Hobart's early lead fades as Lowell wins rematch with Brickies, 44-23 in 4A Regional

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Team 1 2 3 4 F
LOWELL (9-4) 14 14 10 7 44
Hobart (10-3) 17 6 0 0 23

Friday, November 11, 2016 - 46 degrees, dry and clear in HOBART, Ind.

Trevor Espravnik (13) sweeps around right end. Espravnik scored three TDs in the regional championship game at Hobart. (All Photos by Mark Smith)
Jordan Jusevitch (6) and Trevor Espravnik (13) watch as Jaeger Gill (2) tip toes down the sidelines in the second quarter of the regional title game. Lowell won for the seventh week in a row.
Hobart led Lowell by nine points with little more than six minutes to go in the second quarter. But Lowell led 28-23 at halftime.
Hobart's Paul Dultz (66) does what he has to do to keep Lowell senior Max Steward (64) out of the Hobart backfield last Friday. The Devils shut out Hobart in the second half.
Hobart guard Joree Joiner (55) leads halfback Jared Zanolla (2) on a 43-yard TD run in the first quarter giving the Brickies a 17-7 lead.
Jordan Jusevitch (6) takes a handoff from QB Ethan Igras (16) in the regional championship game. Jusevitch scored two second quarter TDs in Lowell 44-23 victory.
Mitch Wildman (24) chases Hobart star Nick Ray (22) in last week's regional playoff game. Lowell held Hobart to an official 103 yards rushing.
Lowell's Trevor Espravnik (13) has reached the end zone so much there's no need for a TD dance. Espravnik, who has 27 TDs this season, flips the ball to the ref after a third quarter TD.
Lowell's offensive line: Gavin Summers (69), Max Steward (64), Mitch Sacco (72), Bryan Schantz (51) and Caleb Bergstrom (66) get set to roll last Friday in Hobart. The Devils rushed for an official 308 yards on 67 carries.
Lowell QB Ethan Igras (16) runs past the Brickies Ryan Pisarski (73) in the regional title game. Lowell outscored Hobart 16-0 after halftime.
Lowell offensive coordinator Jim Carlson, here with Mitch Wildman (24) and Ethan Igras (16) was back on the sidelines last week for the regional. Carlson has been on the Lowell sidelines for all seven of the Devils' regional titles.
Lowell senior Zac Galvan (3) is in the middle of the celebration after the Devils 44-23 win at Hobart in the 4A regional title game. Lowell seniors are three time sectional (and now) one-time regional champs. (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 18, 2016 .

1st QtrHOBART (0-3) Adrian Cantos, 22-yard field goal. 2-yard drive, 3 plays after bad punt snap on fourth down at the Lowell 7-yard line. 10:38 left.
LOWELL (7-3)
Trevor Espravnik, 2-yard TD run (25th TD of the season). Jake Post kick.
80-yard drive, 15 plays. 6:07 left.
HOBART (7-10)
Brandon James, 78-yard kickoff return (11th TD). Adrian Cantos kick. 5:55 left.
HOBART (7-17)
Jared Zanolla, 43-yard run (8th TD). 43-yard drive, one play after short Lowell punt. Adrian Cantos kick. 3:55 left.
LOWELL (14-17)
Ethan Igras, 9-yard run (6th TD) . 80-yard drive, 13 plays. Jake Post kick. 0:00 left.
2nd Qtr: HOBART (14-23) Nick Ray, 8-yard run (19th TD) . One play after Jared Zanolla interception return. Kick wide. 8:10.
LOWELL (21-23)
Jordan Jusevitch, 3-yard run (7th TD). 65-yard drive, 8 plays.
Jake Post kick. 3:18.
LOWELL (28-23)
Jordan Jusevitch, 56-yard punt return (8th TD). Jake Post kick. 3:51 left.
3rd Qtr: LOWELL (30-23) After bad punt snap, Hobart punter Jaydon Ojeda is tackled in the end zone by Lowell's Mitch Wildman. SAFETY. 9:51 left.
LOWELL (37-23) Trevor Espravnik, 15-yard run (26th TD). 47 yard drive, 7 plays after kickoff went out of bounds. Jake Post kick. 7:01 left.
4th Qtr: LOWELL (44-23) Trevor Espravnik. 2-yard run. (27th TD) 69-yard drive, 10 plays. Jake Post kick. 11:49 left.


LOWELL (63 carries, 312 yards, 5 TDs, one fumble): Trevor Espravnik (HB) 40 carries, 184 yards, 3 TDs, fumble; Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 7-23 yards, TD; Jaeger Gill (WR) 3-27 yards, Ethan Igras (QB) 6-69 yards, TD; Jared Sojka (FB) 4-4 yards, Tyler Wildman (HB) 2-5 yards.

HOBART (27 carries, 72 yards, 2 TDs): Mickey Wolfe (QB) 4 carries, minus-4 yards (2 sacks, minus-17); Jared Zanolla (HB) 7-29 yards, TD; Nick Ray (FB) 9-25 yards, TD; Brandon James (WR) 7-26 yards.

LOWELL: Ethan Igras (QB) 6-of-11, 68 yards, 0 TDs, one interception;
HOBART: Mickey Wolfe (QB) 3 of 12, 29 yards, 0 TDs, 0 interceptions.

LOWELL: Mitch Wildman (TE) 2-32 yards, TD, Jaeger Gill (WR) 3-29 yards. Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 1-7 yards;
HOBART: Brandon James (WR) 3-29 yards, fumble.

LOWELL: 380 yards, 19 first downs, 3 turnovers (including bad punt snap);
HOBART: 105 yards, 2 first downs, 2 turnovers (including bad punt snap).


Jared Zanolla (Hobart).

Fumble recoveries:

Blake Jansky (LOWELL); Kyle Batholomew (Hobart).

HOBART (11-11-2016) I always call it a business trip. Take the ride. Be ready coming of the bus. Handle your business the way you planned to. Do what needs to be done. And head for home.

Three weeks in a row, Lowell had that assignment in the 44th Indiana state football tournament. Three weeks in a row it had come easy.

Last Friday, in the regional championship game - the point at which Lowell had been eliminated the last two years, the Devils fell behind 3-0, 16-7 and 23-14 to Hobart, a team that defeated Lowell in September.

But then the ghosts of 2014 and 2015 became the spirit of 2005. In 2005, Lowell started the season 1-4 and then won 4A Sectional 17 with victories over Gary Roosevelt 41-6, Kankakee Valley 41-6 and Hobart 32-6. Eleven years ago in the regional title game, Lowell trailed Concord 6-0, 13-10 and 10-17 before Red Devil halfback Scott Gray scored on a 93-yard run, sparking the Devils to a 30-23 win and, two weeks later, the 5A state title.

Last Friday it was Jordan Jusevitch, catching a punt at Lowell's 44-yard-line, cut to his right and back to his left, shook off a tackler, reversed himself to his right and cut back left again, breaking three tackles in all and running 56 yards for a TD and a 28-23 Lowell lead.

Hobart did not score again in a 44-23 Lowell win. The Devils seventh regional championship win in 23 years.

Every once in awhile somebody has to make a play.

"I was just selling out," Jordan would say later. "I knew we had to have a big play. We were behind. Something to lift the team up and the crowd. I just knew that if I didn't go down, something great would happen."

It was great for Lowell seniors like center Mitch Sacco. After losing the regional title by one point two years in a row, nothing less than a win on this night would do>

"Last two years we came up short," Mitch said on the artificial turf at Hobart after the game. "One point each time. To finally win, it's amazing. I saw the seniors from last year's team here tonight. We couldn't have done this without them. All last year, they showed us what it was like. They told us what it was all about. You go hard all the time. You never know which game it's all going to end. That's the most important thing tonight. We never gave up."

This game did have some mood swings. Hobart scored early when a bad punt snap saw Lowell punter Zach Buss tackled on 4th-and-7 at the Lowell 7-yard line. The Devils' defense held and Adrian Cantos booted a 22-yard field goal for an early 3-0 Hobart lead.

Lowell drove down the field to score with the big play being a 37-yard option run by sophomore quarterback Ethan Igras to the Hobart 2-yard line. Trevor Espravnik scored on the next play to put Lowell ahead 7-3.

But Hobart wide receiver Brandon James grabbed the into-the-wind kickoff on the run at the 23-yard line and he raced across the field towards the home grandstand, outrunning the Devils to the end zone to make it 10-7.

Lowell punted into the 15-20 mile-an-hour wind three plays later and the boot only carried to the Lowell 43. On the first play, Brickies senior wingback Jared Zanolla lined up to take the snap in the 'Wildcat' formation, took off around left end and raced 43 yards to the end zone to give the home team a 17-7 lead with 3:55 still left in the first quarter.

Lowell (9-4) went back to the running game and they produced five first downs on the way to Espravnik's 9-yard run on the final play of the quarter.

Since the earlier meeting in September was won by Hobart 18-12, most everybody was a little shocked at the 17-14 'basketball score' first quarter.

The Devils were in a little trouble when Zanolla intercepted Igras and ran it back to the Red Devil 8-yard line early in the second period. Nick Ray ran it in for his 19th TD of the season on the next play. Campos missed the extra point, but it was 23-14 Hobart with 8:10 left to halftime.

But Lowell controlled the line of scrimmage and they drove 65 yards to score on a 3-yard run by junior Jordan Jusevitch, cutting the lead to 23-21. Jusevitch made the play of the night moments later. Hobart (10-3) could not earn a first down and they had to punt. Jayden Ojeda's boot carried over near the visitors' sidelines. Jusevitch, who did not play in the earlier Lowell-Hobart game, tumbled, stumbled and them rumbled into the clear for a 66-yard punt run TD to give Lowell a 28-23 lead heading to halftime.

"They got some shots in in the first half," Jusevitch said. "Hobart's got some great players. But we just did not want to be done."

Jusevitch missed two weeks with what has been described as a shoulder injury and when he returned late in the regular season, he seemed somewhat stiff and immobile. Jordan was much more fluid at Hobart. He isn't 100% healthy, but nobody is in mid-November of the high school football season.

"I'm definitely better," he said. "It's late in the season. Everybody's bruised up. We're fighting. We're treating our bodies right. We've got a great trainer (Usvaldo Montoya). He's a great guy. He's got us doing the right things."

Lowell did a lot of the right things in the second half. Red Devil defensive end Blake Jansky sacked Hobart QB Mickey Wolfe (his 7th sack of the season), forcing an early third quarter punt, but the snap went over Ojeda's head into the end zone and the punter was tackled by Lowell's Mitchell Wildman for a safety. Leading 30-23, Lowell took the post-safety kickoff at the Hobart 47 and scored in seven plays, all runs by Espravnik. The score was 37-23 with 7:01 left in the third quarter and the wind chilled crowd of about 3,500 had seen a 23-point swing in 10 minutes of game time. The Brickies (10-3) couldn't recover.

"We controlled the game on offense tonight," Sacco said. "Every time we had the ball, we just lowered our shoulders and gave it everything we had."

Lowell senior Zac Galvan was a surprise star. There was more than one bad snap on extra points. On one knee, Galvan, a star Lowell wrestler at 130 pounds, made some remarkable catches and got the ball down, allowing Jake Post to go 6-of-6 on extra points.

"It just happens," he said. "He's in the moment. You don't think. You just make it happen."

This win almost made up for last year's 7-6 loss to South Bend St. Joseph's in the regional, a defeat that ended the Devils' bid for a perfect 2015 season. Almost.

"We were definitely thinking about that feeling that we had," Jusevitch said. "Walking off our home field shut down. We were the top-ranked team. We choked. Tonight we knew Hobart has a great team. A lot of fighters on that team. We knew we could give up when things went wrong. We just had to keep fighting. They took their shots, but this team. We just didn't want to be done again. The fire on this team is something I haven't been a part of."

"I saw the seniors (from the 2015 team) here tonight. Ike James. Justin Thomas. They're a part of this, too. Once a Red Devil always a Red Devil. I wish we could have gotten it for them last year. But they're happy for us and I'm glad we could finally do it for them."

"This was built on them," said Kilmer of the 2015 seniors. "You have to learn how to get here. How to be here. That's what we learned last year. We'd been here. It's not going to be a blowout here. Everybody's good. You have to fight.
That's what we learned last year."

"This would not have happened tonight without last years senior class. They showed us the way. It can end at any time. Any game can be your last game."

"We learned that."

Galvan said, "Its hard to describe this," he said. "It gives me chills to think about what we went through to get here. To keep working and just never give up. You never know when your last play is. You just have to keep going."

Galvan could have given up football years ago. He is the smallest player on the field every game.

"There's just this passion I have for the game," he said. "Having a brother next to you who has that same passion. There's just nothing like it. That team bond. When you're on the field it takes all 11 guys."

"When we were 2-4, we had a little talk, but it was really just us. We had to ask ourselves, 'What are we made of?' That Friday night we realized what we could be and we are living that right now."

DEVIL NOTES: Lowell used some six offensive linemen formations against Hobart and they were successful, especially after halftime.

"We've always run it," said coach Keith Kilmer. "We haven't run it this year. It screws up the defense. Gives us another gap to run in. Try to catch them off balance."

"It just a power offense," said Jaeger Gill. "Gives us an extra blocker to run it up the gut. Its just a power formation so we can pound the ball down the field when we need to."

Mitch Sacco added, "It just gives us more of a push instead of having a wide receiver out there. We can run it to the strong side or to the side without many blockers. Depending on how they defense it."

The regional crowd was not as large as I expected it to be. The stated capacity of the 'Brickyard', Hobart's home field, is about 5,000 and there were clearly empty spaces in both the large home and visitors' grandstands. I'd guess there were 3,500 to 4,000 in attendance counting the cheerleaders and the old guys from the newspaper. The weather might have prevented a sellout crowd. I blame myself. Sometimes we don't emphasize how much fun it is to sit or stand in the middle of an open field at night in November in 45-degree weather.

Kilmer didn't want to say he 'knew' his team would come back from a 2-4 start to the season, but he did know they could.

"I sat in Patty Mac's office (athletic director Patty McCormack) in July and I told her, 'we're not very good'. But we can be. Our heads just weren't right. They weren't bright after the Griffith game (where Lowell dropped to 2-4). But you knew if they could keep them, they would be good. We had too much talent. You never know. You get to a turning point. You could go 2-8. It's to the kids' credit that they didn't. They decided they'd play with love for each other and heart."

I asked three Lowell players if they knew what was the last time Lowell played a Semistate game at home. They all knew.

"2009," said Sacco quickly when asked. "Bishop Dwenger. I remember. I watched it. It was crazy. I just knew that if we can stay focused one more time, we can make it all the way to the Dome."

Coach: Keith Kilmer, 51-28 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} 6:30 pm  semistate 

Coach: Ryan Turley, 34-31 in 6th year at school
Aug. 19 Gary West {4A}  W 41-  6   
Aug. 26 at LaPorte {6A}   L 10-27   
Sep. 2 Griffith {3A}  W 22-  7   
Sep. 9 at Kankakee Valley {4A}  W 27-  7   
Sep. 16 Andrean {4A}   L 28-55   
Sep. 23 at Lowell {4A}  W 18-12   
Sep. 30 at Munster {4A}  W 19-14   
Oct. 7 Hammond Morton {4A}  W 35-12   
Oct. 14 Highland {4A}  W 41-14   
Oct. 21 South Bend Washington {4A}  W 33-14  sectional
Oct. 28 Kankakee Valley {4A}  W 55-21  sectional
Nov. 4 at New Prairie {4A}  W 35-14  sectional
Nov. 11 Lowell {4A}   L 23-44  regional 

IHSAA Semistate Pairings
Penn [12-0] at Carmel [8-4]
Center Grove [11-1] at Ben Davis [9-3]
Fort Wayne Snider [12-0] at Westfield [10-2]
Columbus East [12-1] at Bloomington South [11-1]
NorthWood [13-0] at Lowell [9-4]
Indianapolis Roncalli [13-0] at East Central [11-2]
Fort Wayne Concordia [11-2] at Garrett [12-1]
Brownstown Central [12-1] at Lawrenceburg [12-1]
Eastbrook [12-1] at Whiting [12-1]
Monrovia [9-4] at Indianapolis Ritter [9-4]
Pioneer [13-0] at Adams Central [12-1]
Indianapolis Lutheran [10-3] at Linton-Stockton [13-0]