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




Senior QB Zach Warchus (7) leads Portage against visiting Lowell Friday night in Porter County. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When: 7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, August 30, 2019.

Where: Portage High School, 6450 US 6 in Portage, Ind. (five miles east of I-65)
TV/Radio/Internet: None.

Tickets: $6

Enrollment: PORTAGE – 2,534; LOWELL – 1,128.

WEATHER: Another cool, August night. Highs in the mid-70s and second half temps in the mid-60s. Very, very good for the boys on the field. I don't remember consecutive August Fridays like this. You guys know that in August it's usually 80 degrees with 80% humidity. Or there are six hours of electrical storms postponing half the Friday night games to Saturday. But not (fingers crossed) this week.

PARKING: Usually I say that you should get to the stadium early. That is not necessary at Portage. They have a ‘ponderosa of parking’ east of the high school (the field is north of the school) and your car will find a happy resting place. Portage is a big school, which needs lots of space and, unfortunately for them, the Indians' football team has not filled the lot in recent years. The lot is so large you will walk a bit to the field, but it's not a hike.


WHAT's AT STAKE: Nothing. These schools are not rivals in any way. They’ve played some good, close games but Portage’s season will hardly be defined by whether or not they beat Lowell. The Devils have a half dozen ‘big’ games, but Portage isn't one of them.

This Friday night is about the ‘love of the game,’ a phrase that came up Saturday night when my favorite player in the entire world of football, the Indianapolis Colts star quarterback Andrew Luck, announced his retirement at age 29. Andrew said that injuries and rehab had taken away his ‘love of the game.’ That the prospect of another year of injury or extended period of rehab was a crossroads for him.

Andrew said that he had pushed through injuries for many years and he had promised himself that if he was ever in that ‘extended rehab’ situation again, that he would remove football from the equation. That he would, in effect, ‘choose me,’ was the way he put it.

Sometimes when I’m driving to a football game I imagine what would happen if I just turned around and went someplace else. And I do wonder what kind of life I would have had if I hadn't spent so much of my time watching and writing about other people’s children.

When I tried to move beyond a serious health issue two years ago, my doctor told me that you need to push yourself to resume normal activities even though you will never totally ‘get well.’ You will never be what you were when you were younger.

But, he said, don't stop doing what you have always done. Don't be afraid of your new normal. It's your choice.

So, after an extended period of asking myself what on earth I'm doing still walking around high school gyms and ball fields until my legs are sore on Friday nights when I’d be much better off sitting at home watching TV. I guess I also ‘chose me.’

And I’ll see you at the football game Friday night.

The HISTORY: Lowell leads this series 9-8-1 but these schools simply haven't met much in the past. Since the Devils and Indians resumed the series in 2015, it's been a four-game split with Portage winning 7-3 and 28-27.

It's been a good series because the teams, in this place in time, are evenly matched. Portage would probably like to drop Mishawaka and play two local nonconference games before they start the 7-week Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) schedule.

Lowell has done so consistently well in the last 15 years that they can dare to open each season with two schools (CP and Portage) twice their size. There may come a day when the Devils want to play a smaller school in week two, but there are not a lot of options.


I’d like to see Lowell play Rensselaer as they did in the old Northwest Hoosier Conference days in the 1990s. Those games would be sold out and I think the Bombers would be competitive with Lowell in most years and they have a nonconference game with North Newton in week two as of now.


Lowell has never scheduled New Prairie, but that would be a great addition to the schedule and another very popular game. New Prairie plays Clay (which has lost 32 games in a row) in week two and they would probably rather not. But I don't know if facing Clay is an an obligation in the Northern Indiana Conference.


The 'Distant Replay'...

Wildman's 2 TD receptions lead Red Devils past Portage 20-7


Team 1 2 3 4 F
LOWELL (2-0) 7 7 0 6 20
Portage (0-2) 0 0 7 0 7

Friday, August 25, 2017 - 67 degrees (at kick-off) in PORTAGE, IN


1st Qtr: LOWELL (7-0) Mitch Wildman, 21-yard pass from Ethan Igras. 61-yard drive, 4 plays. Ryan Farmer kick. 2:16 left.
2nd Qtr: LOWELL (14-0) LOWELL (14-0) Jaeger Gill, 69-yard pass from Ethan Igras. 80-yard drive, 3 plays. Ryan Farmer kick. 4:30 left.
PORTAGE (7-14)
PORTAGE (14-7) Angel Sanchez, 18-yard pass from Anthony Maceo. Stephen Szakacs kick. 62 yard drive, 12 plays. 5:37 left.
4th QtrLOWELL (20-7) LOWELL (20-7) Mitch Wildman, 20-yard pass from Ethan Igras. 72-yard drive, 8 plays. Kick blocked by Jimmy Craven. 7:40 left.

PORTAGE (27 carries, 100 yards, TD): Anthony Maceo (QB) 13 carries, 58 yards (5 sacks, minus-21), Cody Russell (FB) 9-32 yards, Jalen Smith (HB) 2-6 yards, Jeff Bloom (HB) 1-1 yard, Sterling Lawrence (HB) 1-2 yards, Michael McGregor (HB) 1-1.

LOWELL (28 carries, 97 yards, 0 TDs, 0 fumbles): Tyler Wildman (HB) 5 carries 12 yards, Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 11 carries, 37 yards, Jaeger Gil (WR) 2-31 yards; Ethan Igras (QB) 8-16 yards; Jared Sojka (FB) 2-1 yard.

PORTAGE: Anthony Maceo (QB) 8 of 19, 137 yards, one TD, 2 interceptions;
LOWELL: Ethan Igras (QB) 8 of 10, 204 yards, 3 TDs 0 interceptions.

PORTAGE: Greg Milledge (WR) 9-92 yards; Michael McGregor (HB) 2-34 yards; Angel Sanchez (WR) 1-11 yards.
LOWELL: Jaeger Gill (WR) 2 catches, 89 yards, TD; Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 1-10 yards; Mitchell Wildman (TE) 4-95 yards, 2 TDs; Jared Sojka (FB) 1-14 yards.

LOWELL (2) Logan O'Hanlon (CB) Jordan Jusevitch (S).




PORTAGE = 223 yards, 13 first downs, 2 turnovers;
LOWELL = 301 yards, 12 first downs, 0 turnovers.


LOWELL: (08-31-2017) Two years ago Saturday, Lowell got three TD passes from then-junior Ethan Igras in a 13-point road win. The Devils, for the first time since the IHSAA went to six classes of teams for football, defeated two 6A teams in back-to-back weeks. The job on this night was to contain Portage all-area quarterback Anthony Maceo, who passed for 137 yards and ran for 58 more on 13 carries. That was considered ‘stopping’ Maceo, who was the MVP of the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) in 2017.

Portage would drop to 0-2 with the loss to Lowell on this night, but the Indians would then start a four-game winning streak. The Indians lost the sectional final game to Crown Point in 2017. Lowell was on a roll. They went 9-5 in 2016 and 12-1 in 2015. This was the Devils ‘team of the decade’ and they would win 14 games in a row before a 14-7 loss to East Central in the Class 4A 2017 state championship game.

2019 (6A) Portage (0-1)
4-6 (2018) 5-6 (2017) 6-4 (2016), 1-10 (2015)
Coach Darren Rodriguez (4th year) 15-17

8-23 (L) 27-42 at (4A) Mishawaka (1-0)
8-30 (Fri.) (4A) Lowell (1-0)

9-13 (Fri) at (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (1-0)
9-20 (Fri.) at (6A) MERRILLVILLE (1-0)
9-27 (Fri.) vs. (6A) CHESTERTON (1-0)

10-4 (Fri.) vs. (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (1-0)
10-11 (Fri.) (5A) VALPARAISO (1-0)
10-18 (Fri.) vs. (5A) at LaPORTE (0-1)

6A Sectional 2
11-2 (Fri.) sectional quarterfinal vs. Penn, Warsaw and Chesterton.



– Portage lost 42-27 at Mishawaka in week one and it wasn’t that close. The score was 42-7 after three quarters.

I think Portage is better than they showed last week. Senior quarterback Zach Warchus (6-0, 165) had a hard time early. Backup QB Tyler Swopes (6-0, 170), a sophomore, tossed three fourth quarter TD passes to senior end Scott Hansen (6-0, 180) after the game had been decided.

Halfback Isaac Hegwood (6-0, 160),a two-way starter ran for a 26-yard TD in the first quarter before Mishawaka scored the next 42 points.

The Portage defense had just four returning starters and that showed at Mishawaka. But the Cavemen hurt Portage running the ball, not a Lowell strength in week one. Mishawaka ran the ball 52 times for 289 yards against Portage.

Last time I saw Portage, they used a lot of five defensive back formations, a 4-2-5 set and I very much expect to see that against the Devils. The Indians held Lowell to 50 yards rushing last August and after Lowell completed three passing TDs in week one, I’m sure they will dare the Devils to run the ball.

I’m guessing that, if he’s healthy, Warchus will start at QB. Warchus was just 5 of 13 against Lowell last year, but he did hit the game-winning pass, a 72-yarder to Trevor Smaw that won the game 7-3 for the Indians.

I don't think there’s a lot of carryover from that game, because a lot of the starting players on both sides have graduated.

But Portage has speed and a veteran QB. They’ll be competitive in their home opener.

2019 (4A) LOWELL (1-0)
10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 75-33) NCC Conference games in CAPS

8-23 (W) 21-19 vs. (6A) Crown Point (0-1)
8-30 (Fri) at (6A) Portage (0-1)
9-6 (Fri) at (4A) Morton (0-1)
9-13 (Fri.) vs. (4A) Griffith (0-1)
9-20 (Fri.) vs. (4A) at KANKAKEE VALLEY (0-1)
9-27 (Fri.) vs. (4A) HIGHLAND (1-0)
10-4 (Fri.) at (5A) MUNSTER (0-1)
10-11 (Fri.) vs. (3A) ANDREAN (0-1)
10-18 (Fri) at (4A) HOBART (0-1)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-25 (Fri) quarterfinal vs. Griffith, East Chicago, Gavit, Morton, Highland. Gary West Side and Hobart.


LOWELL Update:

– I’m pretty sure that Lowell surprised Crown Point last week with the passing of junior Cameron Stojancevich, who was 7 of 12 for 175 yards and three first half touchdowns. I know they surprised me.

Lowell doesn’t throw long on 2nd-and-13 from their own 17 yard line very often, but Stojancevich’ 83-yarder to Brad Goldsmith was the key play in the Devils’ 21-19 victory.

On the down side, Lowell gained an official 41 yards on 29 carries against the strong Crown Point run defense. They know they can't win many games with those numbers. I liked Ryan Marx (5-7, 155) at halfback, even though he only gained 30 yards on 18 carries. He’ll get much more this week.

Jeffrey Wallis (5-10, 174) caught three passes for 25 yards and a score and he ran twice for 13 yards. Portage has some speed so you might see Wallis on some misdirection plays. Offensive line play improves a lot between week one and week two and I think the Devils will get the running game going at Portage.

Lowell used some creative blitzes outside the tackles to get four quarterback sacks against Crown Point. Kyler Newcom (5-11, 181) got two. Lowell created no turnovers and they may need a couple this week in Porter County.

While key seniors Trevor Matovina and John Alessia left the field last week against CP, both returned to the field in the fourth quarter and were key factors in the win. Defensive backs Adam Bank (5-8, 160) and Reece Ison (5-1, 160) made crucial plays against the high-flying Crown Point passing attack.

The second best thing that happened to Lowell in week one is that no one got hurt. The Devils have 57 players on the roster but only 12 seniors.

The ‘first best’ thing that happened to Lowell was that they won. Winning the season opener when some people (I’m talking about me) picked them to lose by 14 points has to lift the confidence of Lowell’s newer players.

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

Portage Stadium Capacity: 5,000 (est.)



This game is a rare game that is even on the Sagarin rankings. Less than a point (58.73 to 58.08) separates the Indians and the Devils on the computer. The difference is last week’s opponents, the only input the computer has so far. Mishawaka, which beat Portage, is rated 14 points better than Crown Point. A reminder. The Sagarin rankings are notoriously inaccurate early in the season and eerily on point late in the year.



PORTAGE (08-30-2019) Last week’s games suggest an offensive battle Friday and I’ll buy that. The Devils run the ball much better on this night and Ryan Marx scores the Devils' first rushing TD of the year. Portage lines up Scott Hansen all over the place and Zach Warchus hits him with short pass-and-run TD plays to give the home team a 14-7 lead. Lowell gets John Alessia into the end zone on a short pass from QB Cameron Stojancevich and a second rushing TD by Marx after halftime puts Lowell ahead 21-14.

Hansen’s third TD of the game on a short pass ties the game in the fourth quarter before Lowell mounts a late drive for a Nate Gard game-winning field goal.

Portage’s pass attack will cause Lowell some difficulty, but Lowell will pile up 150-200 yards rushing to win a very close game.



Copyright © 2019 USA-365.com and Meyer Multimedia Services, a division of Meyer Broadcasting Corp.  All rights reserved.
Revised: August 29, 2019 .