Lowell outgains Northwood, but falls 21-14 to Panthers after late 4th Qtr TD in 4A Semistate

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Team 1 2 3 4 F
Northwood (14-0) 7 0 6 8 21
LOWELL (9-5) 0 7 7 0 14

Friday, November 18, 2016 - 46 degrees, windy - 4A Semistate LOWELL, Ind.

Northwood team captains Drew Minnich (11), Caleb Newcomer (62) and Trey Bilinski (3) meet Lowell's Max Steward (64), Austin Giordano (11), Trevor Espravnik (13) and Mitch Sacco (72) at the center of the field for the coin toss before the semistate championship game. (All Photos by Mark Smith)
Lowell's Trevor Espravnik (13) takes a handoff from quarterback Ethan Igras (16) in the semistate game against Northwood. Espravnik would carry the ball 41 times.
Lowell junior Jaeger Gill (2) gets away from defensive back Garrett Griffin (22) early in the 4A semistate game in Lowell.
Austin Giordano (11) blocks for Lowell QB Ethan Igras (16) in the semistate game against Northwood. Lowell came into the game with a seven game winning streak. Northwood had won 14 in a row.
Junior Cooper Kersey (76) clears the way for Trevor Espravnik (13) in the semistate game against Northwood. Lowell ended the 14-game season wit 3,255 yards rushing.
Northwood sophomore Brayton Yoder (26) does not know that Lowell sophomore Chandler Austgen (78) is coming up behind him. The Panthers had four players with the last name of Yoder.
Trevor Espravnik (13) dives over the goal line to put Lowell ahead 14-7 in the third quarter. It was his 28th TD of the season.
Logan Charters (40) and Diamond Artman (65) have their eye on Brayton Yoder (26) in fourth quarter action. Brayton and Bronson Yoder carried the ball a combined 29 times for 85 yards.
Here's the Panthers big pass play, photo-1: With less than two minutes left and Lowell leading 14-13, on 4th and 8, Northwood's Bronson Yoder (9) runs a cross field pass pattern and catches the ball between Lowell's Logan Charters and the sidelines.
Here's the Panthers big pass play, photo 2:  Northwood's Bronson Yoder (9) runs a cross field pass pattern and catches the ball between Lowell's Logan Charters (40) and the sidelines. The play carried to the Lowell 1-yard-line.
Moments later, the game is over and Lowell seniors Mitch Saco (72) and Austin Giordano (11) shake hands with Northwood star Drew Minnich (11). This was the first ever meeting between Lowell and Northwood.
There's time on the clock but Northwood's Bronson Yoder (9), Micah Lehman (71), and Payton Bear (34) and Lowell's Jordan Jusevitch (6), Mitch Wildman (24) and Logan O'Hanlon (10) know it's over with Northwood winning the Class 4A semistate championship 21-14. (All photos by Mark Smith)
Copyright 2016 USA-365.com and Meyer Multimedia Services, a division of Meyer Broadcasting Corp.  All rights reserved.
Revised: November 28, 2016 .

1st Qtr: NORTHWOOD (7-0) Drew Minnich 26-yard run with Brayton Yoder fumble (on 4th-and-1). 66-yard drive, 8 plays. Adam Chamberlin kick. 5:50 left.
2nd Qtr: LOWELL (7-7) Logan O'Hanlon, 25-yard run with blocked punt. Jaker Post kick. 1:31 left.
3rd Qtr: LOWELL (14-7) Trevor Espravnik 1-yard run (28th TD) 66-yard drive, 9 plays. Jake Post kick. 8:29
NORTHWOOD (14-13) DeAndre Smart, 9-yard TD pass from Trey Billinski (39th TD Pass)
Kick wide. 4:05 left.

4th Qtr: NORTHWOOD (14-21) Trey Bilinnski, 1-yard run. 53-yard drive, 13 plays. 2-point pass from Trey Bilinski to DeAndre Smart. 1:53 left.


NORTHWOOD (32 carries, 115 yards, one TD, no fumbles): Brayton Yoder (HB) 20 carries, 67 yards, Bronson Yoder (WB) 9-18 yards, Drew Minnich (TE) 1-26 yards, TD; Trey Billinski (QB) 2-4 yards, TD;
LOWELL (52 carries, 231 yards, one TD, 0 fumbles): Trevor Espravnik (HB) 41 carries, 189 yards, TD; Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 1 carries, minus-1 yard, Jaeger Gill (WR) 4 carries, 31 yards, Austin Giordano (FB) 2-8 yards, Ethan Igras (QB) 4-4 yards.


LOWELL: Ethan Igras (QB) 3 of 9, 20 yards, one interception;
NORTHWOOD: Trey Billinski (QB) 5 of 22, 54 yards, 54 yards, one TD, no interceptions.


LOWELL: Trevor Espravnik (HB) 1/minus-2 yards, Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 1-6 yards; Mitch Wildman (TE) 1-16 yards.

NORTHWOOD: 169 yards 8 first downs, one turnover (blocked punt);
LOWELL 252 yards, 14 first downs, one turnover.


(NW) Landen Gessinger

(LOWELL) Chandler Austgen


LOWELL (11-18-2016) The question going into Friday's 4A semistate championship game at Lowell was whether the home team could stop Northwood's 46 points-per-game offense.
The answer was: Yes. But Northwood won anyway.
Quarterback Trey Bilinski found sophomore Bronson Yoder with a last chance 4th-and-9 22-yard pass to the Lowell 1-yard-line and Bilinski scored on the next play with 1:53 left in the game, giving Northwood a 21-14 victory over Lowell in the Class 4A Semistate.

Northwood, rated second in Class 4A, drove 59 yards in 11 plays, aided greatly by a controversial face mask penalty against Lowell's Jordan Jusevitch on 4th-and-8 from the Lowell 40.

It was a crushing loss for Lowell, which has lost one-possession regional and now semistate playoff games in the final quarter three years in a row. But it was equally dramatic and impactful victory for Northwood, which reached the state title game for the first time in 11 years.

"It was a smash out to our 'ace' Bronson Yoder," said Bilinski of the long crossing pattern to Yoder at the 1-yard line. "He could not have run a better route. He really made the play for me."

"It's just a play we've worked on all year. We've repped (practiced) it and we knew we could go to it if we had to. We executed it."

Bilinski had spent a lot of the night trying to get the ball to 1,000-yard receiver DeAndre Smith, but Lowell paid him special attention.

"They double teamed DeAndre," said Bilinski. "We didn't really try to 'get away' from him. We just knew we had other guys we could go to who would step up and make plays. So we did."

"We had rhythm coming out in the second half," said sixth-year Lowell coach Keith Kilmer who was 16-14 his first three years and is now 29-11 over the last three seasons. "We lost some momentum on that bad snap on our second possession. They stopped us on a couple of key (4th down) plays and then they made the big play when they had to."

"Our defense has been pretty stout all year long. Tonight was a chess match and our defensive coordinator (Derek Thompson) did a great job getting our kids in a position where they could make plays. Then it was just coming down to whose athletes were better. For 99% of the game, ours were."

"They got the matchup they wanted (on the 22-yard pass). They got one of their better athletes on a linebacker. There wasn't much they could do. We could have played over the top (basically catch the ball and try and make the tackle), but there's just two minuets left. We'd played that way (man-to-man) the whole game. Maybe we got worn down a bit at the end, but the same kids (who got beat) put us in position to win."

Northwood (14-0) got a break on their first touchdown. In a 4th-and-1 play from the Lowell 31, junior halfback Brayton Yoder (5-9, 175) swept left end and lost the ball as he got near the first down marker. But teammate Drew Minnich picked it up and raced into the end zone for a 7-0 Northwood lead.

Lowell mounted a nine play drive, but Panthers Brayton and Bronson Yoder (Northwood has four players and a student trainer named Yoder) and stopped Jaeger Gill on 4th-and-3 at the Northwood 35 with 1:57 left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Devils (9-5) mounted a 16-play, 71-yard drive deep into Panther territory, but on 4th-and-1, Northwood junior Will Ingle stopped Lowell halfback Trevor Espravnik for a 2-yard loss.

The Devils secondary was able to stay with Northwood receivers early in the game and the score might have been 7-0 at the half.

But in punt formation, Trey Bilinski, the star quarterback, who also punts, got off a low boot that was blocked by Lowell sophomore Lowell defensive tackle Chandler Austgen. Junior Red Devil linebacker Logan O'Hanlon picked up the bouncing ball and raced 30 yards to tie the game 7-7.

Both teams scored on their first possession of the second half. Lowell drove 66 yards on 10 running plays with Espravnik scoring from the 1-yard line with 8:29 to go. Northwood rallied when Landen Gessinger grabbed Lowell;s short kickoff and raced 40 yards to the Lowell 30.

Brayton Yoder gained five yards on a 4th-and-2 from the Lowell 25 and Bilinski fired his 39th TD pass of the season, a 9-yard toss to DeAndre Smart with 4:05 left in the third quarter.

Northwood was called for a sideline violation (the refs called three of them, two on Lowell) on the extra point and the the kick, from the 15-yard line, sailed wide. The Panthers consistently go for two point conversions after TDs, but after the penalty they chose to kick.

There was great drama late in the third quarter when a punt snap got away from Lowell kicker Nate Buss and he was tackled at the Red Devil 30-yard line. The Lowell defense stopped Northwood, which averaged 46 points a game over the first 13 weeks, on three plays.

The Devils could have iced the game early in the fourth quarter, but Northwood, led by Drew Minnich (5-11, 183) and mini-noseguard Dylan Brugh (5-6, 170), stopped Lowell on 4th-and-3 from the Northwood 36 when Bronson Yoder tackled Trevor Espravnik on an off tackle run.

Northwood started the winning drive with 5:07 left. DeAndre Smith was called for offensive pass interference, which put the Panthers in a 2nd-and 21 hole. Billinski, who completed just five passes all night, hit end Landen Gessinger on third down for 13 yards to the Lowell 40.

Then on 4th and 13, Bilinski threw a pass over the middle to Gessinger. Jordan Jusevitch leaped and it appeared he grabbed Gessinger (5-10, 160) by the shoulder pad and spun him around in mid air. Jusevitch was called for a face mask penalty, not pass interference, but it gave the Panthers a first down at the 25.

"It's a semistate game," said Kilmer. "You have to take care of yourself. You can't make mistakes. You can't put the game in the hands of the officials."

Bilinski then hit the big pass to Bronson Yoder, throwing into a crossing wind on a 45-degree night. Lowell had held the Northwood star to just 33 yards passing going into that final play.

Lowell (9-4) stayed true to form on this night running senior halfback Trevor Espravnik (5-10, 183) 41 times for 189 yards. The Devils posted 15 rushing first downs and and outgained Northwood 252-169. Espravnik thought the Devils were winning most of the second half.

"We had a ton of momentum, said Espravnik, who carried the ball 19 times for 107 yards in the second half alone. "We were really selling out for each other. We gave it everything we could. Gave it everything we could. The ball just didn't bounce in our favor tonight."

"He tried to go superhuman in the first half," said Kilmer of Espravnik, who finished 2016 with 1,947 yards on 329 carries.

"I'll share a quote from one of my colleagues. The team that can stay the 'most normal' in a game like this, is usually the team that's most successful. Just don't get out of your capabilities. That's what Trevor did in the second half. When you can run for four yards, run for four yards. Don't try to hit the 'home run.' Just take what you can get. That's what he did and it worked for us."

Success sometimes hurts more than failure. From 2011 to 2013, Lowell didn't win a post-season game. from 2014 to 2016, they've gone 10-3 in post-season games, losing 28-27 to New Prairie (2013) and 7-6 to St. Joe's (2015) in regionals and now 21-14 to Northwood. Oddly, the last three years seem to have been harder on the team at the end.

"We won three sectional championships," said Kilmer. "This was the (senior) group that came in and bought into what our coaches were saying. There aren't many of them. Just 13 started out. Five or six of them played. From a coaching standpoint, I owe them a lot."

"When we were 2-4 (in September)," said Espravnik, "we could have just played our 10 games and finished. But we didn't. It hurts now but in a week, we'll remember what we did."

"That's a great team over there," Kilmer said of Northwood. "But I wouldn't trade my guys for anything. We had a great week and we played like it tonight."

DEVIL NOTES: As tough a loss as it was for Lowell, it was an emotional landmark for the Panthers and their fans who celebrated long and hard on the south end of the field in Lowell.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime win for Northwood coach Nate Andrews, who played for his father Jim Andrews at Northwood in the 1990s.

The elder Andrews died in a car accident in 1992 and Nate, a wide receiver, played for his team, which reached the state finals in 1993 under assistant coach Rich Dodson. A generation later, Nate Andrews returned to Northwood and led his home town team to the state finals. You could see how much it meant to him after the game.

"It's unbelievable for our community," he said. "And our kids. It's my community, too. A lot of these people raised me. It was always in my heart to come back (Andrews coached at Lapel and Western before coming back to Northwood) home. I always thought I'd be here. Never thought of anything else growing up."

Northwood went on to lose the state title game 34-22 to undefeated and top-ranked Roncalli (15-0), Roncalli's ninth state championship.

Lowell is now 3-2 in semistate games, 3-1 at home. Northwood is 6-6 in semistate games and they have won 14 for the first time in school history.

Lowell's Trevor Espravnik finished the season with 329 carries for 1,947 yards and 28 touchdowns. That is the sixth highest total in recorded school history. 2010 graduate Brandon Grubbe, who gained 2,417 yards on 403 carries in the fall of 2009, is Lowell's single season all-time rushing leader.

LOWELL all-time leading 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) 329-1,947 yards
6. Toby Goetz (2004) 276-1,939 yards
7. Ike James (2015) 347-1,931 yards
8. Brandon Grubbe (2008) 315 carries, 1,831 yards
9. Matt Pernick (1996) 229-1,827 yards
10. George Fields (2012) 277-1,811 yards

Coach: Keith Kilmer, 51-29 in 7th year at school
Aug. 19 at Crown Point {6A} 2ot  L   3-  9   
Aug. 26 Portage {6A}   L 27-28   
Sep. 2 Kankakee Valley {4A}  W 35-  0   
Sep. 9 at Griffith {3A}   L   9-17   
Sep. 16 at Highland {4A}  W 41-14   
Sep. 23 Hobart {4A}   L 12-18   
Sep. 30 at Hammond Morton {4A}  W 33-  6   
Oct. 7 Munster {4A}  W 41-10   
Oct. 14 at Andrean {4A}  W 35-21   
Oct. 21 Gary West {4A}  W 65-  6  sectional
Oct. 28 at Hammond Morton {4A}  W 49-  2  sectional
Nov. 4 at Munster {4A}  W 42-14  sectional
Nov. 11 at Hobart {4A}  W 44-23  regional 
Nov. 18 NorthWood {4A} L 14- 21  semistate 

Coach: Nate Andrews, 28-10 in 3rd year at school, 68-49 in 10th year overall
Aug. 19 at Jimtown {3A}  W 46-30   
Aug. 26 at Fairfield {3A}  W 54-  6   
Sep. 2 Concord {5A}  W 50-32   
Sep. 9 at Goshen {5A}  W 35-12   
Sep. 16 at Wawasee {4A}  W 53-30   
Sep. 23 Northridge {4A}  W 14-  0   
Sep. 30 Elkhart Memorial {5A}  W 52-21   
Oct. 7 Warsaw {6A}  W 61-24   
Oct. 14 at Plymouth {4A}  W 43-12   
Oct. 21 Columbia City {4A}  W 52-13  sectional
Oct. 28 Northridge {4A}  W 44-13  sectional
Nov. 4 at East Noble {4A}  W 52-24  sectional
Nov. 11 New Haven {4A}  W 52-28  regional 
Nov. 18 at Lowell {4A}  W 21-14  semistate 
Nov. 25 (n)Indianapolis Roncalli {4A}   L 22-34  state