Week 2 - Football Game of the Week Preview

4A Lowell (1-0) at
6A Portage (0-1)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith




Mitchell Wildman (24) will be looking for open spaces in Porter County tonight (top photo) while the Devils defense will want make Anthony Maceo (3) more passer than runner (lower photo). The Devils invade Porter County to take on Portage at 7 p.m.
(Photo by Mark Smith)

When: 7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, August 28, 2015.

Where: Portage High School, 6450 US 6 in Portage, Ind. (five miles east of I-65)
TV/Radio/Internet: WTMK (88.5) FM live, live updates of all local scores all night on WLPR (89.1) FM.

Tickets: $6

Enrollment: Portage - 2,555; LOWELL - 1,210.

WEATHER: For about two months, it's been 80 degrees by 10 a.m. in the morning and its still 80 degrees at 7 p.m. at night. Those days thankfully seem over in time for football. Friday may be the best game of the year. Upper 60s at kickoff. Low 60s by the second half. Light winds. Low humidity. Almost no chance of rain. Warm nights are for baseball. This is football weather.

PARKING: For Lowell folks who haven't been to Portage much. This is a big school with lots of room. You can get there five minutes before the game (like the old guy who used to work for the newspaper) and you'll still find a place to park in the school lot. I don't think I've ever seen all the entire parking spaces at Portage high school full and it won't happen this Friday.


WHAT's AT STAKE: Nothing. But it may not seem like it. Both teams have lots of returning starters and high hopes. I don't know how thrilled Lowell was with the overall performance in last week's two-TD win over Crown Point. And I'm sure Portage wasn't too excited about scoring 45 points and losing at Mishawaka. Both teams want, not just to get better, but get better and win. Portage hasn't won a sectional title in 14 years and they have yet to win a sectional as a 6A school. It's fun to try to beat Lowell, but the sectional is the goal.

The HISTORY: There is very little history or rivalry here. Before the last two seasons, these teams had not met since the 1960s. Lowell leads this series 8-7-1 but 15 of those games were so long ago your grandpa doesn't even remember them.

I think this game means a little more to Lowell, which won the local Class 4A regional championship last season, but lost to the only two Class 6A schools they played. Here's a chance to turn that around and go 2-0 against the 'big schools,' something that won't win any trophies, but would be a source of pride for the senior class.


The 'Distant Replay'...

Last minute kick tops Devils


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.

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: (8-26-2016) Looking back, this was one of the most entertaining games of the season with three turnover touchdowns changing the direction of the outcome. Portage WB Anthony Maceo kept his team moving on that 87-yard drive in the fourth quarter when, had Lowell stopped them, the Red Devils lead of 27-18 would have been too much to overcome.

The Indians' Josh Rodriguez was an all-area soccer player and both sides knew he could make the 40-yard field goal as he lined up to attempt it in the final minute. I remember thinking that the Indians showed a lot of faith in Rodriguez. On the final play before the boot, they didn't try for a big gain, Portage simply moved the ball to the center of the field.

Portage was coming off seasons when they had been 1-10 (in 2015) and 1-19 (in 2014) so when Josh Rodriguez kick went through to win the game, they celebrated like they'd won a championship.
A tip of the cap to ex-Portage coach Wally McCormack for scheduling Lowell. When he did it, the Indians were in the middle of that 1-10, 1-9 period. The first renewal of Lowell-Portage went to Lowell 42-28 in 2015.

This was a Lowell team that had gone 12-1 in 2015 and the 0-2 start was hard to take. But the Devils knew that when they replaced Hammond high with Portage on the schedule, that an 0-2 start was a possibility.

Good game or not. This outcome meant nothing in the long run. Portage lost the opening playoff game in October and finished the season at 6-4. Lowell started the season 0-2 after this loss and were 2-4 after six games after losses to Griffith and Hobart. The Devils then won seven games in a row, earning Class 4A sectional and regional championships.

This was proud victory for the Indians and a difficult Devil loss, but it was forgotten by November.


The key to Portage is obviously quarterback Anthony Maceo (5-10, 185) who carried the ball 238 times for 1,450 yards and 14 TDs last year. He gained 126 yards on 30 carries last year at Lowell when he was just very difficult to tackle on option running plays. Anthony is obviously still very hard to hold onto as he gained 209 yards and five touchdowns on 17 carries last week at Mishawaka.

It's easy to say: Make him throw the ball. Maceo isn't a great passer with just 40 of 116 last season. But everyone wants to make Anthony throw. This is Maceo's third year as the Portage QB. Few teams actually take Portage out of their running game and the Indians can use up a lot of the clock.

Greg Milledge, who ran a kickoff back 88 yards for a TD, is a sprinter on the track team, a fact worth noting when kickoff time comes. New Fullback Cody Russell scored on a 42-yard run last week and the option always depends on the fullback gaining some yards some time.

Mishawaka ran over Portage for 498 yards last week, a big surprise to me because the Indians had seven returning starters on defense, including linebackers Drake Guererro and Jeremy Torres. Portage may have moved Torres to safety, but after allowing 498 yards and 47 points, no changes are probably permanent.

Tyler Clifford is the new kicker, but he was 3-of-4 on extra points last week with one blocked. After Portage's last two TDs, they went for two-point conversions. They probably have a lot more faith in Maceo running for two yards that kicking for one point.

Portage isn't especially big but they are hard hitters. Mishawaka scored four TDs on runs or passes of over 49 yards, so their aggressiveness may be taking them out of plays. Portage certainly feels they should have won last week. Maceo's 12-yard run gave them a 45-41 lead with 3:34 left in the game before they gave up a 57-yard run by Mishawaka fullback Chris Harness with 1:36 left. Mishawaka ran the ball for 412 yards on Portage.

Lowell is not as deceptive as Mishawaka is running the ball, but the key to Fridays game will be which side can stop the other team's runners. And, when it comes to Portage, you have to stop Anthony Maceo.

Portage (0-1)
6-4 (2016), 1-10 (2015), 1-9 (2014), 6-4 (2013)
Coach Darren Rodriguez (2nd season, 6-5) DAC games in CAPS

8-18 (L) 45-47 at Mishawaka (1-0)
8-25 (Fri) Lowell = 7 p.m.
9-1 (F) at LAKE CENTRAL (1-0)
9-8 (F) at MERRILLVILLE (0-1)
9-15 (F) CROWN POINT (0-1)
9-22 (F) CHESTERTON (1-0)
9-29 (F) at MICHIGAN CITY (1-0)
10-6 (F) VALPARAISO (1-0)
10-13 (F) LaPORTE (1-0)

SCHEDULE: Most DAC schedules feature the same nonconference teams because when you are a Class 6A school, there are only so many school outside your league who you'd want to play or be willing to play you.
Portage can't schedule Whiting or Rensselaer, even though those are good programs. It's why Lake Central and Michigan City are playing large Illinois schools this week. Michigan City can't play South Central or perennial 1A Top-10 school Pioneer. Too small. So Portage plays Mishawaka and Lowell, two smaller schools that have been wining consistently.

I don't know how similar Mishawaka's option running attack is to LaPorte's, so I can't say if it helps to schedule the Cavemen with an eye on beating LaPorte. A problem with playing Mishawaka is that most of the teams in your league don't do what they do. There's no carryover.

I think Portage will play Lowell as long as Lowell wants the game. The Devils are not a complicated team to prepare for. You know they're running right at you to control the scrimmage line and the time on the clock. Seems to me that's the kind of challenge you want from a nonconference foe early in the season.

LOWELL Update:

Lowell probably liked beating Crown Point 27-13 last Friday a lot more than they liked watching the video of that game early this week. The Devils didn't do much on offense, gaining just 184 yards and losing four turnovers. Lowell only lost two fumbles, but they dropped the ball five times and that obviously killed five plays before they could get started.

In his varsity debut, Payton Schreiber was 6-of-12 passing for 131 yards, but he also threw two interceptions against a CP defense that is less experienced than Portage's defense. Schreiber tossed two TD passes that both were well thrown.

Lowell doesn't win many games when they don't gain at least 100-150 yards rushing and last week they gained 70 yards total on 42 carries, many losses due to the fumbles. This was a bad offensive game for the Devils, rescued by two long kickoff return touchdowns from Jordan Jusevitch and Jaeger Gill.

Schreiber's ability to complete a key pass long or short was something Portage certainly noted on video this week. Right after they saw those two kickoff returns. But I'm not sure when 2016 QB Ethan Igras comes back, or if he and Scheriber don't share time at QB.

Lowell may have looked at the final statistics and wondered why they didn't get the ball into the hands of Jaeger Gill more than four times. The senior sprinter caught three passes for 94 yards and ran back a kickoff for a 94-yard TD.

What Lowell did do was establish their wide receivers as threats to catch the ball, something they've had trouble doing in recent years. That should help the running attack, although it didn't last week.

Defensively, Lowell was probably even better than the numbers indicated. They gave up 181 total yards on 61 plays and the Devils' defense was on the field a lot with four Lowell turnovers. Linebacker Robert Miller (5-1, 173) was in on 14 tackles and the Devils sacked the QB three times.

Crown Point threw the ball 36 times, which is the opposite of what Portage will do. CP's QB Ryan Bolda was not a run threat at all. Portage's Anthony Maceo is a threat to run for a TD every play. This week will be a completely different test for the Devil defense.

4A LOWELL (1-0) at 6A PORTAGE (0-1)

Portage Stadium Capacity: 5,000 (est.)


SAGARIN RATINGS: Portage by 3.

I think this spread is based on the week one opponents. Portage lost to (Mishawaka) a Top-10 team. Lowell topped a good team, but an unranked Crown Point squad that was 6-6 last year, if that matters to the computer. Portage is also at home this week although that may not factor in. Lowell is 12-2 on the road the last two years and just 9-4 at home. Portage was 4-0 on the road last year and just 2-4 at home, including the painful 22-21 sectional loss to Merrillville. I think the spread here is about right.


PORTAGE (08-25-2017) Portage will be fired up for the home opener after losing a game they should have won at Mishawaka. The home team starts fast on this night as Anthony Maceo scores an early TD for a 7-0 lead. Lowell's had some troubles holding onto the ball and a fumble leads to another scoring play on a short pass from Maceo to Greg Milledge for a 14-0 lead.

I don't think Lowell will run back a kick for a TD this week, but a long return by Jaeger Gill will set up a short TD run from Jordan Jusevitch. I think both junior quarterbacks
Payton Schreiber and Ethan Igras will play on this night and Lowell will rally to tie the game on a TD pass to tight end Mitch Wildman. But the Devils will have problems getting the Portage offense off the field. Key third down runs, mostly by Maceo lead to a 3rd Portage TD and a 21-14 lead on a run by the fullback Cody Russell.


Lowell's troubles running the ball continue and Portage mounts a late drive ending in Maceo's second TD and a 13-point lead. Lowell rallies in the late gong on a run by Jaeger Gill but they never get the ball back with a chance to go ahead.

I don't think the Devils' offense is going to be able to get to the 300 yards or so needed to win here. Portage was surprisingly leaky on defense last week, but they clean a little of that up here against the Devils. When you looked at the schedule at the start of the season. This was the night I thought Lowell would not be the better team.



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