Week 1 - Football Game of the Week Preview

6A Crown Point (6-6)
at 4A Lowell (9-5)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Lowell has won three Class 4A Sectional 17 championships in the last three years. But Crown Point has defeated Lowell in two of the last three seasons. The oldest rivalry in Northwest Indiana matches South Lake County neighbors Crown Pint and Lowell Friday night at 7 p.m. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When: 7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, August 18, 2017.

Where: Lowell High School, 3 miles west of I-65 on State Route 2.
TV/Radio/Internet: WTMK (88.5) FM live, live updates of all local scores all night on WLPR (89.1) FM. Live Internet audio stream on www.USA-365.com, (our 14th year of streaming Bulldogs Football!)

Tickets: $6

Enrollment: CROWN POINT - 2,815; LOWELL - 1,210. That CP enrollment, listed for the 2016-2017 season is the highest Crown Point has ever had.

WEATHER: Heat won't be as big a deal on the natural grass at Lowell as it would have been on the artificial turf at Crown Point. A lot of the heat issue early in Northwest Indiana football is during the warm-up period where the sun is still strong.

Note to CP fans: The visitors stands are east of the field at Lowell and (if it is sunny) they face the setting sun. Fans on the home side will be in the shade long before the visiting fans will be. If you have sunglasses and umbrellas, you need to bring them. The forecast suggests a slight chance or rain with game time temperatures in the low 70s. Humidity could be very high and that will take a toll on the players on opening night.


PARKING: The entire complex has been under construction. Work was being completed as late as Wednesday but 'being completed' is not completed. You will see visual evidence of the work going on, but new parking is part of the construction and there may actually be more parking spaces near the field than there were last year. Just to be sure. If you don't want to walk a long way, you need to get there early. The Lowell field sits north of the school and the large main parking lot south of the school along US 2 is open and available.


WHAT's AT STAKE: Traditionally? Little. Crown Point beat Lowell 9-3 last year and Lowell won sectional and regional championships. In 2005, Crown Point beat Lowell 16-6 and Lowell went on to win the state title.

In 2007 Lowell defeated Crown Point 23-14 and CP went 8-3 that year. Why is it like that? This game traditionally means more to Lowell, the school that is half the size of CP. Crown Point is usually favored and that's a tough role on opening night when you have new starters. Crown Point traditionally puts a lot more weight on the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) season and for 20 years, CP's third game has been the DAC-opener with arch-rival Merrillville. Crown Point cares a lot more about getting ready to play Merrillville than they do beating Lowell.

On the other hand, this is a big deal because its the 'County Fair Game.' The Lake County Fair always welcomes one and all at the south end of Crown Point in late August; this year Aug 4-13.
If you are a young man from CP, you might see a long, lost friend from Lowell at the fair and the subject of the upcoming football game might come up. Rumor has it that, when the game appears to be fairly close as it does this year that a small wager might be agreed on. Of course, those rumors are probably just legend. Boys would never, ever bet on the outcome of a sporting event (their dads might).

This has always been a friendly (as friendly as football can be) game because these teams haven't been in the same league in almost 30 years and the Devils and Bulldogs have never (because of enrollment) met in the state tournament. When the game is over, Lowell and CP are usually fans of each other until next August.

Something that is not obvious is that, for many freshmen, this is the first high school sports event they attend. Many boys have been coming to the high school football games for years but some have not. And for freshmen boys and girls, this is the first time they've come to root for 'their' school, even if it means to just come in a group and sit and talk. The size of the crowd may be new to them. The cheering and the chanting and the funny shirts and outfits is something that many in Friday's crowd will be experiencing for the first time. For freshmen, it might be the first thing they actually like about high school after a very rough first few days of being lost in the big building.

I have almost no memory of my freshman year in high school (we walked to school then and the only phones were on the wall in the cafeteria back in the 'dark ages') other than the general feeling of being scared, out of place and totally intimidated by a thousand older kids. I didn't want anything to do with this terrifying prison called high school. Except on Friday when I was at the football and basketball games when I was one of the crowd cheering for what was now 'our team'.

I don't remember whether we won or lost that first game. But the football game was the first time I felt like I was in high school. I wonder if that's still the case for freshmen.


The HISTORY: The web site NorthernIndianaFootball.com says the first Lowell-CP game was held in 1903 but the same web site says that Lowell began playing football in 1896. The web site makes a specific point of saying that Lowell and Crown Point have played since the late 1890s and have played the most games (against each other). The web site adds that "Unfortunately, the early results of that series have not been found."
The earliest score I can find comes from October 22, 1904 when CP beat Lowell 71-0.

To frame this, if the first recorded game was in 1904, television had not yet been invented and there were no radio stations when CP played Lowell the first time. The first Lowell-CP game had to be played in the afternoon because there were obviously, no lights (and probably no stands) around the field. There was no need for stands because its unlikely there were any fans. Few had ever heard of football and there were no cars (not sold in large scale to the public until well after the turn of the century) to drive to the game anyway. You walked or you rode on your horse. The two teams probably had no coaches, uniforms, equipment or officials. Despite the lopsided score, the game was probably over quickly since the forward pass had not yet been invented.

The two South Lake County schools played a home-and-home series for almost 20 years from 1934 to 1952 and I'll say it again, if they did it now, they would still draw better crowds at both games than both schools draw for most other teams.

I had a moment of 'out-of-the-box' hope this season when Griffith dropped Lowell from the football schedule and CP got tired of playing Mishawaka. But, I didn't have to ask. Lowell never considered a second meeting with CP and CP never considered a second game with Lowell, even though the game would have been a near sellout and it would increase the ticket booth income for both schools.

In games for which we have scores, Crown Point leads what is the longest series in this part of the state, 66 wins to 42 for Lowell with two ties. CP leads Lowell 11-9 in the last 20 seasons. One of the charming aspects of this game is that Crown Point kids pretend to see Lowell kids as farm kids and dress accordingly, wearing farm clothes (overalls, Daisy Dukes, suspenders and straw hats) to the annual football game. They do it more so at CP than they will this week in Lowell but its so much of a caricature of what farm kids look like that its gotten pretty funny to both sides. The Lowell-CP winner also gets the 'Leather Helmet Trophy', a tribute to the days when Lowell and Crown Point were both pioneers in that strange new sport called football.

The 'Distant' Replay:  CP wins 'scoreless tie' in 2 OTs

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Team 1 2 3 4 OT1 OT2 F
LOWELL (0-1) 0 0 0 0 3 0 3
CROWN POINT (1-0) 0 0 0 0 3 6 9

Friday, August 19, 2016 -  80 degrees, humid in season opener at CROWN POINT, IN

1st QtrNo scoring.
2nd Qtr: No scoring.

3rd Qtr: No scoring.

4th Qtr: No scoring.

1st Overtime: CROWN POINT (3-0) Brian Lewis 19-yard (1st career) field goal. 4th down.
LOWELL (3-3) Jake Post, 22-yard (1st career) field goal. 4th down.
2nd Overtime: CROWN POINT (9-3) Tyler Gomez, 4-yard TD (1st career touchdown) run. 3rd down.



LOWELL (37 carries, 58 yards) Trevor Espravnik (HB) 13 carries, 33 yards, Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 8 carries, 18 yards, Jaeger Gill (WR) 2 carries, 4 yards, Jared Sojka (FB) 2 carries, 7 yards, Dayton Hornickel (QB) 12 carries, minus-4 yards, 7 sacks (minus-34 yards).
CROWN POINT (31 caries, 93 yards) Tyler Gomez (HB) 19 carries, 60 yards, TD; Griffin Govert (FB) 7 carries, 20 yards, Tyler Jones (WR) 2 carries, 4 yards, Grayson Lynk (QB) 3 carries, 9 yards (1 sack, minus-6).

LOWELL : Dayton Hornickel (QB) 4-for-6, 23 yards, Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 0-for-1, 0 yards;
CROWN POINT: Grayson Lynk (QB) 12 for 25, 95 yards O TDs, one interception.

LOWELL: Jared Sojka (FB) 1 catch, 3 yards; Jaeger Gill (WR) 1-4 yards, Tucker Greenholt (WR) 1-8 yards, Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 1-8 yards;
CROWN POINT: Tyler Jones (WR) 3 catches 23 yards, Griffin Govert (FB) 3-15 yards, Shane McCormack (WR) 4-32 yards, Ben Fridrich (TE) 1-15 yards, Tyler Gomez (HB) 1-10 yards.

LOWELL: 81 yards, 3 first downs, 0 turnovers;
CROWN POINT: 188 yards, 12 first downs, 1 turnover - Interception (Jordan Jusevitch).

CROWN POINT (8-19-2016)
To find the oddest Lowell-Crown Point game ever, we don't have to go back 100 years. Twelve months ago, Lowell and CP played to a scoreless tie over four quarters.
To be fair, these proved out to be two good defensive teams over the entire year. When last season ended, CP had given up 188 points in 12 games (15.6 per game) while Lowell allowed just 189 points (13.5 per game) in 14 games.

But we didn't know that on that night when CP was held to 188 total yards and Lowell gained just 81 yards in four quarters and two overtimes. Let's look at that. In the 101 years of recorded Lowell-CP games, the two teams had NEVER played a scoreless tie through four quarters. At least, I think that's true.

On September 12th, 1954, Lowell and CP played to what was called a 1-1 tie. Since you can't score one point, I'm guessing the game was cancelled. CP has played several scoreless ties. With East Chicago on October 3, 1908. With Hammond on October 20, 1906. With Valparaiso on Sept, 10, 1948 and Sept. 9, 1949, both times the season opener.

On this night, CP was abut to win 3-0 in regulation time when James Priddy's field goal attempt was blocked by Lowell's Jordan Jusevictch. Lowell's Jaeger Gill grabbed the bouncing ball and raced towards the CP goal line, but Priddy tackled him at the Crown Point 21-yard-line. With time running out, Lowell couldn't get into the end zone and the game winning field goal attempt went wide.

In the first overtime both CP's Bryan Lewis and Lowell's Jake Post kicked field goals.

Lowell went for a TD on fourth down in the second overtime but Jusevitch was stopped at the 2-yard-line. CP then scored the winning TD, the night's only TD, on a third down run by Tyler Gomez.
Lowell lost the next week 28-27 to Portage and was 2-4 after six games. The Devils then won eight in a row before a 21-14 semistate loss to Northwood. All five Red Devil losses were by eight points or less.

Crown Point was 2-5 after seven weeks before they were also born again, winning four in a row before a 23-0 regional loss to second-ranked Penn.


- Crown Point has much more experience on offense than they do on defense. QB Ryan Bolda, halfback Tyler Gomez, big center Jacob Keavney (6-2, 325) and tackle Andrew Kenneson (6-1, 230) all started against Penn in the regional last season. Gomez (5-9, 170) carried 205 times for 686 yards last season and he didn't play in every game. Bolda (6-3, 190) played only in the post-season and he was 20 of 67 for 343 yards with four TDs and five interceptions thee in the regional loss to Penn. Take away the 4 of 22 Bolda was against Penn and his numbers look a lot better.

WR Tyler Jones (6-1, 160) caught 16 passes for 198 yards and he'll be back with tight end Ben Fridrich (6-2, 215), who caught only four in 2016 but should grab a lot more this fall. I'm certain the CP offense will be better than it was in 2016. The question is, 'How much better?'

Defensively, CP only started three underclassmen in the playoffs last year, linebackers Caden Watson (6-1, 205) and Zach Ramnus (5-9, 225) and safety Sam Krutz (6-0, 180). Watson made 138 tackles last season and he stopped Merrillville quarterback Kam Jackson at the 1-yard-line on the final play of the sectional championship game last year, saving the win. Blake Klingberg (6-0, 330) would add size against the run. Brett Schoettle (6-1, 170) got playing time on the perimeter, but I don't know all of the new starters.

That's the biggest question mark coming into this game.


LOWELL Update:

LOWELL - Lowell has a lot coming back this season on defense and that's why they're ranked so highly.

Linebacker Mitch Wildman (6-1, 200) was in on 91 tackles last season and Logan Charters (6-2, 180) took part in 65 stops. Defensive end Jake Blansky (6-1, 192) had 22 tackles for losses and seven QB sacks.

The Devils want you to throw the ball against them. Lowell's 'No Fly Zone' has corner Logan O'Hanlon (5-10, 166), Tucker Greenholt (5-11, 155), Jaeger Gill (6-1, 190) and Jordan Jusevitch (6-0, 205), all seniors, all experienced. Gill and Jusevitch are all-state caliber players. Gill is the corner who takes the other side's big receiver and Jusevitch is the safety who cleans things up. CP fans will be rooting against Jusevitch for the final time Friday as he'll be on the field for Indiana University in 2018.

On offense, the Devils bring back starters Cooper Kersey (6-4, 272) and Brayn Schantz (5-11, 180) plus part time players Caleb Bergstrom (6-3, 280) and Diamond Artman (5-9, 192). There are others who will see time but I'm not sure ho they are and I'm not sure who they'll block for.

Jusevitch and Gill could both play halfback and be the main ball carrier for the Devils, but Lowell wants them full time on defense, too, so they may both be wide receivers. Junior Tyler Wildman (5-9, 163) (41 carries, 191 yards in 2016) could get lots of carries and there are others. Senior Jared Sojka (5-11, 220) should see time at fullback.

Junior Ethan Igras (5-9, 165) broke into the lineup at QB last year completing 44 of 77 passes for 685 yards and nine TDs. Boys are held out of the scrimmage for a lot of reasons but its usually due to injury. The lineup that started the scrimmage doesn't necessarily start the first game.

The pre-game sheet shows Payton Schreiber as Lowell's starting QB and Jordan Jusevitch as the starting tailback. Jusevitch will be at a lot of positions, but Schreiber is much different from Igras, who is smaller and quicker.

Payton Schreiber (6-1, 218), a 2016 transfer, whose dad coached at Clark and Hammond high, has grown up in the option offense his dad coached. The idea of a 215-pound QB, a 205-pound tailback and a 220-pound fullback (Jared Sojka) running the option with a state class sprinter (Jaeger Gill) at wide receiver is a basket full of
problems for the defense.

But Shreiber left last week's scrimmage with a minor knee injury last week. If Lowell has to go to a third string QB, I don't know what they'll find in that basket. So if CP's defense is the biggest question mark in Friday's game, Lowell's offense is the second biggest 'unknown'.

CROWN POINT (6-6) at LOWELL (9-5)

Lowell Stadium "The Inferno": capacity 2,500



SAGARIN RATINGS: This is the point where we must warn that Sagarin ratings are based on results and since there are no results in the pre-season, the Sagarin Ratings have little value at this point. At the end of last season, CP was rated higher than Lowell was. But those teams (the 2016 Bulldogs and Devils) no longer exist. We'll revisit the Sagarin Ratings in week two. Lowell is rated 5th (Associated Press) and sixth (Indiana Football Coaches Associoation) in Class 4A, CP is unranked in Class 6A this pre-season.



LOWELL (08-18-2017) Anybody outside of the two teams who tells you they are confident about what will happen on opening night is kidding you. But Lowell returns nine defensive starters and I believe the two new 'starters' played some last season. Crown Point will have great difficulty moving the ball early. Lowell will score a first quarter TD on a run by Jusevitch and will expand the lead to 14-0 on a reverse run by Gill.

Crown Point will get a Red Devil turnover and strike back on a TD run from Tyler Gomez to make the score 14-7 at the half.

Lowell's Logan Charters will grab an interception and the Devils will cash in on a short run by Jusevitch for a 20-7 lead. The Bulldogs get a field goal from Ben Fridrich but Lowell adds a TD run from Tyler Wildman to put the game out of reach. CP will score a late TD on a pass from Ryan Bolda to Tyler Jones.

Crown Point should have a winning season, but this is too difficult an opener for a largely new defense. And CP's improved offense faces virtually the same Lowell defense that held them to one TD last season.



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