either.
The steel mills have declined in the last 40 years, but Portage still seems to be a bedroom community for folks who work someplace else. From the outside, it's a quiet town that has caught a lot of the migration from North Lake County because it's a pleasant place to be.

Football grew to be dominant sports again at Portage High School in the 1990s under coach Craig Buzea, who is now at Crown Point. The Indians were the 1976 state football champs, but in 1994, with coach Buzea, they rolled to 13 consecutive wins before losing 30-12 to Castle. That season started a reign of power that saw the Indians go 59-15 in a six year (1994-1999) span. Portage has struggled in most team sports in the last 20 years and they shouldn’t.

Portage hasn’t been 2-0 in varsity football since 2008. That’s amazing.

The 'Distant Replay'...

Portage pulls upset in first game played at Lowell since 1960s,
28-27 in turnover-filled game

Team 1 2 3 4 F
Portage (1-1) 6 6 6 10 28
LOWELL (0-2) 0 13 14 0 27

Friday, August 26, 2016 - 78 degrees in LOWELL, Ind.

1st QtrPORTAGE (6-0) Jeremy Torres, 30-yard interception return. Kick wide. 2:44 left.
2nd QtrLOWELL (6-6) Trevor Espravnik, 5-yard run. 85-yard drive, 2 plays. Bad snap on XP. 11:04
PORTAGE (12-6) Anthony Maceo, 4-yard run. 57-yard drive, 8 plays. 2-point run failed. 3:13 left.
LOWELL (12-13) Jordan Jusevitch, 28-yard pass from Dayton Hornickel. 40-yard drive, 3 plays. 0:21 left.
3rd QtrLOWELL (12-20) Ethan Igras, 45-yard interception return. Jake Post kick. 8:29 left.
PORTAGE (18-20) Laron Parker, 65-yard run with fumble. 2-point run failed. 4:06 left.
LOWELL (18-27) Trevor Espravnik, 50-yard run. Jake Post kick. 80-yard drive, 5 plays. 1:25 left.
4th QtrPORTAGE (25-27) Anthony Maceo, 8-yard run. 87-yard drive, 17 plays. 4:49 left.
PORTAGE (28-27) Josh Rodriguez, 40-yard field goal. 30-yard drive, 5 plays. 0:36 left.


Trevor Espravnik (13) and Mitch Sacco (72) on 8-30-2016. (Photo by Mark Smith)

PORTAGE (41 carries, 161 yards, 2 TDs, one fumble)
Anthony Maceo (QB) 30 carries, 126 yards, 2 TDs, fumble; Kieve Campos (FB) 10 - 36 yards; Adam Melendez (HB) 1 (-1 yard)
LOWELL (30 carries, 185 yards, one TD, 2 fumbles) Trevor Espravnik (HB) 10 carries, 97 yards, 2 TDs; Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 5 carries, 18 yards, Jaeger Gill (WR) 4 carries, 52 yards, fumble; Dayton Hornickel (QB) 6 carries, minus-18 yards, 3 sacks (minus-17 yards), Tyler Wildman (HB) 5 caries, 36 yards.

LOWELL : Dayton Hornickel (QB) 8-for-15, 89 yards, TD, one interception;
PORTAGE: Anthony Maceo (QB) 5-for-17, 52 yards, 0 TDs, one interception.

PORTAGE: Greg Milledge (WR) 3-36 yards, Daveon Finley (WR) 1-10, Jaime Roman (HB) 1-6);
LOWELL: Austin Giordano (FB) 5-37 yards, Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 1-28, TD; Mitch Wildman (TE) 2-24.

PORTAGE: 213 yards 11 first downs, 2 turnovers; Ethan Igras (L) interception, TD, Jordan Jusevitch (SS) fumble recovery;
LOWELL: 274 yards, 7 first downs, 3 turnovers, Jeremy Torros (P) interception, TD, Job Kitchen (DE) fumble recovery, Laron Parker DB) fumble recovery, TD.


LOWELL (8-26-2016) This was such an entertaining game if you didn't care whether Lowell won or not. Those bad boys from Portage stole it when Josh Rodriguez boomed the game-winning field goal with just 36 seconds left. Rodriguez was the Post-Tribune soccer player of the year and he was very much a part time football player.

Rodriguez scored 41 goals in 30 high school soccer games and his field goal on this night sparked Portage to their last winning season, a 6-4 year in 2016 where they lost 22-21 to Merrillville in sectional play.

Anthony Maceo, the Portage QB on this night, would run 238 times for 1,450 yards in 2016 and he’d finish with 3,000 career yards rushing which, I believe is a record for Portage quarterbacks. But sometimes August results don’t tell you much. Lowell started the 2006 season with two losses and they came back to win the sectional and regional. The 2016 Red Devils lost the Class 4A semistate title game at home 21-14 to Northwood.

And just for fun. Look at the Lowell names in that box score of this game. Jordan Jusevitch would juice up the Devils on both sides of the ball in 2016 and 2017 when Lowell reached the 4A state title game. Jordan was the 2017 Northwest Indiana player of the year. Halfback Trevor Espravnik would run 329 times for 1,947 yards in 2016. Tyler Wildman would carry the ball 189 times for 901 yards in 2017 when Jaeger Gill would catch 25 passes for 665 yards. Quarterback Ethan Igras would run for 723 yards (131 attempts) and complete 87 of 151 for 1,416 yards for the Devils’ state finals team in 2017.

In hind sight, Lowell may have had a half dozen future all-area players in this game.

2021 (6A) Portage (1-0)
3-4 (2020), 6-5 (2019), 5-7 (2018) 7-5 (2017) 6-6 (2016)
Coach Terry Chestovich (4-7, 2nd year) 28-37 in 7 years overall - all DAC games in CAPS

8-20 at (5A) Morton (0-1)
8-27 (4A) Lowell (1-0)
9-3 at (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (1-0)
9-10 at (6A) MERRILLVILLE (1-0)
9-17 (6A) CROWN POINT (0-1)
9-24 (6A) CHESTERTON (1-0)
10-1 at (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (1-0)
10-8 (5A) VALPARAISO (1-0)
10-15 at (5A) LaPORTE (1-0)

6A Sectional 2
10-30 vs. Elkhart, Penn or Chesterton.


SCHEDULE CHANGES: No changes in 6A Sectional 2 and the quest is still there. Chesterton is one of the few Indiana schools that has never won a sectional football championship. They will be ready to rumble. Elkhart and Penn are St. Joseph’s County powers and then there’s Portage. It will be very difficult for Portage to win that trophy in November.



– Portage looked good on the road in week one but it's hard to tell how good the Morton team they beat 26-6 was.

Portage lines up with three wide receivers and a tight end and they want to run the ball most of the time with new quarterback Jacob Bloom and senior running back Devan Howard, who scored two touchdowns against Lowell last year. Bloom (5-10, 160) was just 5-of-9 passing for 119 yards and one TD against Morton and the total number of pass attempts (nine) suggests what they want to do.

The top Portage halfback last week was Devan Howard (5-11, 180), a hard-running wrestler who scored two touchdowns on eight carries for 106 yards. Howard was a wide receiver last season and he caught 34 passes for 372 yards. Colton Wilke (6-3, 171) caught a 79-yard TD pass from Bloom at Morton and Bloom carried 14 times for 45 yards. I have read positive words about junior Terrell Craft (6-1, 202) but he played little if at all last week.

The offensive line is a little smaller than what Lowell faced last week against Crown Point, but the Indians want to run the ball.

The Portage defense is almost all new with just two starters returning from 2020. They gave up 300 yards last week, but just one TD. Senior Trevor Shively (5-9, 165) made 75 tackles last season at cornerback and lineman Cory Hill had 10 tackles for losses. Portage was just 2-of-4 on extra points last week so they may try two-point conversions in a close game.

I’m guessing this is a big game for Portage. Again, they have not been 2-0 in varsity football in 13 years and they lost by 18 at Lowell last August.

2021 (4A) LOWELL (0-1)
9-2 (2020), 7-5 (2019), 10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016)
Coach Keith Kilmer (12th year, 91-41) - all games Friday at 7 p.m.

8-20 (L) 14-28 (6A) Crown Point (1-0)
8-27 at (6A) at Portage (1-0)
9-3 (4A) at New Prairie (1-0)
9-10 (4A) Griffith (1-0)
9-17 (4A) at HOBART (0-1)
9-24 (4A) at KANKAKEE VALLEY (0-1)
10-1 (4A) HIGHLAND (0-1)
10-8 (5A) at MUNSTER (0-1)
10-15 (2A) ANDREAN (0-1)

Class 4A Sectional 17
vs. Gary West Side, Griffith, Highland, East Chicago , Hobart, Kankakee Valley and LOWELL


SCHEDULE CHANGES: Lowell’s schedule is changing in future years. With Hanover Central coming into the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC), the Devils will need to make room for the Wildcats on the regular season lineup. And there is word that Class 5A LaPorte will replace Portage on future Lowell schedules. It's hard to believe, but the website Northern Indiana Football.com says Lowell has not played LaPorte since October 5, 1929.


Lowell QB Riley Bank (19) vs. Crown Point on 8-20-2021. (Photo by Mark Smith)

LOWELL Update:

– Lowell was not good enough offensively last week. Usually, when you run the ball 48 times (for 145 yards) with no fumbles and you allow 226 total yards, you win that game. Lowell’s post-game numbers didn’t indicate a 28-14 loss. But the Devils just stumbled around. Bad center exchanges. Runners slipping. Passes dropped. Lowell just wasn’t sharp at all.

Only three penalties. No turnovers, although they did lose the ball on a fourth down punt snap. And 14 first downs. But they lost by 14.

It should be mentioned that linebacker Spencer Barta and kicker Caden Britton (and maybe one or two more) were not able to play last week. I believe they will be back at Portage, but that is not guaranteed. Barta (6-4, 227) was certainly missed against the powerful Crown Point offensive line. It would be a big boost for the Devils to have everybody on the field, but that can't be guaranteed until Friday.

Senior Ryan Marx (5-7, 165) caught two passes for 33 yards and ran two kicks back for 39 yards. Halfback Joe Heuer (5-7, 179) was credited with 93 yards on 28 carries and they were hard yards against a CP defense that sold out to stop him. Heuer only had one kickoff head his way and he ran in it back 27 yards. New quarterback Riley Bank (5-11, 187) was only 6-of-14 passing, but he was actually a little better than that. Bank also totaled 39 yards on 16 carries.

Lowell is ranked 11th in Class 4A this week after being at No. 9 in the pre-season.

This might have been a tough week for Lowell. In recent years, the opening game against Crown Point had been a little messy, but the Devils found a way to win anyway. That did not happen last Friday. This was a hot, humid week and practice may have been difficult.

Nobody on the Lowell varsity has been 0-2 so nobody has to tell the Devils they need to ride back from Porter County with a win this Friday night.

4A LOWELL (0-1) at 6A PORTAGE (1-0)

Portage Stadium Capacity: 5,000 (est.)


SAGARIN RATINGS:  Portage by 14.

This one surprises me. Portage is rated 15th in Class 6A this week while Morton, which lost to Portage 26-6, is ranked (on the computer) as the 34th rated team in Class 5A. Crown Point, which defeated Lowell 28-14, is rated number 13 in Class 6A. I think the final score of the Lowell game was misleading, which skews the ratings here. We’ll see.

One week ago, Lowell was favored by 11 and lost by 14. Early season computer rankings? Rely on them at your own risk.



PORTAGE (08-27-2021) I think this game will be high scoring like the 2020 game was. Both teams will run the ball well and the winner hogs the ball and wears the defense on the other side down. I think that will be Lowell.

Look for the Devils to get over the 200-yard mark running the ball and make some of the play action pass plays they missed on last week. I don’t think Portage was challenged by Morton, so this will be the Indians’ first real test.

This was projected to be a peak year for Lowell and I think it still will be. The Devils’ backfield gets into the end zone five times and Portage won't be able to keep up.



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