Week 12 - Football Game of the Week Preview

4A Lowell (9-1) at
4A Hobart (8-2)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Lowell senior quarterback Cam Stojancevich (17) gets his final chance to take down Hobart in the Class 4A Sectional 17 championship game Friday night. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.

Where:  Hobart High School, 2211 East 10th Street in Hobart, Indiana.

Tickets:  $7.

Kickoff:   7 p.m.
TV/Radio/Internet: Live internet fed on RRSN.com. It is free. Check it out. 

Enrollment: 1,296; LOWELL – 1,107.

In the 1996 IHSAA directory, Hobart was listed as having 1,203 students while Lowell had 1,111.

In the 1987 directory, Hobart had 1,184 boys and girls while Lowell 1,004.

That’s just 24 and 33 years ago. These schools have not changed very much in our time.

WEATHER: We get a break. It will be warm by November standards. The daytime high Friday will be near 70 degrees and it will be about 55 for the 7 p.m. kickoff. Last week for Lowell and Highland it was 28 degrees at 9 p.m. Friday.

Word is, there is almost no chance of rain this Friday and the winds will be less than 10 miles an hour. If we insist on playing Friday night games in November in Northwest Indiana, this is the best weather we can possibly get. Everybody involved in this game has to be very happy with Mother Nature this week.


PARKING/TICKETS: Please contact Hobart or Lowell and see how many tickets will be available to Lowell. Traditionally, ticket info for championship games is included in the Post-Tribune or Times newspaper. But if you contact the schools, you’ll get the straight information. The old Hobart Brickie Bowl (Hobart’s tradition-rich home from 1939-2008) near downtown Hobart had virtually no parking. You had to crawl through the neighborhood to get to the stadium.

For visiting fans, it's much better now. I believe the Hobart ‘Brickyard’ seats 5,000 and the visitors' stands are fairly large. The parking lot off 10th Street isn’t huge and there could be a bit of a walk south to the field.


THE SITUATION: Obviously, the Covid-19 virus situation has worsened in Indiana in recent weeks. But the effects have been limited in our area in the post-season to this point. The closest team to us (Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper, Newton, Starke counties) that was eliminated by the virus last week was Class 5A Concord (4-4). Adams (4-5) got a free pass to the 5A sectional 10 finals against Mishawaka (6-3).

This week in the Lafayette area McCutcheon (4-6) has forfeited the Class 5A Sectional 12 championship game to Zionsville (5-5) because a number of their players had to be placed into quarantine. Washington (5-6) has forfeited to Sullivan (8-3) in Class 3A sectional 30. Again, a Covid-19 virus quarantine situation. Of the 48 sectional championship games to be played Friday, McCutcheon and Sullivan are the only two forfeits that I am aware of.

Northwest Indiana has been lucky so far.

Certainly, many teams have lost a few boys to positive tests, but two weeks in, no Northwest Indiana team has been denied a chance to play. As of this writing (late Wednesday) Lowell and Hobart is ‘on’. I believe that it would take the loss of several players for either side to forfeit. It’s my understanding that Lowell forfeited their week six game with Hobart because they lost as many as a dozen players to virus situations. Even the loss of a dozen players probably wouldn’t convince either side to forfeit this time.

2020 (4A) Hobart (8-2)
11-3 (2019), 7-3 (2018), 6-4 (2017) 10-3 (2016)
Coach Craig Osika (3rd year, 26-8)

8-21 (W) 24-10 at (6A) Chesterton (5-4)
8-28 (L) 7-23 (6A) Merrillville (8-1)
9-4 (W) 42-0 (4A) Griffith (4-4)
9-11 (W) 38-0 at (4A) Culver Academy (5-5)
9-25 (L) 24-35 at (2A) ANDREAN (10-1)
10-2 (W) 41-17 at (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (5-4)
10-9 (W) 44-6 (4A) HIGHLAND (4-5)
10-16 (W) 53-0 at (4A) MUNSTER (1-9)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-23 (W) 56-0 at (4A) Gavit (2-2)
10-30 (W) 70-0 (4A) Gary West Side (2-6)
11-6 (Fri) Lowell (9-1)

Class 4A Regional
11-13 (Fri.) at Logansport (6-6) or at Culver Academy (6-5)




HOBART (11-06-2020) The Brickies are a very experienced team, especially on defense. The first thing you see about Hobart defensively is how confident and attacking they are. Several players stand out, including senior linebacker Bobby Babcock (6-1, 220), who also lines up at defensive end. Babcock is a bad, bad boy, who is always penetrating. The senior is the ultimate edge rusher who has six sacks and 24 tackles for losses in nine games.

With Alex Pickett (5-10, 230), Noah Miller (6-3, 240) and junior Justin Sawyer (5-8, 210) up front, the Brickies' linebackers can do a lot of damage. Like Babcock, Cam Smith (5-11, 182) is a pain to play against. Smith has 67 tackles and 11 tackles for losses. Junior linebacker Ryan Flores (5-9, 185) is another rough rider with 51 tackles this season and 14 tackles for loss.

In the secondary, senior Zack Vode (6-2, 185) covers a lot of ground, has been in on 49 tackles and is also an excellent kick returner.

On offense, the Brickies line up with three wide receivers and wingback or tight end and running back Tyler Turley (5-8, 160) often next to veteran quarterback Riley Johnston (5-10, 170). Johnston (81 carries, 417 yards, 8 TDs) is a true double threat who seems much more comfortable running the ball than throwing it. When Johnston (76 of 126, 1,308 yards and 14 TDs) does throw, it's usually to Vode, who has 39 catches for an impressive 776 yards. Turley (60 carries, 347 yards, 8 TDs) and Marc Enslen (87 carries, 537 yards, 7 TDs) are the running backs, but sometimes Hobart’s best play is simply to have Johnston take the snap and run the ball himself. Note his totals: 81 carries for the quarterback in 10 games.

The Brickie offensive line has changed from 2019 and is a little inexperienced, but they do have good size. Junior Michael Djankovich is 47 of 48 on extra points and 3-of-3 on field goals with a long boot of 37 yards.

The Brickies can be conservative on offense because they are confident that few teams can move the ball against their defense. Hobart is exactly where they want to be, playing for the sectional championship at home. They have not been challenged much lately, but they probably expect a big push from Lowell Friday night.

Class 4A Sectional 17
Friday, November 6

No. 9 LOWELL (9-1) at No. 7 Hobart (8-2)

Class 4A Sectional 18
Friday, November 6

Culver Military Academy (5-5) at Logansport (5-6)

Class 4A Sectional 19
Friday, November 6

East Noble (8-3) at No. 6 Leo (10-1)

Class 4A Sectional 20
Friday, November 6

Delta (8-2) at Marion (8-3)

Class 4A Sectional 21
Friday, November 6

No. 1 Mt. Vernon (11-0) at New Castle (5-5)

Class 4A Sectional 22
Friday, November 6

Lebanon (4-4) at No. 4 Roncalli (9-1)

Class 4A Sectional 23
Friday, November 6

Martinsville (5-6) at No. 3 Mooresville (10-1)

Class 4A Sectional 24
Friday, November 6

No. 2 Evansville Central (11-0) at Evansville Memorial (8-3)


SECTIONAL Championship Outlook:
The winner of Lowell-Hobart has a real chance to reach the state championship game because the top four ranked teams are in the southern half of the bracket.

Lowell or Hobart faces either Culver Military (5-5) or Logansport (6-5) on November 13th in the regional championship game and the Devils or Brickies would be favored. As I said last week, watch East Noble and Leo. The winner there could eventually meet Lowell or Hobart in the 4A Northern Semistate.

I know nothing about No. 1 Mount Vernon, but only New Palestine (8-1) and Pendleton Heights (7-4) have come within two touchdowns of the Marauders. But I’m not sure Mt. Vernon gets to the Semistate. The regional could be the Marauders vs. Roncalli and the southern semistate could be Mount Vernon (13-0) vs. Evansville Central (13-0).

The Hobart-Lowell game matches the two dominant Class 4A schools in Northwest Indiana over the last 50 years. I don't say this enough, but the Devils have had two losing seasons (2-8 in 1998 and 5-7 in 2001) in the last 28 years. During that time, they have won 15 Class 4A sectionals and eight regionals and the 2005 state championship.

But Lowell does not compare to Hobart. Nobody does.

The Brickies won 19 sectionals in a row from 1979 to 1997 and Hobart grabbed four state championships in 1987, ’89, ’91 and ’93. For those of you who are younger, the Brickies were the undisputed kings of Northwest Indiana high school football in the 1970s and 80s.

The Brickies won at least ten games 15 times between 1979 and 1997. They lost 30 games in 19 years. Nobody went to Hobart expecting to win on the Brickies home field.

Lowell and Hobart have met only five times in the post-season, the last one being the Brickies 20-0 win last November.

Before that, the Devils won 31-28 at Hobart on November 3, 2006. In 2003, Lowell ran over the Brickies 34-3 in Lowell. Going back before the 1990s, Lowell had a streak of 25 non-winning seasons (they were 5-5 in 1974 and 1982 and 4-4-2 in 1971) leading into the 1992 season.

The Devils, quarterbacked by present day Lowell offensive coordinator Paul Lacy, defeated Andrean 23-21 and Munster 9-7 to win the school’s first IHSAA sectional championship and get the right to play Hobart for the first time ever in the post-season.

The Brickies, defending their 1991 state title, rolled over Lowell 35-7 on November 13, 1992 but Lowell had made a breakthrough. On November 11, 1994, the Devils and Brickies played one of Northwest Indiana’s greatest games.

The Brickies came in as defending 1993 state champions but 2,000-yard rusher Michael Pickett, who went on to be a coach at Hobart, raced 80 yards for a TD on the first play of the game sparking Lowell to a 28-25 upset of the Brickies.

The 1992 sectional was the first of 15 sectionals for the Devils in a 26-year span. Lowell had won five sectional in a row before Hobart ended that streak last year. Since the beginning of the 2020 season, it was assumed that Lowell would meet Hobart on November 6 for the Class 4A Sectional17 championship. And here we are.

2020 (4A) LOWELL (9-1)
7-5 (2019), 10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016)
Coach Keith Kilmer (11th year, 91-39)

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

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-23 (W) 21-0 (4A) Morton (3-1)
10-30 (W) 48-14 (4A) Highland (4-4)
11-6 (Fri) at Hobart (8-2)

Class 4A Regional
11-13 (Fri) Logansport (6-6) or Culver Military Academy (6-5) at LOWELL (10-1)


SECTIONAL NOTES: Lowell would love to get back home where they are 6-0 this season. The Devils’ Class 4A Sectional 17 championship game this Friday will be their third consecutive game at Hobart. The Brickies hosted Lowell twice in 2019. Lowell defeated Hobart 34-7 in Lowell on October 12, 2018. Hobart won Class 4A Sectional 18 with a 35-14 win at New Prairie in 2016. On that same night, Lowell won Sectional 17 with a 42-14 win over Munster. In the regional championship game in 2016, Lowell won at Hobart 44-23.


LOWELL Update:


LOWELL – Lowell played well in last week’s 48-14 win over Highland except for the start of the game,. For the third time in the last six weeks, somebody other than Lowell scored the first touchdown in a Lowell game. That cannot continue this week.

The Devils are notoriously slow starters. Lowell has outscored 10 opponents 160-104 in the first half and 135-40 in the second half. Devil fans know that KV led Lowell 21-0 at the half and Andrean led the Devils 28-0 at halftime.

Lowell is 9-1 and they average almost 30 points a game, but the Devils have scored only 35 first quarter point all season. The 2019 Devils, who were 7-5, scored just 341 first quarter points all season. Starting slowly is not a cute quirk. It’s a blueprint for losing.

Lowell will ride the defense Friday and the Devils have been solid in every game except the Andrean loss. Last week, junior Ray Ambassi (5-7, 205) had a hand in his fifth QB sack of the season. The Devils are undersized up front, but I saw Zack Hayden (6-0, 330) taking a regular shift at defensive tackle last Friday and Zack will be big (no pun intended) against a good-sized Brickie offensive line.

The Devils need a big night in the secondary. Watch for the matchup of Lowell co-captain Reec Ison (5-11, 172) against tall Hobart star receiver Zach Vode (6-2, 185). The Devils strength is their speed defensively and they will be challenged because the Hobart QB Johnston, who ran for 810 yards and 16 touchdowns on 143 carries in 2019, is very confident in his ability to run the ball.

In the Lowell-Hobart regular season game last year (a 38-7 Hobart win), Johnston ran 10 times for 68 yards and a touchdown. Zach Vode caught five passes for 63 yards. In the November playoff game (a 20-0 Hobart win), Johnston was 2-of-5 passing for 67 yards and Vode caught one pass for 29 yards.

The Devils outside linebackers Riley Bank 5-10, 182) and Kyler Newcom (5-10, 185) will look to turn Brickie backs inside where the middle of the defense, led by junior linebacker Spencer Barta (6-3, 210), seniors Sam Dumsky (6-3, 219) and Riley Binkley (6-5, 212) can put Brickie backs on the ground.

Lowell doesn't keep tipped passes as a statistic, but the Devils have good height up front and they may get some hands on the 5-foot-10 Riley Johnston’s pass attempts.

The Devils’ offensive performance depends on how the offensive line fares against the elite Hobart defense. Watch for how they handle number 11 (Bobby Babcock), a tremendous attacking defender who often loops into the middle of the line from his outside linebacker or defensive end position. Halfback Joe Heuer (219 carries, 1,306 yards) and wingback Ryan Marx (66 carries, 510 yards) will depend on the Lowell offensive line to give them a little room.

But the focus Friday will be on senior quarterback Cam Stojancevich (50 of 109, 686 yards, 8 TDs, 5 interceptions) who transferred from Hobart to Lowell before his junior year. And you can tell from the numbers, Stojancevich won't be throwing much, especially against Hobart’s strong pass rush. But the Devils will need some first downs passing to Adam Bank (12 catches, 135 yards and Michael Havel-Ericks (18 carries, 310 yards).

Tight end Caleb Miranda (6-3, 210) has caught just three passes all season, but three have gone for touchdowns. I’m also looking for Lowell to get the ball to Kyler Newcom, a speedy senior with two defensive TDs who is seldom used on offense. Junior wingback Johnny Johnson (5-9, 165) has seen increasing time as a blocking back, but he does have 87 yards on 19 carries and he might get more Friday.

Lowell sophomore Caden Britton is 28 of 34 on extra points, but he has not kicked a field goal all season.

In very good weather and on an artificial turf field, I can see a scenario where Britton might be called on for a short-range three-pointer Friday in a low-scoring game.

The boys on the field for Lowell have the challenge of their careers this Friday. This is the game they’ve known was going to happen. The Devils certainly have pointed towards this game since the post-season began. But the scores of the Lowell- Hobart games last year again were 38-7 and 20-0. Do the Devils believe that, after a good (on the field) season, they can win this game? Does Lowell believe they can beat the same team that smacked them down twice last season?


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. Joe Heuer (2020) 219 carries – 1,306 yards
20. Max Znika (2006) 224-1,302 yards

21. Mike French (1999) 226-1,280 yards
22. Tyler Wildman (2018) 293 carries, 1,270 yards
23. Sean Anderson (2001) 242-1,048 yards
24. Nick Holley (1997) 131-1,014 yards


LOWELL – Lowell junior Joe Heuer passed the 1,300-yard mark with 138 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries last week against Highland. Heuer has gained at least 100 yards in eight consecutive games that he has played in. Joe did not play on September 11 against Griffith. The junior halfback also has seven kickoff returns for an average of 44 yards per return and two touchdowns. Heuer has 19 TDs this season.

The last Lowell player to score 19 TDs was Tyler Wildman in 2018. Red Devil halfback Trevor Espravnik scored 28 touchdowns in 2016. Lowell alum Ike James scored 29 TDs (27 rushing) for the Devils in 2015 and Ike scored 37 TDs (34 rushing, 2 receiving and one on a punt return) in 2014.


4A LOWELL (9-1) at 4A HOBART (8-2)

At  Hobart's Brickyard: Capacity 5,000 

Sagarin computer ratings:
Hobart by 17.

That 17-point gap seems like a high point spread until you go back to 2019 when the Brickies defeated Lowell 38-7 and 20-0. This year both Lowell and Hobart lost to Andrean so the point spread here doesn’t have anything to do with who Lowell lost to. It’s the results. Hobart has been dominant, winning five shutout games by at least 38-0. Hobart’s 23-7 loss to 6A No. 7 Merrillville probably helped them on the computer. Lowell defeated two Class 6A schools but they were sub-.500 teams Crown Point (3-4) and Portage (3-7). For the record, Lowell was favored last week against Highland by 23 points and they won 48-14.


HOBART (11-06-2020) Hobart starts quickly on this night and the home team gets to the lead on a long TD pass from Riley Johnston to Zach Vode.

Both defenses take control and the only other first half scoring is a field goal by Michael Djankovich. Trailing 10-0 at the half, Lowell mounts a third quarter drive and Joe Heuer gets into the end zone to cut the Brickie lead to 10-7. A long punt return by Ryan Mark sets Lowell up for a scoring drive and Cam Stojancevich finds Caleb Miranda in the and zone to give Lowell a 14-10 lead.

Hobart rallies in the fourth quarter and a Riley Johnston TD run puts the home team ahead 17-14.

Lowell has two late possessions that end when they turn the ball over on downs. Lowell is primed for a big effort, but the Hobart run defense will limit Lowell’s traditional long rushing drives. The Devils need two or three Hobart turnovers to win this game, but they will not get them. Djankovich is an excellent kicker and he will be the difference.

Hobart 17, LOWELL 14

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Revised: November 06, 2020 .