Week 7 -  Football Game of the Week Preview

Highland (3-3) at Lowell (3-3)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


When:  7:00 p.m., CDT, Friday, October 1, 2021.

Where:  Lowell High School  - 2051 E. Commercial AVE (Route 2), Lowell, IN. (3 miles west of I-65).
Tickets: $6
Region Sports Network – rrsn.com video (pay per view) 7:00 p.m.

Enrollment: Highland 1,036 ; LOWELL – 1,107.

Weather: Cooler, once again. I’m looking at forecasts which say that game-time Friday night will be about 70 degrees and the second half will be in the low-to-mid 60s. A little chilly for the folks in the stands but very good for players. No rain. Which is very good for everybody. 


PARKING: I believe this is Lowell’s Homecoming game, which means that there will be a few extra boys and a few extra girls on site. But this should be a near perfect night. Not too many people. But not too few.


WHAT'S AT STAKE: On this night, both sides are coming off wins and they enter October with some positive feeling. Lowell’s goals are always to win that sectional championship. Highland’s goal, might just be to beat Lowell.

If the Trojans defeat Lowell in Lowell, I’d bet it would be the highlight of their season. Why?

I’ve never felt any major rivalry between Lowell and Highland, who were also both members of the old Lake Suburban Conference from 1971 to 1992. Highland was a power then and won most of those meetings. Things have changed. Unless I have miscounted, Lowell has defeated Highland 20 times in a row over the last 16 years. With that said, I don’t think anybody has to tell Highland seniors that the last two of the last three Lowell-Highland games have not been blowouts: Lowell won 24-7 in 2019 and then 48-14 and 21-7 in 2020.

The Highland boys who head in from the parking lot Friday will drive home on a very happy bus if they succeed in their final chance to beat the Devils.


  W-L Pts OP W-L Pts OP Streak
Andrean 2-0 69 42 4-  2 170 130 Won 3
Highland 1-1 42 38 3-  3 179 137 Won 1
Hobart 1-1 67 58 3-  3 193 138 Lost 1
Kankakee Valley 1-1 42 70 3-  3 141 175 Lost 1
Lowell 1-1 76 46 3-  3 172 139 Won 1
Munster 0-2 21 63 2-  4 92 150 Lost 2

September 17
Andrean 38, Highland 14 
Kankakee Valley 35, Munster 21
Hobart 39, LOWELL 27 

September 24
Andrean 31, Hobart 28 
Highland 28, Munster 0 
LOWELL 49, Kankakee Valley 7 

October 1 - all games at 7 p.m.
Highland at LOWELL
Kankakee Valley at Hobart 
Munster at Andrean 

October 8
Hobart at Highland 
Kankakee Valley at Andrean 
LOWELL at Munster 

October 15
Munster at Hobart
Highland at Kankakee Valley 
Andrean at LOWELL

(End of the regular season)


NCC NOTES: Since four teams in the NCC have 1-1 records, I can (and do) choose to put Lowell in second place even though Hobart has defeated them. The conference appears to be headed for the week nine game between Lowell and Andean where a Lowell win splits the title, three ways. If Andrean beats Lowell on October 15, the 59ers are the undefeated NCC champs.

Last Week's Game ...


Heuer rushes for 200+ yards and 4 TDs
as Devils run over Kougars 49-7

Team 1 2 3 4 F
LOWELL (3-3, 2-1 NCC) 14 28 7 0 49
KANKAKEE VALLEY (3-3, 0-3 NCC) 0 7 0 0 7

Friday, September 24, 2021,  70-degrees, Northwest Crossroads Conference game at WHEATFIELD, IN.

1st Qtr: LOWELL (7-0) Joe Heuer, 80-yard TD run. Caden Stearns kick. 11:50 left
LOWELL (14-0) Joe Heuer, 60-yard TD run. Caden Stearns kick. (estimated) 7:00 left.

Qtr: LOWELL (21-0) Joe Heuer, 2-yard TD run. Caden Stearns kick. (estimated) 10:00 left.
LOWELL (28-0) Joe Heuer, 38-yard TD run. Caden Stearns kick. (estimated) 8:00 left.
LOWELL (35-0) Riley Bank, 8-yard TD run. Caden Stearns kick. (estimated) 3:00 left
KV (35-7) Grant Stowers, 9-yard TD pass Eli Deardorf. (estimated 2:00 left) Stowers kick.
LOWELL (42-7) Ray Ambassi, 40-yard fumble runback. Caden Stearns kick. (estimated) 1:00 left.

3rd Qtr: LOWELL (49-7) Dylan Ohlenkamp, 2-yard run. Caden Stearns kick. (estimated) 4:00 left
4th Qtr: No scoring.


KANKAKEE VALLEY (25 carries, 75 yards, one fumble, one TD); (sorry - KV individuals stats unavailable)
LOWELL (34 carries, 344 yards, six TDs) Riley Bank (QB) 5 carries 84 yards, TD, TD; Dylan Ohlenkamp (RB) 5-24 yards, TD; Johnny Johnson (QB-HB-WR) 3-11 yards, Kendall Powers (QB) 2-5 yards; Owen Thiele (RB) 1-2 yards; Joe Heuer (HB) 18-218 yards, 4 TDs..

KANKAKEE VALLEY: Grant Stowers (QB) 7 of 22, 66 yards, one TD, one interception.
LOWELL: Riley Bank (QB) 2 of 6, 15 yards, 0 TDs, 0 interceptions.

LOWELL: Johnny Johnson (WR) 1 catche, 5 yards; Ryan Marx (HB) 1-9 yards, TD.

KANKAKEE VALLEY: 141 yards, nine first downs, 3 turnovers;
LOWELL: 344 yards, 9 first downs, 0 turnovers.

WHEATFIELD (9-24-2021) This was a 28-21 game and a 21-14 game the last two seasons, so this outcome was a surprise. The big night from halfback Joe Heuer is impressive because every Lowell opponent knows he’s coming at them.

Defensively, the big news was two interceptions by a Lowell secondary that didn’t pick off any passes in the first five games. The Red Devils also did not turn the ball over themselves.

Lowell senior linemen Ray Ambassi (5-9, 210) also scored Lowell’s first defensive TD of the season on a fumble recovery. There was very little not to like about the Devils performance on this night.

2021 (4A) Highland (3-3)
4-5 (2020), 6-5 (2019), 4-6 (2018) 4-7 (2017)
Coach Pete Koulianos (15-21 - 4 years) - Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) games in CAPS
8-20 (L) 21-38 (4A) Griffith (2-4)
8-27 (W) 41-7 at (2A) Whiting (2-4)
9-3 (L) 14-20 at (3A) Knox (1-5)
9-10 (W) 61-34 (5A) Hammond (1-5)
9-17 (L) 14-38 ANDREAN (4-2)
9-24 (W) 28-0 (5A) MUNSTER (2-4)
10-1 at (4A) LOWELL (3-3)
10-8 (4A) HOBART (4A)
10-15 at (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (3-3)

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

SCHEDULE CHANGES: Nothing that happened last week suggested any sectional possibilities have changed. The only team that has any chance to upset Hobart and/or Lowell in Sectional 17 is Highland. West Side, East Chicago and Gary West Side are just outmanned, meaning they don’t have the size, depth or strength.

What Highland needs is: For Lowell to draw Hobart in a sectional quarterfinal game.

Highland Update:

HIGHLAND (10-01-2021) The Trojans have some senior leaders in, among others, quarterback-safety Nick Steele (6-1, 210) and running back-linebacker Drew Brasich (5-9 185). Junior Steve Salman (5-7, 145) had 12 catches for 217 yards in the Trojans' first four games. He’s the slot receiver and Salman will be catching some quick screens from Steele.

Barsich is the basic, straight ahead, between the tackles runner. On short yardage, Steele is probably getting the ball, handing it to Barsich or throwing it to Salman.

Steele ran 13 times for 104 yards in the 28-0 win over Munster last weekend. He carried eight times for 90 yards at Knox. For the season, the three-year multi-position player is 42 of 58 for 771 yards and five TDs passing and 35 carries for 220 yards and four more touchdowns. The Trojans are 15 of 16 on extra points, a solid number.

Barsich scored three TDs against Whiting. He had a 52-yard run against Andrean and has scored six TDs in six games.

I don’t think you can totally judge Highland in heights and weights and numbers. This is the team that lost 27-7 to Lowell on October 2, 2020 and then lost 48-14 on Oct. 30, 2020.

Either team could show up this Friday. On paper, this is not a good match for the Trojans in the offensive and defensive lines. But Highland is very familiar with the Devils and I’d bet they will put up a solid effort this coming Friday.

2021 (4A) LOWELL (3-3)
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 (3-3)
8-27 (W) 26-21 at (6A) at Portage (1-5)
9-3 (L) 14-24 (4A) at New Prairie (5-1)
9-10 (4A) Griffith (2-4)
9-17 (4A) at HOBART (3-3)
9-24 (4A) at KANKAKEE VALLEY (3-3)
10-1 (4A) HIGHLAND (3-3)
10-8 (5A) at MUNSTER (2-4)
10-15 (2A) ANDREAN (4-2)

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

SCHEDULE CHANGES: Gary West Side and East Chicago did play their games last week and here’s why that’s important in Class 4A Sectional 17. If EC or West Side has to bail out due to Covid-19, that makes Sectional 17 a 5-team sectional, which gives THREE teams a quarterfinal bye. That creates the possibility that Hobart could draw Lowell in a quarterfinal with three other teams that got byes, sitting in the stands and watching.

Lowell Junior Colton Quale (74), senior James Johnson (69) and junior Jacob Kissel (72) helped the Devils rush for 297 yard last week, 9-17-2021 at Hobart.
(Photo by Mark Smith)

LOWELL Update:

Lowell surprisingly overmatched KV 49-7 last week. It was 14-0 at the quarter and 42-7 at the half. There were a lot of similarities to the Griffith game in week four where Lowell also rolled to a 42-7 halftime lead. I’m trying to ride the assumption here that the Devils are improving, especially running the football. My evidence is totally circumstantial.

Week (1) one: vs. Crown Point: 48 rushing attempts, 145 yards
Week (2) two: at Portage: 38 rushing attempts, 311 yards.
Week (3) three: at New Prairie 37 rushing attempts, 185 yards

3-week totals: 123 attempts, 641 yards = 5.2 yards per carry

Week (4) four against Griffith: 35 carries, 207 yards
Week (5) five at Hobart: 54 carries, 294 yards
Week (6) six at Kankakee Valley: 34 carries, 344 yards

3-week totals: 123 attempts, 845 yards = 6.8 yards per carry

What struck me was the exact same number of rushing attempts in Lowell’s first three games this season as there are in the last three. Just a coincidence, true. But it does give you a very crisp visual of improvement.

The competition was different in the second three games, for sure. But Lowell was also running out the clock in the second half of games four and six against Griffith and KV than they were in any of the first three games.

I also ride with the assumption that cooler fall weather favors linemen and runners to stay stronger for longer and rushing teams (like the 2021 Devils) get better on offense.

I always hesitate to list Lowell’s offensive linemen because the starting group sees a lot of change. But I believe that seniors Josh Moore (6-0, 205) and James Johnson (5-11, 220), junior Jacob Kissel (5-11, 232), and seniors Colton Quale (6-0, 265) and Adam Maleve (5-11, 249) were the starters last week with tight ends Spencer Barta (6-4, 227), a senior and junior James Langen (6-3, 206).

The point is: I write a lot (and will continue to write a lot) about the yard totals of junior quarterback Riley Bank (86 carries, 559 yards, 8 TDs) and senior halfback Joe Heuer (99 carries, 688 yards, 9 TDs) and a lot less about the blockers who make it possible.

QB Riley Bank is 34 of 71 passing for 393 yards and Highland will dare him to throw with their defensive sets this Friday night. Senior Johnny Johnson (5-9, 168) leads the Devils with 13 catches for 117 yards and I’m guessing the Devils would like to vary those totals by getting the ball more to the tight ends and threats like senior kick returner Ryan Marx (5-7, 165), who has just seven catches for 84 yards this fall.

Lowell’s kicking game has become a strength with junior punter Chris Jancosek averaging 36.4 yards per punt and sophomore place-kicker Caden Britton, who is 18 of 19 on extra points.

Defensively, linebacker Kyle Simmons (6-0, 191) has been in in 41 tackles, three QB sacks and a fumble recovery.

James Langen has two sacks and a fumble recovery. Junior defensive backs Brayden Walker (5-11, 163) and sophomore Luke Maldanado (5-11, 177) grabbed the first two interceptions of the season by the Lowell defense last week.

The Devils have been forced to push underclassmen into fill-in roles this fall. But if Lowell is healthy and Covid-free the second half of the season, it will work for them.

Highland (3-3) at Lowell (3-3)


Lowell stadium, The Inferno: Capacity 2,500


The big deal here is the games against Griffith. On opening night, Griffith beat Highland going away 38-21, a final score that seems odd when you look at the rest of the season for both sides. Highland seems better than the Panthers.

Lowell rolled over Griffith last week and the computer is putting some heavy duty weight on that result because there are no other common opponents. For the record, Lowell was a 13-pont computer favorite to defeat Kankakee Valley last week and they won 42-7.




LOWELL (10-01-2021) Lowell starts slowly on this night as Highland’s ‘Real’ Nic Steele scores on a long run for a 7-0 Trojan first quarter lead. BuT the Devils tie it up before halftime on a pass from Riley Bank to Jim Langen.

In the third quarter, Lowell strings together a bunch of rushing first downs and takes a 14-7 lead on a score by Joe Heuer.

The Devils pull away on a long run by Riley Bank to make it 21-7 after three quarters and the teams exchange turnovers after that until Caden Britton boots his first field goal of the year in the final minutes.

I don't see Highland being overwhelmed on this night, but I don’t see the Devils threatened in the final minute. Lowell wins the Homecoming game 24-7 and stays one game back in the Northwest Crossroads Conference race.



LOWELL 24, Highland 7

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Revised: September 30, 2021 .