Week 3 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Lowell Red Devils (2-0) at
Hammond Morton Governors (1-1) 

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Lowell travels to Morton for the third time in two seasons this Friday night, (09-01-2017). (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, September 1, 2017

Where:  Morton high school, 6915 Grand, Ave. - just west of Cline Ave. at 169th St.


TV/Radio/Internet:  WTMK (88.5) FM live, live updates of all local scores all night on "The LakeShore," WLPR (89.1) FM.


ENROLLMENT: Morton - 1,316; Lowell - 1,210

WEATHER: Another near-perfect night. No steam heat. No thunderstorms delaying the game to Saturday morning. No dust bowl winds or lightning in the distance. Mid to low 60s for the kickoff. Upper 50s by the second half. I'm not seeing any forecast of rain. Every Friday night should be like this and it looks like we're going to have a string of very playable Friday nights.

PARKING: Morton does not have a lot of parking so you might want to get there a little early to avoid a long walk. This is the Governors' home opener, so even after what happened to them last week in Plymouth, there should be a decent home crowd. In the past, Morton has charged a fee to park in the lot. I believe it was $3 last time I was there. Be aware of that. It's not a first time thing or something they just do when Lowell shows up. Lowell fans should be used to it. The Devils played at Morton twice last season.


WHAT's AT STAKE: These teams are rivals in Class 4A Sectional 17. Lowell has eliminated Morton in sectional competition in each of the last two seasons. Morton had a big run of wins under former coach Roy Richards (now an assistant coach at Michigan City) posting a 56-19 record from 2008 to 2014. But Lowell has won the last five games from Morton by 21 points or more each time and I don't know if the Governors consider Lowell a rival. With the Devils ranked No. 4 in Class 4A, this is a big game for the Governors. But Morton lost 50-13 to 4A No. 9 Plymouth last week, so they have to be a little uneasy when Lowell gets off the bus Friday evening.

MORTON Update:

Morton was outplayed in both of their games so far, but they scored two defensive touchdowns to defeat Highland 27-23 on September 18. Last week Plymouth gained 340 yards on 47 carries against the Governors, dominating the matchup.

Morton returned nine starters on defense, but they have given up 73 points in two games. Defensive tackle Joe Wharton and corner Khoreice Crawford lead the defenders and the middle linebacker Cassius Waite, is starting for the second year in a row. Morton was fooled badly on some misdirection plays at Plymouth. The linebackers seemingly misread plays and almost took themselves out of Plymouth TD runs.

Offensively, seniors Tracy Scoggins (6-5, 260) and Kam Foster (6-2, 250) anchor a good-sized line and wide receiver Koebe Clopton (6-2, 185), a transfer from Hammond high, has big play potential. Morton's second year coach Sean Kinsey is from Merrillville, so you can expect some four wide receiver formations.

The offense will rely on sophomore quarterback Credell Prather and his brother, wide receiver Kashon Prather (6-3, 185). They have not been effective so far. In the 27-23 win at Morton, the Governors ran two fumbles back for key TDs. Morton has good overall speed. They may lose battles at the line of scrimmage, but the Governors are a threat to score on big plays.

Morton (1-1)
4-7 (2016), 6-5 (2015), 10-2 (2014), 8-2 (2013)
Coach Sean Kinsey (2nd season, 5-8) Great Lakes Athletic Conference (GLAC) games in CAPS

8-18 (W) 27-25 at 4A Highland (0-2)
8-25 (L) 13-50 at 4A Plymouth (2-0)
9-1 (F) 4A Lowell (2-0)
9-8 (F) at 5A Munster (0-2)
9-15 (F) 4A Gary West Side (1-1)
9-22 (F) 4A GAVIT (1-1)
9-29 (F) at 4A HAMMOND (1-1)
10-6 (F) at 4A EAST CHICAGO (1-1)
10-13 (F) 3A CLARK (0-2)

Class 4A Sectional 17

with Clark, Highland, Griffith, Gavit, East Chicago, Gary West Side and Lowell

SCHEDULE: Morton's schedule is largely sectional rivals. The challenge of playing at Plymouth is something that the Governors were bold to seek out and accept. The 50-13 loss in Marshall County last Friday suggests they paid the price. But scheduling Plymouth and Lowell back to back means that the Governors' coaches want to return to the glory days of 2008-2014. The Governors' schedule is obviously front-loaded with three road games against teams that figured to have winning seasons, plus a home date with state-rated Lowell.

Morton, to me, is a school in limbo in an old town that is in limbo from a school standpoint. Everybody's waiting on the Hammond school consolidation that should have happened many years ago. Morton is the standard bearer in Hammond football. They have the most students and the best stadium. But in 15-20 years there will be a consolidated new Hammond high school that will recharge the city. It's just a long way off as of yet.

Morton had their first losing season in a decade last year and the Governors need time to come back. They would never say this, but the 2017 schedule screams '0-4 start' and '5-0 finish'. Playing top-10 teams is significant, but the really big game for Morton is Gavit, a city rival they split two games (Morton won the playoff meeting 18-12) with in 2016.

The Governors probably didn't have high hopes for last week (Plymouth) and this week (Lowell) and I wonder if they consider Lowell a rival as they did when they were winning.

LOWELL (2-0)
9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014), 6-4(2013)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8th season, 53-29) Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) games in CAPS

8-18 (W) 27-13 6A Crown Point (1-1)
8-25 (W) 20-7 at 6A Portage (0-2)
9-1 (F) at 4A Morton (1-1)
9-8 (F) 3A Clark (0-2)
9-15 (F) at 4A KANKAKEE VALLEY (1-1)
9-22 (F) 4A HIGHLAND (0-2)
9-29 (F) at 5A MUNSTER (0-2)
10-6 (F) 3A ANDREAN (2-0)
10-13 (F) at 4A HOBART (1-1)

Class 4A Sectional 17
with Clark, Highland, Griffith, Gavit, East Chicago, Gary West Side and Morton.

SCHEDULE: When Lowell added Morton to the schedule three years ago, I thought the days of the Red Devils beginning the year 2-0 were gone. But this is the second time in those three years that Lowell has won the first two. With the schedule juggled due to Griffith leaving the Northwest Crossroads Conference, Morton has moved from week two to week three on the Lowell schedule.

The middle three games in Lowell's schedule (Clark, KV and Highland) do not pose anywhere near the problem the first three or the final three (Munster, Andrean and Hobart) traditionally do. Lowell has just four home games this fall and they are not at home two weeks in a row. But they do play Clark, which hasn't won a game in three years and has a small roster (less than 30 players), which doesn't allow them to compete most weeks. Lowell has played at least four post-season games in each of the last three years so a win at Morton completes 'phase one' of the 2017 season and gets them to a 'break' in what they hope is a long season.

LOWELL Update:

Lowell has shown passing ability they have not displayed in previous years and their willingness to use it. 2016 starting QB Ethan Igras was 8 of 10 last week for 207 yards and three TDs. Okay, 10 passes is not an aerial invasion, but for the second week in a row, the Devils fooled defenses that were stacked to stop the run.

In 2016, Lowell ran for 3,255 yards and 46 TDs while passing for 957 yards and 11 scores. So far in two games, the 2017 Devils have passed for 338 yards and five TD while rushing for 166 yards and no touchdowns.

Are they using the air lanes to attack because they have an unusually good set of receivers in Jaeger Gill (5 catches, 183 yards, 2 TDs), Mitch Wildman (5 catches, 111 yards 2 TDs), Logan O'Hanlon and, when they get him out of the backfield, Jordan Jusevitch?

Or is Lowell throwing the ball because they can't run it. The longest Red Devil run for scrimmage has been 26 yards The second longest has been 13 yards.

If you've read these previews for years, you know I've always suggested more throws to the tight end and obviously Gill (3 TDs in 11 touches) could touch the ball more than he has.

But Lowell needs to take time off the clock. They can't win any time of possession battles with 2.2 yards (74 attempts, 166 yards) per carry and they don't have the depth to let the defense carry them. The Devils' defense is their strength, but I think they've been on the field too much in the first two games. Lowell has opponents uncomfortable about what they will do offensively and that's a very good thing.

But I'm uncomfortable that they don't have 100 yards rushing or a rushing TD in any of their two games so far. I'm uncomfortable that Mishawaka ran for 400 yards on Portage and Lowell could not run for 100 yards. I don't know why. The focus this Friday, to me, will be how much Lowell can run on a team that Plymouth ran all over last Friday.

4A No. 4 LOWELL (2-0) at
Morton (1-1)
Maury Zlotnik Field: capacity 4,000



Okay, 38 seems like a lot. But Morton lost by 37 last week at Plymouth and Lowell is rated 13 points better than Plymouth on the computer. Lowell is rated so highly among 4A teams because they have defeated two 6A foes. Only top-ranked Northwood (a 9-point favorite over Lowell right now) and Bishop Dwenger (a 2-point favorite) are more highly regarded in this part of the state. Morton and Highland are rated virtually even, despite the fact that Morton has defeated Highland. The spread seems a little high to me, but Lowell has won by more than the spread in each of the first two weeks. If you recall, Portage was a 3-point computer favorite over Lowell last week and the Devils won by 13. 




HAMMOND (09-01-2015) Morton will be fired up for the home opener, but Lowell's goIng to have to fumble the ball a couple of times early to keep the Governors in the game and give them confidence. That won't happen.

Lowell will score rushing TDs the first three time they have the ball for a 21-0 lead. A Jaeger Gill interception return will make it 28-0. A blocked punt for a TD ups the count to 35-0.

I think Lowell will rush for 250 yards and five TDs before Morton gets a consolation TD late.

There's no obvious reason Lowell's running backs have not been able to break long runs (or even 10-yard runs) in the first two games. Usually, when there's no obvious reason for something, it does not continue.




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Revised: August 31, 2017 .