Week 2 - Football Game of the Week Preview

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

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith




Lowell captains Kyler Newcomb (7), Jake Lax (50), Reec Ison (8) and Cam Stojancevich (17) walk out into the setting sun to face Crown Point last week. The Devils ride again this Friday against Portage in the 2020 home opener. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When: 7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, August 28, 2020.

Where:  Lowell High School, 3 miles west of I-65 on US 2 in Lowell.
TV/Radio/Internet: Live Internet feed on RRSN.com.

Tickets: $6

Enrollment: PORTAGE - 2,460; LOWELL – 1,107.

For the record, in 2009, IHSAA records said that Portage had 2,706 students. Lowell faces four schools (CP, Hobart, Munster and Portage) that are larger than they are and five schools (Wheeler, Griffith, Andrean, Kankakee Valley and Highland) that are smaller than they are. Normally, Lowell plays Morton (1,279 students) instead of Wheeler (536 teens).

When Hammond schools consolidate in 2021, Morton will have between 1,500 and 2,000 students.

WEATHER: Could be an interesting night after a week of 90-degree temperatures. The heat wave is supposed to break Friday evening, but game-time temperatures could be around 80 at kickoff. This is a night to be grateful for natural grass, which doesn’t hold the heat like artificial turf. There is a chance of rain on this night and it should be cooler late Friday evening, although just exactly when is hard to say.


PARKING: There were just under 2,000 fans at the CP-Lowell game, by my guess and Lowell got 750 tickets at Crown Point last week. I’m guessing that (with the relative size of the two stadiums) that Portage will get about 500 tickets. In the two times they have visited in the last four years, Portage has not brought a large crowd to Lowell, but the Indians did win their opener last week so they may bring a few more. Check with Lowell to find out how many tickets will be sold to Red Devil fans.


THE SITUATION: I admit to being uneasy about the news from Lowell this week about a positive Covid-19 test and a student who is in quarantine. In the context of this week’s football game, though, it should be noted that the student involved was not at last week’s Lowell-Crown Point game.

This ‘virus world’ football is somewhat of an experiment and if you go to the games, like I do, you are a part of it. Many don’t believe that, if you take some precautions, that you will catch the virus. Many see it as risk/reward. In talking to many people recently and last Friday, I found out again how much these games mean to the community, win or lose.

Even to those adults who don’t have boys on the team or to those students who do not care about football. This is part of living in a town Like Lowell. Or Wheatfield. Or Crown Point, where about 2,000 showed up last week for the season opener. It's part of attending, Lowell or KV or CPHS. It's part of Friday night and people won't just give it up for a threat they do not totally believe is real. But even people who believe the threat is real, they do not want to take away Friday night from the students and the community. They think it's worth the risk. So we’re going to find out.

If you are asking me should you come to the games, I can only say that that I’m going to be there. There will almost certainly be more positive tests involving students or parents at the high school. Being ‘safe’ is a pain. I cannot tell you how much I hate the face masks. Not only are they extremely uncomfortable in hot weather, they are also demoralizing to me. It bothers me to see kids wearing them. They are a constant reminder of the times we live in. Something I’d like to forget for two hours on Friday night.

But they are our ‘new normal’ and as of Wednesday night, the Lowell-Portage game was very much ‘on’ as scheduled.

The 'Distant Replay'...

Warchus runs for 200 yds, 3TDs,
throws for another TD to lead Indians past Lowell 35-9


Team 1 2 3 4 F
LOWELL (1-1) 0 0 2 7 9
Portage (1-1) 7 21 0 7 35

Friday, August 30, 2019 - 67 degrees (at kick-off) in PORTAGE, IN


1st Qtr: PORTAGE (7-0) Ty Swoops, 30-yard pass from Zack Warchas. 40-yard drive, 3 plays. Miguel Verduzco kick. 10:31 left.
2nd Qtr: PORTAGE (14-0) Zack Warchas, 5-yard run. 62-yard drive, 5 plays. Miguel Verduzco kick. 11:15 left.
PORTAGE (21-0) Jaylen Gohlson, 9-yard run. 51-yard drive, 2 plays. Miguel Verduzco kick. 7:56 left.
PORTAGE (28-0) Zack Warchas, 93-yard run. 93-yard drive, 3 plays. Miguel Verduzco kick. 0:48 left.
3rd Qtr: LOWELL (2-28) Portage fumbled snap, recovered in the end zone by Zach Warchus. SAFETY. 4:20 left.
4th Qtr: PORTAGE (35-2) Zack Warchas, 67-yard run. 67-yard drive, 1 play. Miguel Verduzco kick. 6:12 left.
LOWELL (9-35) Jacob Chandler, 2-yard run. 45-yard drive, 10 plays. Nate Gard kick. 1:44 left.


LOWELL (22 carries, 101 yards, one TD, no fumbles): Ryan Marx (QB-HB) 22 carries, 101 yards; Jon Alessia (WR) 1-15 yards; Jeffrey Wallis (HB) 1-2 yards; Adam Bank (HB) 10-36 yards; Cameron Stojancevich (QB) 3 (minus 27) yards; Johnny Johnson (QB).

PORTAGE (25 carries, 259 yards, 4 TDs, one fumble): Zack Warchus (QB) 9 carries, 212 yards, 3 TDs; Jaylen Gohlson (HB) 9-35 yards, TD; Josh Bloom (QB) 2-16 yards; Mey-Sin Hollowell (WR) 2 (minus-2 yards); Jaylen Amrine (HB) 1-0 yards; Jaivon Gordon (HB) 1 (mius-2 yards)

LOWELL: Cameron Stojancevich (QB) 9 of 21, 71 yards 0 TDs, 0 INTs.
PORTAGE: Zach Warchus (QB) 11 of 15, 174 yards, one TD, 0 INTs.

LOWELL: Jeffrey Wallis (WR) 3-7 yards; John Alessia (WR) 2-8 yards; Adam Bank (HB) 1-5 yards; Ryan Marx (HB) 4-51 yards.
PORTAGE: Scott Hansen (WR) 5-63 yards; Ty Swopes (WR) 4-71 yards, TD; Danny Puplava (WR) 2-40 yards.

LOWELL: 235 yards, 15 first downs, no turnovers;
PORTAGE: 433 yards, 13 first downs, one turnover (fumble).


PORTAGE (8-30-2019) Hobart defeated Lowell decisively twice last season, but the worst Red Devil loss of 2019 came in week two at Portage. The Indians just did whatever they wanted in the first half, leading 28-0 at the break. The 433 total yards was second-most against Lowell in any 2019 game (Morton gained 455 the next week) and the final score was not misleading. Lowell was physically outmanned half the time last season and it’s a wonder they went 7-5. The 2020 Devils won't go undefeated, but they also won't be overrun like they were one year ago this week.


2020 (6A) Portage (1-0)
1-9 (2019), 4-6 (2018) 5-6 (2017) 6-4 (2016)
Coach Terry Chestovich (1st year) 1-0...all games Friday at 7 p.m.

8-21 (W) 42-40 (3A) Hanover Central (0-1)
8-28 at (4A) Lowell (1-0)
9-4 (6A) LAKE CENTRAL (1-0)
9-11 (6A) MERRILLVILLE (1-0)
9-18 at (6A) CROWN POINT (0-1)
9-25 at (6A) CHESTERTON (0-1)
10-2 (5A) MICHIGAN CITY (1-0)
10-9 at (5A) VALPARAISO (1-0)
10-16 (5A) LaPORTE (0-1)

6A Sectional 2
vs. Elkhart (0-0), Chesterton (0-1) or Penn (0-1).


SECTIONAL CHANGES: The all-new Elkhart high school, which begins their ‘era’ this Friday against Mishawaka, could be coming to Portage for sectional play in October. Sectional 2 is very, very tough. There’s not a ‘good’ draw there. Most of these teams probably want to draw Portage. But that thought may change by the end of the season.


I like this team. Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, I liked Portage last year and they went 1-9. The show stopper is going to be junior quarterback Tylee Swopes, a quick-stepping double-threat quarterback who ran 20 times for 131 yards and touchdowns of two, 16, 27 and 37 yards last week against Hanover Central. In his spare time, Swopes was 5 of 9 passing for 61 yards.

But the Indians will run the ball. Halfback Jakar Gordon (5-8, 155) carried eight times last week for 66 yards. Jermain Mead (5-9, 165) carried 11 times for 77 yards. Forty carries for 275 yards rushing for Portage in week one. Senior Colton Wilkie (6-3, 171) caught a pass for 40 yards last week so he has to be watched.

I’m not sure of the Portage offensive line, but Lowell was overpowered last year and Hanover was overpowered last week.

Defensively, Portage was somewhat less than rock solid, giving up 401 yards and 21 first downs in the 42-40 Portage win. Hanover QB Blaze Cano was 13 of 26 for 227 yards and four TDs in Portage. The Indians also gave up 115 yards rushing on 14 carries to Hanover running back Adam Graham. Portage kicker Bryce Hufford was 6-for-6 on extra points and the Indians' offense committed no turnovers.

When you won only one game last season, but you win your first game the next season, your team is feeling pretty good. The Portage boys will arrive in Lowell on a natural high.

2020 (4A) LOWELL (1-0)
7-5 (2019), 10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016)
Coach Keith Kilmer (11th year, 81-38)
All games Friday at 7 p.m. (2019 records in parenthesis)

8-21 (w) 6-0 at (6A) Crown Point (0-1)
8-28 (6A) Portage (1-0)
9-4 (2A) Wheeler (0-0)
9-11 at (4A) GRIFFITH (0-0)
9-18 (4A) HOBART (1-0)
9-25 (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (1-0)
10-2 at (4A) HIGHLAND (0-0)
10-9 (5A) MUNSTER (0-1)
10-16 at (2A) ANDREAN (0-1)

Class 4A Sectional 17
vs. Gary West Side (0-1), Griffith (0-0), Highland (0-0), East Chicago (0-0) or Hobart (1-0).


SECTIONAL CHANGES: If Lowell is to win back the Class 4A Sectional 17 title in November, there’s no doubt who they’ll have to beat to get it. Hobart and Lowell were the only Sectional 17 teams to win in week one and that may be the case many times this fall.

LOWELL Update:

– Lowell was excellent defensively last week, holding Crown Point to under 100 yards, sacking the quarterback four times and intercepting CP’s Will Pettit twice. Among the standouts were new sophomore linebacker Riley Bank (5-10, 182), who had an interception and two tackles for losses at Crown Point. Senior cornerback Reec Ison (5-11, 172), who had three interceptions in 2019 grabbed his first of the year in the fourth quarter. Senior Sam Dumbsky (6-3, 219), a backup defensive end in 2019, made four tackles for Lowell last week against Crown Point. New defensive end Riley Binkley (6-5, 212), was a factor on the pass rush with two tackles for losses against the Bulldogs. I do not remember Binkley playing at all in 2019. Players like Jae Blank (5-7, 162), Ray Ambassi (5-7, 205) and Spencer Barta (6-3, 210) all look a bit bigger and stronger, which was much needed.

One game doesn’t prove much, but the first thing to look for this week is whether a Portage team which blew out Lowell in 2019, can do the same thing against this bigger, better Lowell defense.

Offensively, Lowell was not good, but Joe Heuer (5-7, 170) did gain 53 yards on 19 carries. QB Can Stojancevich (6-2, 170) made a couple of good throws, including a 20-yard TD to Caleb Miranda. Lowell knows that Portage gave up four passing TDs last week so the Devils will test the Indians’ secondary. Senior Michael Havel (6-3, 176) who I also do not remember playing in 2019, caught three passes at Crown Point for 16 yards.

New punter Sean Lamping would probably rather not be called on 10 times like he was last week at CP, but he did average 34.5 yard a boot. Place-kicking is a work in progress.

The big matchup Friday will be the Lowell defense trying to stop the Portage offense.

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

Lowell Stadium "The Inferno" Capacity: 2,500


SAGARIN RATINGS: Lowell by 11.

This spread surprises me because I’m not sure Lowell showed they can beat a good team by 11 points. There must be computer doubt about Portage’s two-point victory over Class 3A Hanover Central. The team Lowell defeated last week: Crown Point, is still rated six points better than Portage. With the offense Portage displayed in week one, I would be surprised if Lowell won by 11 points or more.


LOWELL (08-28-2020)  Lowell won last week 6-0. There will be more than six points scored in the first quarter this week. This is a difficult game to pick. Both teams were pushed late into the fourth quarter last week before they held on to win. I see Portage jumping out early as junior QB Tylee Swoopes will prove hard to stop. Lowell should also run the ball better in week two with Joe Heuer and Jacob Chandler.

I’m not sure Lowell can put 28-30 points on the board and that’s what they’ll need. Portage has a solid kicking game and multiple backs. Lowell’s defense will be on the field too much.

Portage will run for 200 yards and they will beat Lowell for the third year in a row.



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Revised: August 28, 2020 .