Week 4 - Football Game of the Week Preview

4A Griffith (2-1)
4A Lowell (1-2)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



When: 7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, September 10, 2021.

Where: Lowell High School, 3 miles west of I-65 on State Route 2.
TV/Radio/Internet: Region Sports Network – rrsn.com video video (pay per view) – 6:30 p.m.

NOTE: To whoever does the camera work for Lowell games. TV of the game is a blessing. There’s no chance that New Prairie and Lowell would have been on TV 10 years ago. But last week’s game was unwatchable because the camera took a ‘wide shot’ of every play including all 22 players, the grandstand and a large portion of the LaPorte County night sky. There is no need to include every player on the field every minute of the game. Please focus in on the football and follow the football. Close up. Just follow the football and everything will be fine.

Tickets: $6

Enrollment: Griffith - 604; LOWELL – 1,107.
Griffith is not a Class 4A school by enrollment anymore. It's my understanding that the Covid-19 pandemic delayed reclassification of teams. According to this season’s IHSAA school directory, Hanover Central has 773 students and Hanover is Class 3A. Griffith, with 604 students, is 4A. Obviously change is coming.


WEATHER: Cooler, once again. The long range forecast for Friday says daytime highs in the upper 70s during the day and temperatures in the upper 60s by the second half. These are two teams with relatively small rosters so the weather helps them. Weather during the week also has highs in the 70s and that means nobody gets fried at practice.


PARKING: Griffith fans know what it's like to come to Lowell. Panther folks pack the visitors' stands for a playoff game, but I don’t know how many fans are coming this Friday after Griffith took a hard home loss to Hobart last week. Griffith has not defeated Lowell in awhile and that may be a factor, too. This should be a very good weather night so the home crowd should be strong. Everybody might want to get the Lowell early.


WHAT's AT STAKE: Now that this is a nonconference game, even though this could be a Class 4A Sectional 17 preview, nothing is on the line Friday except getting that ‘W’. Lowell boys grow up playing Griffith so there is some familiarity, but I think Lowell-Hobart is now a much bigger game than Lowell-Griffith and that did not used to be the case.

On this night, both sides are coming off losses and they both need to come out on top. Griffith needs to know if that 49-13 score last week was a bad night or a sign of things to come. Lowell played well for most of the Crown Point game but lost. Lowell played well for most of the New Prairie game but lost. The Devils need to play well and win.

Last week’s game ...







LOWELL (1-2)












Friday, September 3, 2021 -  68 degrees (at kick-off) at NEW CARLISLE, IN

1st QtrNEW PRAIRIE (7-0) Marshall Kmiecik, 5-yard run. Ben Fronek kick.

2nd Qtr: NEW PRAIRIE (14-0) Marshall Kmiecik, 38-yard pass to Ben Fronek. Ben Fronek kick.
LOWELL (7-14)
Riley Bank, 28-yard pass to Ryan Marx. Caden Britton kick.

3rd Qtr: (No scoring.)

4th Qtr: NEW PRAIRIE (17-7) Ben Fronek, 29-yard field goal.
LOWELL (14-17) Riley Bank, 45-yard TD run. Caden Britton kick.
NEW PRAIRIE (24-14) Noah Muniga, 30-yard run. Ben Fronek kick.

NEW PRAIRIE (35 carries, 260 yards, 0 fumbles, two TDs): Noah Muniga (HB) 26 carries, 236 yards, TD; Marshall Kmiecik (QB) 8-25 yards, TD; Dallas Ryans (HB) 1 (minus -1 ) yard.

LOWELL (37 carries, 181 yards, one TD):
Ryan Marx (HB) 7 carries, 12 yards; Riley Bank (QB) 23-156 yards, TD; Dylan Ohlenkamp (RB) 6-14 yards, Johnny Johnson (WR) 1 (minus-1) yard.

NEW PRAIRIE: Marshall Kmiecik (QB) 4 of 8, 81 yards, one TD, 0 interceptions.
LOWELL: Riley Bank (QB) 9 of 22, 120 yards, one TD, no interceptions.

NEW PRAIRIE: Ben Fronek (TE) 2 catches, 63 yards, TD; Hayden Clark (WR) 2-18 yards.
LOWELL : Johnny Johnson (WR) 3 catches, 42 yards; Ryan Marx (HB) 3-46 yards, TD; Draven Martin (WR) 1-15; Kyle Simmons (TE) 1-6 yards; Jason Skinner (WR) 1-9 yards

NEW PRAIRIE: 341 yards, nine first downs, 0 turnovers;
LOWELL: 301 yards, 12 first downs, 0 turnovers.


Griffith is one of the legacy schools in Northwest Indiana. They’ve played varsity football since 1934 and the third school they ever played was Lowell. Of course, there was no Highland, Munster, Hanover Central or Andrean back then. The Panthers were 0-7 in 1938 and 1940 but they started to rise in the late 50s under coach Tom Kurth (42-20-5 in seven years) who had an 8-2 team in 1960 and an 8-0-2 team in 1963.

After a down period, then came coach Les Thornton in 1975. The Panthers went 1-9 in 1975 and then went on a rise. Thornton (133-59 in 16 years) had his greatest success in his final five years going 9-2 in 1988, 10-1 in 1989, 9-3 in 1990, 11-2 in 1991 and 11-1 in 1992.

And then came coach Russ Radtke who kept the wins coming.

After a 6-5 1993 season, Radtke’s Panthers were 11-2 in 1994, 11-1 in 1995, 9-2 in 1996 and a state championship (14-1) in 1997. Radtke coached through 2011 with only one losing season, but football results have been mixed since then.

Coach Ben Geffert, an old Panther defensive star under Radtke, was 26-9 as varsity head coach from 2016 to 2018. But Griffith, as a school, was getting smaller, while rivals like Lowell and Hobart were not.

Seeing that, the Griffith athletic program moved to the small school Greater South Shore (GSSC) conference, leaving old rivals like Munster and Andrean behind.

Griffith still plays old Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) rivals Highland, Hobart and Lowell, but the annual game with Lowell may be ending. Hanover Central is jumping from the GSSC to the NCC in 2023 and Lowell has to make room for Hanover on its schedule.

Lowell’s 2021 nonconference games are Crown Point, Portage, New Prairie and Griffith. Lowell isn't dropping Crown Point. They like the match with New Prairie and word is that Portage will be dropped in favor of LaPorte.

That suggests that Hanover will replace Griffith on the Lowell schedule, bringing the longest continuous rivalry (Griffith and Lowell have met every year Griffith has played football) in northwest Indiana to an end.

The 'Distant' Replay ...  

Lowell shuts out Crown Point 19-0 in season opener

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.


Lowell's Tyler Wildman (32) looks to block for Ethan Igras (16)on a 2nd quarter TD run, 11-03-2017. (Photo by Mark Smith)

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 (11-14-2017) This was the game where I got the hint that it would be tough for Griffith to beat Lowell going forward. Griffith was 10-1 with a 10-game winning streak. After a five-point road loss at Michigan City, the Panthers did every thing they wanted to, defeating 10 teams by 14 points or more.

Griffith outscored 11 teams by a combined score of 534-89. And this game was not close. After the Panthers’ Cole Cervantes ran the opening kick back 90 yards for a 7-0 Griffith lead, Lowell scored five first half touchdowns. Griffith was held to three first downs and 69 yards in the entire game.

In truth, this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Griffith had moved to the Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC) and they’d rolled up their record against teams like Lake Station, South Central, Boone Grove and River Forest.

Meanwhile, Lowell was undefeated against teams like Crown Point, Portage, Andrean and Portage. But Griffith moved to the GSSC for a reason. Look at their enrollment in 2021. Barely 600 students for a school that at one time, was over 1,000. Somebody saw that coming. Griffith was not going to be able to compete with schools like Lowell.

The Devils reached the 2017 Class 4A state championship game where they lost to East Central 14-7. And beginning with this night in November, the Devils have now beaten Griffith five years in a row.

2021 (4A) Griffith (1-2)
3-4 (2020), 6-5 (2019), 5-7 (2018) 7-5 (2017) 6-6 (2016)
Coach Robert Robinson (6-5,2nd year) - Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC)

8-20 (W) 38-21 at (4A) Highland (1-2)
8-27 (W) 48-18at (1A) South Central (0-2)
9-3 (L) 13-49 (4A) Hobart (1-2)
9-10 at (4A) Lowell (1-2)
9-17 at (3A) HANOVER CENTRAL (2-1)
9-24 (3A) CALUMET (2-1)
10-1 (3A) BOONE GROVE (0-2)
10-8 (2A) WHITING (2-1)
10-15 at (2A) WHEELER (2-1)

4A Sectional 17
10-30 vs. Hobart, East Chicago, Highland, Gary West Side and LOWELL

SCHEDULE CHANGES: It will be difficult for Griffith to win in a Class 4A sectional. But if they get a first round quarterfinal bye and then draw West Chicago or Gary West Side, I might have to eat those words.

Griffith Update:

GRIFFITH - Griffith started with two nice wins over Highland and South Central, but Hobart rumbled over them 49-13 last week in the Panthers’ home opener. They have an all-purpose star in speedy senior Kyle Atkinson (5-9, 165) who has gained 173 yards and scored four touchdowns from scrimmage. He ran a kickoff back 95 yards last week against Hobart. Atkinson also had a key interception in his role as free safety in the 38-21 win over Highland. Senior Colin Phelps (6-3, 185) is also a defensive back with two interceptions in three games and he has started three games as the Panthers' new quarterback.

Phelps is a work in progress at quarterback. In the 38-21 win over Highland, he threw just three passes. Phelps was 4-of-9 for 163 yards and two TDs against South Central in a 48-18 victory. He appears to have a strong arm.

Senior Cameron Thompson (5-10, 170) looks like a solid running back with speed. He carried nine times for 152 yards against South Central. If you see Jaxson Lawson (5-9, 170) go in the game on offense, look out for him. He’s a freshman running back/linebacker who had 90 yards on 21 carries in the first two games. The Panthers line up with three wide receivers and a wingback on most plays although they are also seen in some two-back sets.

Defensive end Chris Olsen (6-0, 225) has 15 tackles and two sacks. Linebacker Freddie Strezo (6-1, 175) had four tackles for losses in three games. Griffith has some good size up front, but Hobart halfback Trey Gibson carried 23 times for 159 yards last week at Griffith, so that’s obviously the way to go against the Panthers, who seem more quick than strong.

Griffith needs big plays from Atkinson to win at Lowell. He is a game-breaking threat who scored 13 TDs is 2020, eight rushing TDs, two pass catching scores and three kickoff return touchdowns.

Griffith does not have a lot of depth again this season. On the roster I saw, the Panthers have 58 boys in the program including 21 freshmen and just 13 seniors. By comparison, Lowell has 54 varsity players, not including freshmen, and 18 seniors.

2021 (4A) LOWELL (1-2)
9-2 (2020), 7-5 (2019), 10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016)
Coach Keith Kilmer (12th year, 92-42) Northwest Crossroads Conference games in CAPS.

8-20 (L) 14-28 (6A) Crown Point (1-2)
8-27 (W) 26-21 at (6A) at Portage (1-2)
9-3 (L) 14-24 (4A) at New Prairie (3-0)
9-10 (4A) Griffith (2-1)
9-17 (4A) at HOBART (1-2)
9-24 (4A) at KANKAKEE VALLEY (1-2)
10-1 (4A) HIGHLAND (1-2)
10-8 (5A) at MUNSTER (1-2)
10-15 (2A) ANDREAN (1-2)

Class 4A Sectional 17
October 22: vs. Gary West Side, Griffith, Highland, East Chicago , Hobart, and LOWELL


SCHEDULE CHANGES: Gary West Side could not play last week due to low numbers. Hopefully that’s a one time thing and the Cougars will be able to go on October 22. This is the first night that Lowell faces a sectional rival, something they do three times this season.


Lowell junior QB Riley Bank (19) and coach Keith Kilmer during CP at Lowell game, 08-20-2021. (Photo by Mark Smith)

LOWELL Update:

LOWELL – Lowell’s 24-14 loss at New Prairie last Friday was their best game of the season. The Devils have allowed more than 20 points in every game, but that’s misleading. Lowell trailed 17-14 with a minute to play when the Cougars ran it in for their final TD. Had NP ‘taken a knee’ the final score would have been 17-14. It was a 17-14 game.

Lowell won the time of possession (25 minutes, 55 seconds to 22:05 at New Prairie) for the third game in a row and usually that stat means you’re winning. The Devils have also had more first downs than their opponent in every game so far and they have gained over 300 yards in each of their last two games.

Senior linebackers Spencer Barta (6-4, 227) and Sean Lamping (6-3, 184) played for the first time last week at New Prairie, but halfback and kick returner Joe Heuer (5-7, 179) was held out with a leg injury. I’m also not sure center Hunter Cross (5-11, 225) played. Lamping was in on eight tackles against the Cougars and Barta had six stops and two tackles for losses. Junior Ty Smith (6-0, 155) was in on eight tackles. Josh Moore (6-0, 205) had four tackle and a QB sack.

Lowell really missed Heuer and his ‘thunderball’ style of running against the Cougars, who I thought were vulnerable to a power running attack. But junior QB Riley Bank (21 of 48, 203 yards) did have his best passing day of the season connecting with Johnny Johnson three times for 42 yards and Ryan Marx three times for 46 yards. Bank (5-11, 187) also carried the ball 22 times for 120 yards. Marx again looks like a play-making third option to Bank and Heuer, who I’m going to assume does not play this week.

Johnson (5-9, 168) leads the Devils with 10 catches for 75 yards.

The plus side to having players miss games early is that it allows more of the bench to play key roles. That is, if players don’t keep missing games. Coaches obviously don’t announce who is absent and they don’t want to use missing boys as an excuse after the game. Every team has football-related injuries, but the Covid-19 pandemic has smacked Lowell around the last season and a half. I’m not sure Lowell has had every varsity player available (because of Covid-19) in any of their last 13 games.


GRIFFITH (2-1) at LOWELL (1-2)

Lowell Stadium "The Inferno": capacity 2,500




This is somewhat of a short line because Lowell has not been at full strength. I don’t think the Devils have had a full chance to show what they can do yet, but the computer obviously does not know that. For the record, New Prairie was favored to beat Lowell by 13 last week and the Cougars won 24-14.



LOWELL (09-10-2021) Lowell has fallen behind early in all three games so far and that changes on this night. The Devils jump ahead 14-0 on two rushing TDs before Kyle Atkinson runs a kickoff back for a TD to make it 14-7.


A Griffith turnover leads to a third Lowell rushing TD and a 21-7 halftime lead. Atkinson’s second TD of the game closes the gap in the third quarter, but a Ryan Marx kick return ups the lead to 28-14.


A turnover on downs leads to a Lowell’s first field goal of the season by Caden Britton.

I think last week’s game had to give Lowell more than a little confidence, while Griffith might have been shaken by the 36-point home loss to Hobart. I do not think there’s a lot the Panthers do from scrimmage that Lowell can't counter.



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Revised: September 09, 2021 .