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

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



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.

Lowell kids honor America by unveiling a giant American flag prior to the 2016
home opener against Portage last Friday night. 
(All Photos by Mark Smith)
It was another hot August night in Lowell last Friday and the student section broke out the mid-summer wardrobes.
Lowell got off to a bad start as big Jimmy Clasen (66) eyes a fumbled exchange between QB Dayton Hornickel (14) and halfback Jordan Jusevitch (6). This fumble did not lead to a Portage TD, but two other Devil turnovers did.
Portage defenders like juniors DeAngelo Young (97) and Jimmy Craven (14) obviously keyed on Lowell junior Jordan Jusevitch (6) early in last Friday night's matchup.
Senior Trevor Espravnik (13) tries to turn it up field against the Portage defense in last Friday's home opener in Lowell.
Trevor Espravnik (13) and Mitch Sacco (72) head for the bench after Espravnik scored on a 60-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Photos 1-4 (sequence): 1) Lowell's defense scored its first touchdown of the season in the third quarter against Portage. Blake Jansky (44) starts the sequence chasing Portage QB Anthony Maceo (3).
2) Jansky (44) gets there before Maceo (3) can find a receiver with the Devils holding a slim 13-12 lead.
3.) The Lowell sophomore defensive end hits Maceo, forcing a wild throw in the general direction of halfback Kieve Campos (37).
4.) Moments later, Lowell sophomore Ethan Igras (16) is running away with the ball and Austin Giordano (11) looks for someone to block on a 40-yard Lowell touchdown play, giving the Devils a 20-12 lead.
Portage linebacker Jeremy Torres (42) leads the charge against Lowell sophomore Tyler Wildman (32) late in Friday's game. The Indians came back from deficits of 20-12 and 27-18.
Portage won 28-27 for assistant coach Terry Chestovich, who recorded his first coaching win substituting for Portage head coach Darren Rodriguez.  (All photos by Mark Smith)
Copyright 2016 USA-365.com and Meyer Multimedia Services, a division of Meyer Broadcasting Corp.  All rights reserved.
Revised: August 31, 2016 .

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.


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 (08-26-2016) Lowell is running up against teams that are playing them like it's the Super Bowl.
And celebrating like they just won the championship of the world.

For the second week in a row, the Lowell game featured a team grabbing a dramatic and emotional victory in the final minute. For the second week in a row, it wasn't Lowell, the preseason Class 4A No. 1 team, doing the grabbing.

Senior all-state soccer player Josh Gonzalez booted a 40-yard field goal with 38 seconds to play Friday, giving the Portage Indians a 28-27 come from behind victory, and setting off a wild celebration on the long grass out behind Lowell high school.
Portage was 1-10 last season and 1-9 the year before, but they returned 15 starters from that team. The Indians lost at home to Lowell 45-28 last fall and they were thrilled to win on Portage's first football visit to Lowell since 1968.

"This is just so big," said Gonzalez, in the center of the field after the game. "It just goes to show that we put in so much hard work. We thought we deserved a win. It just feels great to finally have one."

Lowell (0-2) started poorly for the second week in a row. Quarterback Dayton Hornickel fumbled the snap on the Devils third play with Job Kitchen recovering at the Lowell 40-yard line. Portage drove to the Lowell 6 where Gonzalez sliced a field goal attempt after a bad snap. Three plays later a Hornickel pass over the middle was picked off by Portage junior linebacker Jeremy Torres, who raced 27 yards for a TD and a 6-0 lead.

The Devils responded quickly with Jaeger Gill breaking loose for a long run that was cut down to 45 yards by a blocking penalty. From the Portage 40, sophomore Tyler Wildman, in his first varsity carry, broke free for a 35-yard run to the Indians' 5-yard-line. Trevor Espravnik scored on the next play to tie the game 6-6.

After an exchange of punts, Portage (1-1) took the lead with an eight-play drive and a 4-yard run by shifty junior quarterback Anthony Maceo, who carried 30 times for 126 yards. Lowell stopped Portage's two-point conversion run and then took the lead in the final minute of the first half.

The Devils' fullback-linebacker Austin Giordano, playing his first game of the season, blocked a punt and Logan Charters recovered the ball at the Portage 40-yard line. Hornickel completed an 11-yard pass to Giordano and then lobbed a 'jump ball' pass to Jordan Jusevitch, who grabbed it and stepped into the end zone for a 28-yard TD and a 13-12 lead with 21 seconds to go in the half.

Lowell appeared to take full control in the third quarter when sophomore Blake Jansky hit Maceo as he was trying to throw and Ethan Igras intercepted it, running 40 yards for Lowell's third TD and a 20-12 lead. The Devils then forced a Portage punt and drove the ball to the Indians' 22-yard-line. But Gill, running a sweep play fumbled and Portage's Laron Parker scooped it up and raced 65 yards for a TD cutting the lead to 20-18.

Lowell bounced right back with an 80-yard drive capped off by a 60-yard run by Espravnik to make the score 27-18.

When Maceo fumbled at the Portage 35 yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter, it seemed as if the Devils had overcome two gift TDs to win the home opener.

But a 29-yard pass from Hornickel to Jusevitch was called back on an offensive pass interference call. Lowell would have had the ball on the Portage 5-yard line.

Instead, the Devils punted to the 13 and the Indians mounted a 16-play drive to cut the lead to 27-25. On that drive, the Devils were called for a very controversial pass interference call at the Portage 8-yard-line. It appeared the call would go the other way, but the foul on Lowell set up Maceo's 8-yard run to cut the lead to two points with 4:49 to play.

Lowell gained one first down, but had to punt with 3:07 to go. As ill timing would have it, Zack Buss' kick was only 17 yards. Maceo immediately gained 22 on an option run to the Lowell 31-yard line and Portage then seemed to intentionally run the clock out to set up the winning kick. The Portage coaches showed great faith in the senior and there's a reason for that.

Josh Gonzalez was the 2015 Post-Tribune newspaper soccer player of the year, scoring 22 goals on a team that scored only 41 total. He has been Portage's leading scorer in soccer the last three years. But in football, he's never been in position to try a last minute kick and he did notice that, even though they were trailing 27-25. Portage ran the clock down as far as they could, not trying to score a TD, counting on him.

"Im just trying not to think," Gonzalez said after the game. "Coach was telling me a joke just so I didn't think about it. I've never been in that situation before. In soccer I have, but not in football. But that was the plan. For me to kick it."

Lowell knows they're a good team, but when you're a winless team and people keep saying you're good, it's not a compliment anymore.

"You can't put the ball on the ground," said Lowell coach Keith Kilmer afterwards. "We had a chance to run out the clock but we can't move the ball. We're going to have to learn. We had a a chance to put them away, but we let them back in. We were in position to win until the end. They took it to us on that last (TD) drive.

Lowell was a lot better on offense in week two, with 21 points scored (by the offense) and 185 yards rushing. But after no turnovers against Crown Point in the 9-3 double-overtime loss on August 19, the Devils lost three turnovers against Portage, two of them being run back for touchdowns. It was the opposite of week one's 9-3 overtime loss where the defense was outstanding, but the Devils could not score. Lowell fans know the team traditionally starts slowly. Many 'small' schools start slowly, because they play bigger schools in nonconference play in August heat when depth hurts them. But, again, that's something you say when you're 0-2. I didn't say that last year when Lowell was 2-0 against the same two schools.

"We tried to play our guys a little more both ways this week," Kilmer noted, "and in the end we were gassed. That's why we play Crown Point and Portage. We want to see what our weaknesses are. You want to win every game, but the sun will come up in the morning. We'll fix things."

"It's just week two. It's failures and fixing. That's what football is. Failures and fixing."

Lowell's Austin Giordano, who did not play against Crown Point, was a fullback and a linebacker against Portage, catching five passes for 37 yards.

Lowell QB Dayton Hornickel has been sacked 10 times in two games and there's more than one reason for that. Lowell also attempted 15 passes against Portage, a sign they could not run consistently even though the final numbers (30 carries, 185 yards) were good.

Lowell junior Jaeger Gill ran 85 yards for a second quarter TD only to have it called back to the 40-yard-line on an illegal block that appeared to be behind the play. Lowell scored the touchdown two plays later on a 5-yard run by Trevor Espravnik.

Senior guard Max Steward got poked in the eye, left the game and did not return, but he was not hurt seriously. Junior lineman Diamond Artman left the game and did not return. Starting guard Noah Fraze (6-1, 278) missed his second consecutive game due to injury.

Coach: Keith Kilmer, 42-26 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} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 9 at Griffith {3A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 16 at Highland {4A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 23 Hobart {4A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 30 at Hammond Morton {4A} 7:00 pm   
Oct. 7 Munster {4A} 7:00 pm   
Oct. 14 at Andrean {4A} 7:00 pm   

Coach: Darren Rodriguez, 1-1 in 1st year at school, 38-49 in 9th year overall
Aug. 19 Mishawaka {5A}   L   7-21   
Aug. 26 at Lowell {4A}  W 28-27   
Sep. 2 Lake Central {6A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 9 Merrillville {6A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 16 at Crown Point {6A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 23 at Chesterton {6A} 7:00 pm   
Sep. 30 Michigan City {5A} 7:00 pm   
Oct. 7 at Valparaiso {6A} 7:00 pm   
Oct. 14 LaPorte {6A} 7:00 pm   

  W-L Pts OP W-L Pts OP Streak
Highland 0-0 0 0 2-  0 65 19 Won 2
Andrean 0-0 0 0 1-  1 63 47 Won 1
Griffith 0-0 0 0 1-  1 76 63 Won 1
Hobart 0-0 0 0 1-  1 51 33 Lost 1
Kankakee Valley 0-0 0 0 1-  1 44 40 Lost 1
Lowell 0-0 0 0 0-  2 30 37 Lost 3
Munster 0-0 0 0 0-  2 29 60 Lost 3
Friday, Aug. 19
Crown Point 9, Lowell 32OT
Highland 42, Hammond Morton 13
Hobart 41, Gary West 6
Kankakee Valley 20, Rensselaer Central 14
Lake Central 35, Munster 7
Merrillville 35, Andrean 7
Michigan City 49, Griffith 28
Friday, Aug. 26
Andrean 56, Hammond Noll 12
Chesterton 25, Munster 22
Griffith 48, Wheeler 14
Hammond Morton 26, Kankakee Valley 24
Highland 23, Hammond 6
LaPorte 27, Hobart 10
Portage 28, Lowell 27
Friday, Sep. 2
Andrean at New Prairie, 7 pm
Griffith at Hobart, 7 pm
Kankakee Valley at Lowell, 7 pm
Munster at Highland, 7 pm
Friday, Sep. 9
Highland at Hammond Clark, 7 pm
Hobart at Kankakee Valley, 7 pm
Lowell at Griffith, 7 pm
Munster at Andrean, 7 pm