Week 3 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Morton Governors (1-1) at
Lowell Red Devils (1-1) 

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



John Alessia (2) looks over the defense while Tyler Wildman (32) gets set to get the ball. Alessia and Wildman will run the option Friday night in Lowell when Morton comes to town for a 7 p.m. kickoff. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, August 31, 2018

Where:  Lowell High School, 3 miles west of I-65 on US 2 in Lowell.


TV/Radio/Internet:  WTMK (88.5) FM live.


ENROLLMENT: Morton 1,300; LOWELL - 1,186

WEATHER: Warmer than last week, but not too uncomfortable. More humid. Might be a tough night for players. This may not be the last difficult weather night from the heat and humidity angle, but Lowell isn’t playing a team with 80-90 players on the roster this week so the ‘wear-down’ effect will be somewhat even.

PARKING: I don’t expect a lot of fans from Morton. Hammond teams have not brought a lot of supporters to Lowell in the last few years. The visitors stands were half full at best for the Portage game last week and this should be similar.
Translated: There will be plenty of room for you and your car to roll up after 6:30 and find a spot close to the field for the 7 p.m. kickoff.


WHAT's AT STAKE: This is the third of four nonconference games for Lowell. But if the Devils (as they expect) reach the 4A Sectional 17 championship game in November, odds are when they look across the field, the team they will probably see is Morton.

As often as they meet (this will be the 8th meeting of Lowell-Morton in five years), I don’t sense a lot of rivalry. But Lowell has won the last six meetings (and 19 of the last 25), which means that the Governors’ seniors have never beaten the Devils. That’ a fact that certainly will be discussed at Morton this week.


The HISTORY: Morton is what Hammond high used to be in Northwest Indiana football. The top team in town.
It's my understanding that Morton is a "magnet school," meaning that anyone in the city of Hammond can attend there if they wish.

That’s helped Morton’s enrollment (1,365) stay relatively high, while the other city schools like Gavit (827), Hammond (802), Clark (764) and Bishop Noll (496) get smaller.

The 1986 IHSAA school directory had Morton with 1,138 students, smaller than Hammond (1,269) and Bishop Noll (1,217) at that time. The idea that enrollment doesn’t dictate how good you are (or can be) in football is somewhat of a fantasy, especially in public schools.

Now, if you’re a Hammond middle school football player, all things being equal, and you want to play for the better team, you probably want to attend Morton. Morton had a run from 2005 to 2014 where they won 85 and lost 34 under coach Roy Richards. Present coach Sean Kinsey came on in 2016 (Morton went 4-7) and the Governors were 8-3 last season.

A few years ago, it was thought that Morton would join Lowell (and Andrean, Hobart, Highland, KV and Munster) in the Northwest Crossroads Conference. It's my understanding that Morton didn’t want to abandon the other Hammond city schools.

Whatever really happened, it worked out.

The Hammond public schools (Morton, Gavit, Hammond and Clark) have taken in Gary West Side and East Chicago to form a six school ‘city league,’ the Great Lakes Athletic Conference (GLAC). Lowell faces Morton in football every year, but the idea of Morton playing a dozen league events at Lowell and Kankakee Valley every year was a poor one, in retrospect.

Morton now plays in a neighborhood league with all their natural geographic rivals. Until the long overdue Hammond city consolidation finally gets done (there hasn't been any real reason for four public high schools in Hammond for decades now), Morton is where they should be, conference-wise.

And Sean Kinsey’s coaching staff seems to be a good fit for Morton. Kinsey and at least three assistants are from Merrillville. Kinsey played for the Pirates in 2004 and he coached under former Merrillville varsity coach Zac Wells.

Can Morton be the ‘Merrillville' of Class 4A? It's possible. The Governors get their share of the best athletes from the city and, even before Kinsey got there, they ran a spread college-style attack.
But to be ‘Merrillville,’ Morton’s going to have to start defeating Lowell, something they haven’t done regularly in football since the 60s and 70s.

The 'Distant Replay'...


Team 1 2 3 4 F
Hammond Morton (0-2) 0 0 7 6 13
LOWELL (1-1) 13 7 6 0 26

Friday, August 24, 2012 -  84 degrees in LOWELL, IN

1st QtrLOWELL (7-0) George Fields, 14-yard run. 24 yard drive, four plays after short punt. Kick blocked by Alfredo Valencia. 4:18 left.
LOWELL (13-0) George Fields, 62-yard run. 83-yard drive, 5 plays. Colton Wilkey kick. 0:15 left.

2nd QtrLOWELL (20-0) George Fields, 43-yard run. 78-yard drive, 6 plays. Colton Wilkey kick. 3:14 left.
3rd QtrMORTON (7-20) Kendall Huff, 65-yard run. 91-yard drive, 5 plays. Zack DeWitt kick. 2:46 left.
LOWELL (26-7) George Fields, 45-yard run (7th TD in two games). 67-yard drive, 6 plays. Bad snap. No kick. 0:00 left.
4th QtrMORTON (13-26) Eleazar Henderson, 1-yard run. 80-yard drive, 11 plays. Zack DeWitt kick. 8:18 left.

MORTON: 29 carries, 191 yards, one TD, no fumbles: Kendall Huff (WB) 14 carries, 148 yards, TD; Jimmy Glidewell (QB) 7-30 yards (one sack - minus-3); Torey Armstrong (QB) 3-6 yards; Eleazar Henderson (HB) 5-7 yards.
LOWELL: 45 carries, 306 yards, 4 TDs, no fumbles:
Bryan Thomas (QB) 10 carries, 19 yards (one sack - minus 6) Nick Hamm (FB) 3-21 yards, Mitch Leckrone (TE) 1-3 yards; Tyler Hopkins (HB) 2-3 yards; George Fields (HB) 29-260 yards, 4 TDs (2-game totals: 53 carries, 451 yards, 7 TDs).

MORTON: Jimmy Glidewell (QB) 9-24, 147 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs; Torey Armstrong (QB) 1-1, 21 yards; Nate McClurg (WR) 0-1.
LOWELL: Bryan Thomas (QB) 2-4, 24 yards.

MORTON: Eleazar Henderson (RB) 6-88 yards; Nate McClurg (WR) 4-85 yards;
LOWELL: Paul Mauer (FB) 1-11 yards; Tyler Hopkins (HB) 1-13 yards.


Zack Dewitt (MORTON) 2-2 extra points; Colton Wilkey (LOWELL) 2-for-3, one blocked.

LOWELL (8-24-2012) Six years ago, Lowell was in a world of hurt. The Devils had lost their final three games of the 2011 season and then dropped the opener of the 2012 schedule 28-21 at Crown Point. But on this warm August night, one George Fields was the main man. Fields had scored three TDs in the season opener against CP and he scored four more on this night as Lowell never trailed.

A long striding open field runner, Fields ran to the end zone from 14, 43, 45 and 83 yards. Morton never gave up. They outgained Lowell after the half and cut a 20-0 lead down to 13 points in the middle of the fourth quarter.

Morton was coming off an 11-2 season and they would go on to win the Class 4A Sectional 17 championship in 2012. Lowell finished the season with a 5-5 record, losing 27-0 at Mishawaka two weeks before Morton would have gotten a rematch.

It would be two more years (2014) before the Devils would get back to the Sectional 17 championship game, topping Morton that time, too, 28-3.

But it wasn’t about that on this night six years ago. The four game losing streak was the longest for Lowell in 14 years (since 1998) and the Devils just needed one win.

(4A) Morton (1-1)
8-3 (2017), 4-7 (2016), 6-5 (2015), 10-2 (2014)
Coach Sean Kinsey (3rd year) 13-11 all GLAC games in CAPS

8-17 (W) 16-6 (4A) Highland (1-1)
8-24 (L) 13-33 (6A) Lake Central (2-0)
8-31 (Fri) at Lowell (1-1)
9-7 (Fri) (5A) Munster (0-2)
9-14 (Fri) at (4A) Gary WEST SIDE (0-2)
9-21 (Fri) at (4A) GAVIT (0-2)
9-28 (Fri) (4A) HAMMOND (0-2)
10-5 (Fri) at (4A) EAST CHICAGO (2-0)
10-12 (Fri) at (4A) CLARK (0-2)

4A Sectional 17
10-14 (Fri) vs. Highland, Griffith, Clark, East Chicago, Gavit, Hammond or LOWELL


MORTON Update:


HAMMOND – This was supposed to be a big year for Morton football and I don’t think the 20-point loss to Lake Central last week dimmed their prospects. Morton has 17 seniors including linebacker Cassius Waite (6-2, 200), who made 163 tackles last season in 11 games. Tailback Eric Johnson carried 192 times for 1,153 yards last year, while receiver Kashon Prather (6-3, 180) caught 32 passes for 680 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Okay, so why have they just scored 29 points in two games? They barely beat Highland.

Johnson (5-11, 198) has carried 52 times for 367 yards already. Prather has caught 10 passes for 140 yards. Waite has 21 tackles including four quarterback sacks.

Junior QB Credell Prather (6-0, 180) is 15 of 37 for 270 yards. Not great, but two TDs and only one interception.

What’s holding them back?

Could be penalties. In the 33-13 loss to Lake Central, it was reported than Morton drew 15 penalties for 157 yards. Morton also has a punt blocked and LC ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown against them.

Lake Central ran for 256 yards against Morton and obviously that’s something they have to limit against Lowell. Highlights show Morton operating with three wide receivers in a spread formation, but they also have Eric Johnson running on early downs behind a double tight end set.

On paper, this is a better team than they have shown in the first two games. I think the Governors have the capability to be very good on any given day. That ‘given day’ has not been either of the first two Fridays.


(4A) LOWELL (1-1)
14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 66-30) NWC Conference games in CAPS

8-17 (W) 17-7 at (6A) Crown Point (1-1)
8-24 (L) 3-7 (6A) Portage (1-1)
8-31 (Fri) (4A) Morton (1-1)
9-7 (Fri) at (3A) Clark (1-1)
9-14 (Fri) (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (0-2)
9-21 (Fri) (4A) at HIGHLAND (0-2)
9-28 (Fri) (5A) MUNSTER (0-2)
10-6 (Fri) (3A) at ANDREAN (1-1)
10-13 (Fri) (4A) HOBART (2-0)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-20 (Fri) vs. East Chicago, Griffith, Gary West Side, Morton, Gavit, Hammond or Highland.
10-27 (Fri.) sectional semifinals
11-3 (Fri) Sectional 17 championship


LOWELL Update:

Lowell faced the reality last week that their starting junior wide receiver, kick returner and defensive back John Alessia (5-11, 150) is the new quarterback after the hand injury to two-year starter Ethan Igras in the week one season opener.

Alessia was 7-of-15 for 57 yards in the loss to Portage last week, but he got better as the game went on, completing 3-of-5 in the fourth quarter as the Devils tried to rally.

Morton is going to bring its safeties up near the line and dare Lowell to throw the ball. A couple of completions early will change the Governor’s plans. But the Devils then have to run the ball, something they did only occasionally against Portage. The Devils’ senior halfback Tyler Wildman (45 carries for 114 yards) is a marked man and Lowell has to find some other runners with senior halfback Rylee Torrence (5-9, 160) injured. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Devils lined up one of their tight ends Blake Jansky (6-0, 198) or Mike Langen (5-10, 215) as a fullback on some plays.

The Devils' defense has been excellent, allowing just 265 total yards, 11 first downs and two touchdowns in two games. Lowell faces a quality running back in Eric Johnson, but they have handled the offensive lines of Portage and Crown Point so far.

And maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know, but nobody on the Lowell sideline was surprised when junior Nate Gard hit a 42-yard field goal last week.

I know the wind was behind him last week on the long distance boot, but it's safe to say that Lowell can make field goals from 40 yards in, something that may come into play in what is expected to be a close game this week.

4A Morton (1-1) at 4A LOWELL (1-1)

Lowell Stadium (The Inferno): capacity 2,500



This is a competition spread. Lowell has faced two Class 6A schools and has been equal to both of them. Morton played Class 6A Lake Central and lost by 20. The computer doesn’t take injuries into account. Just results. The Devils should be a slight favorite, but even though Morton has not started the season especially well, this should be no where near 21 points. Keep in mind, Lowell was favored to win over Portage last week, too. 




LOWELL (08-31-2018) Two teams that have not put as many as 20 points on the board in any game yet? I don’t know how much scoring we can expect on this night.

Both teams will have a lot of trouble moving the ball, but I think Morton’s Eric Johnson scores the game’s first touchdown on a short run. Lowell ties the game on a TD pass from John Alessia to Mike Langen near the goal line.

The Devils take the lead 10-7 after a Morton fumble when Nate Gard boots a short field goal. A short punt and another Gard field goal makes it 13-7 after three quarters. Morton takes the lead as Johnson breaks away for a long TD and a 14-13 lead. But Lowell puts together a late drive and Gard’s third field goal decides the game.

This game will be filled with punts and penalties. It won't be pretty. But the team with the better kicker gets the narrow win.

Players and coaches don’t look ahead on the schedule, but I admit I do. No offense to any one school’s team, but there are a couple of winnable games ahead for both sides after Friday. Both of these teams will have winning seasons.

But the real winner Friday is the team that improves considerably from last week’s loss.




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Revised: September 04, 2018 .