Week 11 -  Football Game of the Week Preview

Highland (4-4) at Lowell (8-1)
Class 4A Sectional 17 Semifinal

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Junior Ryan Marx (12) hopes that one of Lowell's most unusual seasons in many years runs into November. For the Devils to reach the Class 4A Sectional 17 championship game for the seventh year in a row, they must beat Highland Friday night. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m., CDT, Friday, October 30, 2020.

Where:  Lowell high school - 3 miles west of I-65 on U.S. 2 in Lowell.
Tickets: $6
TV/Radio/Internet: Live internet fed on RRSN.com. It was free last week. Check it out.


ENROLLMENT: Highland – 1,024; LOWELL – 1,107.

No matter what happens with the alignment of 4A Sectional 17, these two schools will still be sectional rivals. Highland had 1,194 students in 1996 while Lowell had 1,111 according to the IHSAA school directory. Highland and Lowell are virtually the same (size) school.

Weather: Colder than a walk home in the dark. It won't break 50 degrees during the day Friday and we’re looking at 40 degrees for the kickoff. No rain during the week so the field should be dry and light winds during the game. But it will be about 35 degrees by 9 p.m. That’s harsh for fans and more than just a little chilly for the players, especially the ones not actually in the game. Long range weather for November 6 is significantly better.

But for this week, time to start hitting the drug store for a good supply of those hand and foot warmers. Oddly, the cold weather Friday will encourage people to wear some kind of face covering which is what health experts all want us to do. And since Halloween is Saturday, here’s your chance to break out your best full-body Devil costume.


PARKING/TICKETS: The parking lot certainly won't be jam packed Friday. I don't think Morton brought 50 fans to Lowell last week. Highland will bring more, but in 45-degree weather, they won't bring very many more.

This is one of those games where you might want to sit in your car until about 6:45. It will be cold before the game, cold during the game and cold after the game.


THE SITUATION: Hold your breath. As of now (meaning when I’m writing this), this game is on, but all of the sectional semifinal games in the state of Indiana will not be played.

Downstate, Clinton Prairie has had to forfeit their Class 1A Sectional 42 semifinal with the new Traders Point Christian Academy due to Covid-19 issues.

A couple of games have been postponed every week of the season so far and, obviously, any team that has a game postponed now, will end their season. There are no makeup dates.

Both Highland and Lowell have lost games to the virus, but I’m confident that even if Lowell is short a player or two, they will play. Highland quarterback Ethan Litavecz couldn't play last week due to a Covid-19 situation. The Trojans won without him.

What I don’t know and probably won't be told in full is which schools are short which players due to Civid-19 situations. There will be boys at many games (especially larger schools) who might be held out Friday night as their team plays and tries to win without them.


2020 (4A) Highland (4-4)
4-7 (2019), 4-6 (2018), 4-7 (2017) 5-6 (2016)
Coach Pete Koulianos (3rd year, 12-17)

8-28 (L) 0-31 (6A) Crown Point (3-3)
9-4 (W) 44-20 (4A) Gary West Side (2-5)
9-11 (W) 35-6 at (1A) Lake Station (0-9)
9-18 (L) 10-52 at (2A) ANDREAN (9-1)
9-25 (W) 20-3 at (4A) MUNSTER (1-8)
10-2 (L) 7-27 (4A) LOWELL (8-1)
10-9 (L) 6-44 at (4A) HOBART (7-2)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-23 (W) 38-20 Griffith (4-4)
10-30 (Fri.) at LOWELL (8-1)
11-6 (Fri) at Hobart (7-2)


HIGHLAND OUTLOOK: Highland did themselves proud last week with a 36-20 upset of rival Griffith last week in Highland. Trojan QB Ethan Litavecz (6-3, 195) could not play due to the Covid-19 virus situation so wide receiver Nic Steele took over as QB and became a Highland hero. Steele didn't complete a pass (he was 0-for-5), but he ran somewhat of an option attack that over powered the visitors. Steele, a basketball point guard, gained 83 yards on 11 carries. Veteran halfback Jonah Tillman (5-6, 160) ran 15 times for 137 yards and fullback Christian Rios (5-11, 200) gained 148 yards on 15 carries.

It's going to be difficult for Highland to defeat Lowell with only one completed pass (Braydon Jones threw a 71-yard TD pass late in last week’s game). The Trojans need Litavecz at quarterback, not only for his experience, but they then can use the ‘real’ Nic Steele, a wide receiver who caught two passes and ran back an interception for a TD in a 20-3 win over Munster in week six.

Last week, Highland lined up Steele at quarterback with Rios or Tillman (or both) in the backfield, a tight end and two wide receivers. Steele is a good runner. Tillman is very shifty and slick. Rios is a power runner. But Lowell held Highland to 32 yards on just 14 carries four weeks ago. If Litavecz, who was 11 of 15 against Lowell in week seven for 254 yards, does not play, Highland will run the ball most of the time. If Litavecz can play, he will challenge Lowell’s secondary.

Defensively, Highland’s 3-4 front has to sell out to stop the run. Crown Point ran for 437 yards on Highland in week two. Andrean ran for 312 yards on Highland in week eight. And Lowell ran 42 times for 291 yards on the Trojans in week seven. The Highland defense, led by Rios at linebacker, has to get Lowell’s offense off the field.

The Trojans have a lot of two way players in Rios, Tillman, Steele and at least three linemen. If they are on defense most of the night, the Trojans will be worn down and out.

Highland has a good placekicker in Ian Fulkerson, who booted a 32-yard field goal and was 5-for-5 on extra points last week against Griffith. Tillman is a good kick returner. The Devils might not want to kick to him. So, Highland has some good players. They just don’t have a lot of them. I counted maybe 30 players in uniform last week against Griffith.

The Trojans have been beaten four times this year by 20 points or more and they do not seem to be especially strong in the offensive and defensive lines. But Highland played a spirited game last week against Griffith. They saw Lowell just four weeks ago. Like Morton last week, the Trojans have nothing to lose. This is their ‘championship game.’

Class 4A, Sectional 17
Friday, October 30

Hobart (7-2) at Gary West Side (2-5)
Highland (4-4) vs. LOWELL (8-1)

Friday, November 6

Hobart (8-2) at Highland (5-4) title or
LOWELL (9-1) at Hobart (8-2) sectional title.


SECTIONAL OUTLOOK: Okay, Highland didn’t get a great draw in Class 4A, Sectional 17. If you look at the end of the regular season, the last two schools the Trojans lost to are the two teams they would have to beat to win their first sectional tile since 1987. I think a win this week makes this a successful season for Highland football no matter what happens on November 6. The Trojans last winning season was 2014 and the Trojans have not defeat Lowell in 18 years. Lowell folks may not know how big a deal it is to beat Lowell.

Class 4A Sectional 18 blew up last week when favored New Prairie and Kankakee Valley both lost. There are no winning teams left in 4A Sectional 18. What that means is: The Sectional 17 champ will be favored to reach the Semistate where they likely would see Leo (9-1) or East Noble (7-3).

Hobart would want to play East Noble, the team that eliminated them 29-24 in the 4A Northern Semistate last November.

2020 (4A) LOWELL (8-1)
7-5 (2019), 10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016)
Coach Keith Kilmer (11th year, 90-39)

8-21 (W) 6-0 at (6A) Crown Point (3-3)
8-28 (W) 37-19 (6A) Portage (3-6)
9-4 (W) 6-13 (2A) Wheeler (7-3)
9-11 (W) 47-28 at (4A) Griffith (4-4)
9-25 (W) 28-21 (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (5-4)
10-2 (W) 27-7 at (4A) HIGHLAND (4-4)
10-9 (W) 41-7 (5A) MUNSTER (1-8)
10-16 (L) 14-35 at (2A) ANDREAN (9-1)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-23 (W) 21-0 (4A) Morton (3-1)
10-30 (Fri) vs. Highland (4-4)
11-6 (Fri) at Hobart (8-2)


SECTIONAL NOTES: Highland’s upset of Griffith ended any chance that Lowell could host a sectional championship game this year. If Lowell is playing November 6 as they hope to be, they will be on the road because they have hosted two sectional games as of Friday. The top-ranked team in Class 4A is in the southern half of the bracket. The Mount Vernon Marauders, from Posey County in the southwest corner of Indiana, have scored 63 touchdowns in 10 games and averages 6.8 yards per carry for the season. No one has come within 13 points of them and they were 11-3 last year. Mt. Vernon (10-0) is the only team to defeat Class 5A defending state champ New Palestine this season.


LOWELL Update:

Lowell won 21-0 last Friday and that’s all that really matters. But offensively, they were not good. The Devils rushed for 191 yards and 10 rushing first downs, but they completed just three passes. Dropped passes. Missed throws. There were big plays to be made. The Devils had two turnovers and Morton actually had the ball more (25:27 to 22:33) than Lowell did.

With all that said, I have to believe that Lowell, always very conservative on offense, has some things they have not yet shown. Since they began practice in August, the Devils have known that the season would likely come down to one game in November against Hobart as it did last season.

The Lowell coaching staff goal this week is probably a score first, run-the-ball-all-night unspectacular win, very similar to the 27-7 game at Highland four weeks ago. But this Lowell team isn’t good enough on offense to be too confident against the Trojans this Friday.

Lowell won the Morton game defensively as they held Morton to 70 yards rushing on 34 carries and just 80 yards passing. When a team shuts out its opponent, it’s a little unfair to single out one or two players. The Devils handled the pre-snap motion and speed of Morton to post their second shutout of the season and Lowell’s sixth in the last three years.

Junior linebacker Spencer Barta (6-3, 210) was in on 12 tackles and junior defensive lineman Ray Ambassi (5-7, 205) had four tackles for losses. Ambassi, who usually is heads up on the offensive center, has 15 tackles for losses in nine games. Senior Michael Havel-Ericks and junior Sean Lamping grabbed pass interceptions. Lowell has 53 tackles for lost yardage and 12 interceptions in nine games.

Sophomore kicker Caden Britton is now 22 of 27 on extra points after going 3-for-3 last week. Lowell has not kicked a field goal all season. Sophomore punter Chris Jancosek averages 35.6 yards on 20 punts. Jancosek averaged 39.3 per punt last week against Morton.

Lowell 1000-yard 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 carries, 1,947 yards
6. Toby Goetz (2004) 276-1,939 yards
7. Ike James (2015) 347-1,931 yards
8. Brandon Grubbe (2008) 316-1,831 yards
9. Matt Pernick (1996) 229-1,827 yards
10. George Fields (2012) 277-1,811 yards

11. Michael Pickett (1993) 273-1,687 yards
12. Brandon Grubbe (2007) 281-1,675 yards
13. Justin Henley (2002) 167- 1,552 yards
14. Cole Midgett (2010) 195-1,481 yards
15. Justin Henley (2003) 227-1,447 yards
16. Mike French (2000) 200-1,382 yards
17. George Fields (2013) 209-1,377 yards
18. Matt Pernick (1995) 175-1,349 yards
19. Max Znika (2006) 224-1,302 yards
20. Mike French (1999) 226-1,280 yards

21. Tyler Wildman (2018) 293 carries, 1,270 yards
22. Joe Heuer (2020) 197 carries – 1,168 yards
23. Sean Anderson (2001) 242-1,048 yards
24. Nick Holley (1997) 131-1,014 yards


LOWELL – Lowell junior Joe Heuer went over 1500 yards for his career last week when he gained 131 yards on 30 carries against Morton. It was Heuer’s seventh consecutive 100-yard rushing game and his ninth in two years. For his career, Joe Heuer has 23 rushing touchdowns and four kickoff return TDs in 20 games. Four weeks ago against Highland, the Lowell junior ran the ball 24 times for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

Highland (4-4) at Lowell (8-1)


Lowell Stadium: capacity 2,500


This spread seems a little high. Only Andrean and Hobart have rolled up big numbers against Highland this year and Lowell only averages 27 points a game. The weather also figures to hold the score down. Nobody’s throwing 30 passes Friday night in Lowell. For the record, Morton was a one-point favorite over Lowell last week and Lowell won 21-0




LOWELL (10-30-2020) This is a difficult game to project because I don’t know if Highland quarterback Ethan Litavecz will be playing. I’m guessing he does play.

Highland will play very conservatively and will hold Lowell, a chronic slow starting team, to a scoreless first quarter. A punt return by Nic Steele will set up a short TD from Christian Rios and a 7-0 lead. Lowell will get going on a long drive and Joe Heuer will tie the game with a short run.

In the third quarter, the Devils take the lead on a short pass from Cam Stojancevich to MichaeL Havel Ericks that turns into a runaway TD. A pass interception by Reec Ison leads to a second Joe Heuer TD and that’s all Lowell needs. The Devils control the ball much of the second half to improve to 6-0 at home in 2020.

I don’t think Highland can consistently block Lowell’s defensive front and, after some early Trojan success, this won't be a night for many pass completions. The Devils return to the sectional championship game with a cold, low-scoring win over Highland.



LOWELL 21, Highland 7

Copyright © 2020 USA-365.com and Meyer Multimedia Services, a division of Meyer Broadcasting Corp.  All rights reserved.
Revised: October 28, 2020 .