Week 1 - Football Game of the Week Preview

4A Lowell (14-1) at
6A Crown Point (7-5)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Lowell and Crown Point play for the 'Old Leather Helmet' trophy, which speaks to the 112-year history of the Bulldogs playing the Red Devils. CP and Lowell were playing football long before most most NW Indiana schools even existed.
(Photo by Mark Smith)
Crown Point students traditionally welcome their friends from Lowell by suggesting that Lowell is more 'country' than Crown Point is. The freckles at the 2014 game here were fake, but that corn was most likely born and raised in CP. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When: 7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, August 17, 2018.

Where: Crown Point High School, 1500 South Main (1 mile south of CP’s downtown square).
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 15th year of streaming Bulldogs Football!)

Tickets: $6

Enrollment: CROWN POINT - 2,805; LOWELL - 1,186.

WEATHER: Not bad. High in the upper-70s and no rain at game time. With the artificial turf at CP, any morning rain won't affect the game. If you play three games in August as we do, low-70s with some humidity is about as good as we can expect.


PARKING: Lowell folks are fairly familiar with the ‘new’ Crown Point high school (it's 15 years old now) and the majority of the parking lots are north of the school. This game annually brings out a near capacity crowd, so you want to get to CPHS before 6:30 p.m. There is a little bit of a walk to the stands.

After the game, a little patience is required because there’s only one exit west out of the main parking lot. For Lowell folks who visit the Lake County fair this month, Crown Point high school is so close to the fairgrounds that the fair uses the CPHS lot for overflow parking.


WHAT's AT STAKE: It’s a nonconference game. Nobody’s season is ‘made’ on this night and nobody is crushed by the defeat.

Crown Point lost to Lowell last season and the Bulldogs went on to win Class 6A Sectional 1. Lowell lost to Crown Point two years ago in overtime and the Devils won 4A Sectional and regional titles that same season. This annually is one of the more misleading games played in Northwest Indiana.

When Lowell won the 4A state championship in 2005, they began the season losing to Crown Point 16-6. The next season, Lowell lost the season opener 17-0 at Crown Point but the Devils went on the win 4A Sectional 17. Lowell won 4A Sectional 17 in 2014 after losing the season opener 24-10 at Crown Point.

I mention almost every year that if you are not a football fan (or from a family of players or coaches or cheerleaders) but you are a freshman in high school or if your son is on the varsity for the first time, this season-opening game might be the first football game you have ever attended.

You may not love it immediately.

Especially if it's a low-scoring game on a very hot evening as many of the Lowell-CP games have been in late August. But sometime during the game you look around at the crowd. There will be a large crowd Friday.

This is the 22nd consecutive season that Crown Point and Lowell have met on the opening night of the high school football season. School hasn’t even begun for everybody and this game always draws a crowd like this one will, no matter what the expectations are this season for the two teams. Why?

I don’t totally know. It's just a long, long, longtime tradition of this place where we live. Welcome to it.


The HISTORY: The website NorthernIndianaFootball.com says the first Lowell-CP game was held in 1903, but the earliest score I can find comes from October 22, 1904 when CP beat Lowell 71-0.

A couple of facts determined without evidence.

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.

I don't know how long the quarters were. I don’t know if there were quarters or halves. The game probably wasn't played at either school because I don't think they had football fields back then. The two teams most likely met in an open field.

In the 1904 season Crown Point (4-0) defeated Hammond Baptist 6-0, Lowell 71-0, Valparaiso 12-0 and Hammond 12-0. Those may have been the only schools playing football 114 years ago. The first Lowell victory over CP may have been a 13-11 win by the Devils on October 30, 1909.

Football was not played in the month of September until the 1920s and the season didn’t start before Labor Day until the 1970s. These two South Lake County schools played a home-and-home series for almost 20 years from 1934 to 1952 and they must have drawn good crowds or they wouldn’t have been playing each other twice.

These two are natural rivals. The only more perfect rival for Lowell would be Hanover Central. I hope we all are around long enough to see the first Lowell-Hanover Central game and I think we will be. That game would be just as much a rivalry as CP vs. Lowell is.

But Lowell vs. CP is the ‘throw back’ game. Crown Point leads what is the longest series in this part of the state 66 wins to 43 for Lowell with two ties. CP leads Lowell 11-10 in the last 21 seasons.

The Lowell-CP winner gets the 'Leather Helmet Trophy', a tribute to the days when Lowell and Crown Point were both pioneers in high school football.

The game used to mean a little more to Lowell because Crown Point is the biggest school they will face all season. Recent Red Devil success has made Lowell a favorite most weeks, so there’s not much ‘underdog’ urge to beat CP anymore. But this is somewhat of a new Lowell team, so a win Friday would be a major boost to the 2018 Devils.


CP used to be a somewhat embarrassed by losing to Lowell, but that’s faded away as well as the Devils' post-season reputation has grown. In the past, some CP people felt they should always beat Lowell. Now its just the traditional season opener and many times, the biggest game in NW Indiana on opening night.

The 'Distant' Replay:  

Bulldogs hold on to beat Red Devils 16-12 for season opening win

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

Team 1 2 3 4 F
CROWN POINT (1-0) 0 7 9 0 16
LOWELL (0-1) 0 6 6 0 12

Friday, August 23, 2013 -  75 degrees, sunny/clear in season opener at LOWELL, IN

1st QtrNo scoring.
2nd Qtr: CROWN POINT (7-0) Jake Kocher 80-yard TD pass from Jake Jatis. 80-yard drive, two plays. Time of Possession (TOP) 0:17. Evan Markowitz kick. 11:47 left.
LOWELL (7-6) George Fields, 5-yard run. 58 yard drive in 7 plays. 2:24 TOP. Robert Smetana kick wide. 0:56 left.

3rd Qtr: CROWN POINT (13-6) Morgan Kral, 8-yard pass from Jake Jatis. 76 yard drive, 9 plays. 3:47 TOP. Markowitz Kick failed. 8:11 left.
CROWN POINT (16-6) Evan Markowicz, 29-yard field goal. 54-yard drive, 7 plays. Approx. 3:00 TOP. 0:58 left.

LOWELL (12-16) George Fields, 80-yard run. 0:14 TOP. Smetana kick wide. 0:47 left.
4th Qtr: No scoring.


CP (20 carries, 39 yards) Tristan Peterson (HB) 14-43 yards; Artie Equihua (P) 1-12 yards; Jake Jatis (QB) 3 (minus 16) (3 sacks minus-35).

LOWELL (46 carries, 245 yards, 2 TDs, 3 fumbles) George Fields (HB) 29-183 yards, 2 TDFs, 2 fumbles; Paul Mauer (FB) 3-3 yards, Gordon Sharkey (HB) 1-9 yards, Tyler Hopkins (HB) 1-2 yards, Danny Garza (FB) 2-1 yard, Isaac James (HB) 2-17 yards, Aaron Hamm (P) 1-14 yards.

CP: Jake Jatis (QB) 10-20, 202 yards, 2 TDs, 2 interceptions
LOWELL: Seth Anderson (QB) 3-9. 74 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs.

CP: Jake Kocher (WR) 2-83 yards, TD; Morgan Kral (TE) 2-38 yards, TD; Steven Potosky (TE) 1-13 yards; Tyler Downing (HB) 5-78 yards.
LOWELL: Austin Hamm (WR) 2-60 yards, Mitch Finigan (WR) 1-14 yards.

CP (2) interceptions; LOWELL (3) fumbles.

CROWN POINT (8-23-2013) To me, this was a typical CP-Lowell game. There were turnovers and both teams' defenses closed down both sides' offenses. CP led all the way in this game, but Lowell was never out of it. Trailing 16-6, an 80-yard run by George Fields brought drama into the finish. The Devils had the ball three times with the score 16-12, but could not get close and the Bulldogs held on.

QB Jake Jatis threw two TD passes and Fields ran for two scores for Lowell but the scoreless fourth quarter made it hard to draw any conclusions about what the coming season would bring.
Lowell would go on to lose to Morton in week two before winning six in a row. In the playoff opener against Gary West Side, the Devils got stopped by land and through the air, losing 30-9 to the then high-flying Cougars.

Crown Point was 2-0 in 2013 before losing their first three Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) games. The Bulldogs closed the season with a four-game winning streak but lost 9-6 in the mud (LC’s artificial turf had not yet been installed) at Lake Central to end the season. The Bulldogs would bounce back for an 8-2 season in 2014.

Lowell’s George Fields would rush 209 times for 1,401 yards. In his career, Fields would carry 550 times for 3,627 yards and 39 TDs.

2017 (6A) Crown Point (7-5)

6-6 (2016), 1-9 (2015), 8-2 (2014), 6-4 (2013)
Coach Kevin Enright (6th year) 36-29

8-18 (L) 13-27 at (4A) Lowell (14-1)
8-25 (W) 35-6 (4A) Highland (3-6)
9-1 (L) 26-34 (6A) MERRILLVILLE (1-9)
9-8 (W) 45-0 (6A) at LAKE CENTRAL (2-7)
9-15 (L) 10-27 at (6A) PORTAGE (5-6)
9-22 (W) 21-6 (6A) VALPARAISO (8-2)
9-29 (W) 37-35 (6A) LaPORTE (7-4)
10-6 (W) 21-7 at (6A) CHESTERTON (3-7)
10-13 (L) 15-17 (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (9-4)

6A State tournament
10-27 (W) 23-14 Merrillville (1-9) sectional
11-3 (W) 14-7 at Portage (5-6) sectional
11-10 (L) 3-33 Penn (12-2) regional



Like Lowell, Crown Point graduated the majority of their 2017 team. CP will have a new quarterback, but he has a very familiar name. Sophomore Will Pettit (6-2, 165) the son of former CPHS quarterback and former CP head varsity football coach Chip Petit, will get his chance.

For those of us who are old, Will playing brings back memories of his dad. Chip Pettit was 121 of 244, for 1,670 yards and 16 TDs for CP’s 1991 sectional champs. Many CP students know that Chip Pettit, who is presently the principal of CPHS, was the Bulldog head varsity football coach from 2001 to 2011 with a record of 72-51.

The Bulldogs will have experienced halfbacks Scott Mills (58 carries, 318 yards in 2017) and Chris Berry (14 carries, 107 yards) ready to run the ball. But the receivers and much of the offensive line is new. A team with senior running backs and a sophomore quarterback is usually very conservative, but let's not pretend I know what’s going to happen Friday when CP has the ball. I’d expect Mills (5-9, 175) and Berry (5-9, 155) to both have good seasons carrying the ball.

Crown Point will be big in the lines with boys like senior left guard Elliott Flynn (6-1, 300) and senior defensive tackle Blake Klingberg (5-10, 330). Defensively, CP has familiar faces in linebackers Ethan Potosky (6-0, 190) and Adam Hillard (6-0, 190) who combined to have a hand in 140 tackles last season.

In the secondary, Trevor Bieszczat (6-0, 170) and Sam Krutz (6-1, 180) both return. The senior pair combined for 76 solo tackles and three interceptions last season. CP’s 3-5-3 defensive scheme depends on the noseguard and Klingberg was in on 51 tackles last season. The Bulldogs should be strong defensively.

2017 LOWELL (14-1)

9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014), 6-4 (2013)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 62-30

8-18 (W) 27-13 (6A) Crown Point (7-5)
8-25 (W) 20-7 at (6A) Portage (5-6)
9-1 (W) 19-0 at (4A) Morton (8-3)
9-8 (W) 63-6 (3A) Clark (1-9)
9-15 (W) 27-13 at (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (3-7)
9-22 (W) 27-0 (4A) HIGHLAND (4-7)
9-29 (W) 28-9 at (5A) MUNSTER (4-6)
10-6 (W) 16-0 (3A) ANDREAN (8-4)
10-13 (W) 30-7 at (4A) HOBART (6-4)

Class 4A Playoffs
10-20 (W) 41-0 Gary West Side (2-8)
10-27 (W) 35-0 at Highland (4-7)
11-4 (W) 42-7 No. 10 Griffith (10-2)
11-11 (W) 25-20 No. 6 New Prairie (11-2)
11-18 (W) 21-7 at No. 8 Bishop Dwenger (10-3)

Class 4A state final game
11-26 (L) 7-14 No. 9 East Central (12-3)


LOWELL Update:

You need an experienced quarterback and Ethan Igras heads into his senior year after playing most of his sophomore season and 14 games in his junior year. For his 28-game career, Igras is 116 of 233 for 2,100 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Last season. He was 77 for 151 for 1,416 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Igras also carried the ball 131 times for 604 yards and word is, he’s bigger (5-9, 183) and stronger than last year when he was listed at 165 pounds.

Also back is halfback Tyler Wildman who ran 189 times for 885 yards last season. The Devils may be throwing him the ball a little more this season and Tyler has ticked up from the total of 163 pounds he weighed in at in 2017.

I’m assuming that Lowell will spread the formation and throw the ball 10-15 times a game as they did last year. With a returning QB and some speed, that’s one way to go. In the playoffs last year, however, when Lowell needed go-power, they reverted to their one back Power-I formation, ‘cold weather’ offense that you are almost forced to play in Northwest Indiana in November.


The Devils graduated most of their defense in June but not all of it. Tackle Chandler Austgen (5-11, 281) is back along with end-linebacker Blake Jansky (6-1, 192), who led the Devils in QB sacks. Linebacker Michael Langen (5-10, 205) had 37 tackles last year and he's also back.

The key to every Lowell team for 25 years has been the offensive line and Lowell is OK in that respect. Positions change during the offseason, especially in the line, but Kory King (5-10, 240) and Brian Schantz (5-10, 180) played a lot last year. Jake Steward (6-0, 224) will be counted on and Austgen is listed as the new Lowell center as well as his defensive tackle duties.

The biggest unknown on opening night of any high school football season is "How will the offensive line play?”

Lowell has a small roster. Just 44 players are listed. On opening night, as many as seven players will start on both sides of the ball. That could hurt them in August in warm weather. Most of the Devils skill players are small, so the Devils will have to ‘execute’ very well to run the ball. Lowell does not have the size to overpower Class 6A schools.

But with an experienced senior quarterback and halfback behind an all-senior offensive line with a couple of good pass catchers, Lowell should be able to move the ball on most teams they play.

LOWELL (14-1) at CROWN POINT (7-5)

at CP Stadium - capacity: 4,800



SAGARIN RATINGS: Sagarin ratings don’t register before the season opener as they are based on results. Lowell has won four sectional championships in a row and Crown Point has won two Class A Sectional 1 titles in a row. Lowell won by 14 last year, but the end of the season Sagarin ratings had Lowell just six points better.



CROWN POINT (08-17-2018) I think Crown Point runs the ball well to start the game and they get halfback Scott Mills into the end zone early for a 7-0 lead.

The Devils will tie it up after a CP turnover with Ethan Igras scoring on a QB run. But Crown Point figures to get into the end zone again after a sustained drive. Mills scoring again for a 14-7 lead at the half.

As the game goes on, CP should wear down the visitors. I look for two more rushing TDs in the third quarter with Mills and Chris Berry getting into the end zone. Lowell scores late on a TD pass from Igras to Blake Jansky, but an interception by Sam Krutz stops another threat.

The trick here is: The more experienced team overall has the sophomore starting at quarterback while the less experienced team has the senior QB staring for the third season in a row.

It won't matter. Crown Point takes back the ‘Leather Helmet’ with a two TD victory.




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Revised: August 16, 2018 .