Week 3 - Football Game of the Week Preview

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

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Morton's Delwin Campbell waves the Morton flag at Lowell last year. It didn't help. The Devils won the sectional championship. But The Governor flag will be flying again Friday night in Hammond. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, September 6, 2019

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


TV/Radio/Internet:  None.


ENROLLMENT: Morton – 1,279; LOWELL – 1,128.

WEATHER: A third consecutive near-perfect football night. Daytime highs in the mid-70s and second half temperatures in the mid-60s. A little chilly for the fans in the stands, but the boys on the field get perfect conditions.

PARKING: Parking at Morton is always, let’s just say, fun. Visitors usually end up west or south of the school, but there is not nearly the amount of space there was last week at Portage. Some years ago, you used to have to pay to park at Morton. Beware of that possibility. This is Morton’s home opener so they might draw a good home crowd. The Governors are notorious for NOT drawing a lot of supporters.


WHAT's AT STAKE: This is probably a preview of the 4A Sectional 17 playoffs where Lowell has met Morton four times in the last five years. This is a significant game for both teams even though they don't play in the same league. This is Morton’s home opener and I think the boys get ready for the first game in front of the local community.

Obviously Portage proved to be very excited to open the home schedule last week against Lowell. The Devils weren't ready for the heat Portage put on them from the opening kickoff last Friday.

That situation needs to be corrected this Friday. For many of Lowell’s young players (they only have 12 seniors) the Portage game was their first varsity night away from home.

In some respects, it's good for the Devils to get right back on the road and see if they can hold their own at the start of the game against another fast and athletic squad.


The HISTORY: Morton has lost six games in a row to Lowell and that’s probably the ‘mission’ the Governors have in focus this Friday. Lowell leads the all-time series 23-9 and Morton has just one post-season victory over the Devils, 24-21 on Nov. 1, 2002.

Lowell vs. Morton isn't the traditional rivalry that Lowell-Crown Point or Lowell-Griffith is. The Devils and Governors existed in different football universes for over 30 years.

History? Morton began playing football in 1952, playing East Gary and South Bend Catholic in the first season.

Morton is the ‘Governors’ because Oliver P. Morton was the 14th governor of Indiana and the first one to actually be born in Indiana. Governor Morton was considered to be a ruthless shape-shifter who would change his positions to fit whatever his present needs were. Morton was a big supporter of the north and President Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War effort. Although opponents hated his tactics, Morton was considered an honest governor who simply would do anything politically to win. Interesting.

Morton is located in Hessville, a settlement that actually predates the city of Hammond. Joseph Hess, a Frenchman, moved from Chicago in the late 1840s and opened a motel style business for train passengers traveling from Michigan to Chicago.

Later, Hess opened a general store, a blacksmith shop and a post-office in the area that is now 169th. Back then the name of the community was often tied to its founder or the most prominent businessman. The town of "Hessville" was incorporated into Hammond in 1923.

Hammond's home turf is Maury Zlotnick Field because Maury Zlotnick was the first coach of Morton football in ‘53. His teams rolled up a record of 116-94-9 in 24 seasons from 1952 to 1975 and his Governors were undefeated in 1961 (9-0) and 1965 (10-0).

I’m not sure why the program went downhill to having winless seasons in 1996 (0-9) and 1997 (0-10).

Morton and Lowell didn't play each other (and probably didn't think about it) until 1985 when the Governors beat Lowell 28-6. From 2005 to 2010, Morton was 49-22 under coach Roy Richards and they’ve been the undisputed best team in the city of Hammond for 15 years now. If they ever build a new stadium, it could be called Roy Richards field.
Morton has dominated the city of Hammond, but they still have that underdog mentality when it comes to teams outside the city.

Morton will emulate what Lowell has done schedule-wise next season. The Class 4A Devils have opened the year with Class 6A Crown Point and Class 6A Portage for the last five years.

In 2018, Morton got Class 6A Lake Central on the schedule for week two of the season. In 2020, Morton will begin the season with Class 6A Portage. This shows me that being the ‘King of Hammond’ is not enough for the Governors. They want more.

The 'Distant Replay'...

Lowell defeats Morton 28-3 for Sectional Championship

Team 1 2 3 4 F
MORTON (10-2) 3 0 0 0 3
LOWELL (8-4) 0 6 3 19 28

Friday, November 7, 2014 - 43 degrees, dry - Class 4A, Sectional 17 Championship at LOWELL, Ind.

1st Qtr: MORTON (3-0) Brandon Grasha, 34-yard field goal. 61-yard drive, 7 plays. 0:23 left.
2nd Qtr: LOWELL (6-3) Colton Wilkey, 20-yard run with Morton fumble. Kick wide. 1:50 left.
3rd Qtr: LOWELL (9-3) Colton Wilkey, 34-yard field goal. 39-yard drive, 10 plays. 5:45 left.
4th Qtr: LOWELL (15-3)
Ike James, 4-yard run.24-yard drive, 10 plays after bad snap on Morton punt.
Kick wide. 11:20 left.
LOWELL (22-3)
Ike James, 78-yard run. 84-yard drive, 2 plays. Colton Wilkey kick. 7:35 left.
LOWELL (28-3)
Ike James, 12-yard run (34th TD of the season),. 36-yard drive, 9 plays after Jordon Jusevicth recovered Morton fumble. Kick wide.


MORTON (25 carries, 79 yards, 0 TDs, one fumble): Tevin Armstrong (QB) 8 caries, 4 yards (2 sacks - minus 12 yards) ; Mark Snorton (HB) 12-51 yards, fumble (season: 213 carries, 1,563 yards); Nick Przespolewski (QB) 1- (minus-3) 1 sack); DeMario Johnson (WR) 1-9 yards; Jerome Donald (WR) 2-16 yards, DeAndre Dickerson (WR) 1-2 yards.
LOWELL (48 carries, 258 yards, 3 TDs, 2 fumbles): Ike James (HB) 36 carries, 212 yards, 3 TDs, 2 fumbles (season: 287 carries, 2,187 yards); Austin Giordano (FB) 5-31 yards; Zach Bobos (QB) 7-15 yards (one sack, minus-15)

MORTON: Tevin Armstrong (QB) 0-for-2, Nick Przespolewski (QB) 12 of 29, 171 yards, 2 interceptions.
LOWELL: Zach Bobos (QB) 1-for-6, 29 yards; Ike James (HB) 0-for-1.

MORTON: Jarrett Dickey (WR) 6-113 yards, (season: 54 catches, 1,267 yards); DeMario Johnson (WR) 4-36 yards; Jerome Donald (WR) 2-22 yards, fumble.
LOWELL: Kiefer Kersey (TE) 1-29 yards.

MORTON (5) 3 fumbles, 2 interceptions; LOWELL (3) 3 fumbles.

LOWELL, IN (11-07-2014) This game showed that you don't have to play a great game to win. You just have to play better than the other team. The 25-point margin of victory was super misleading.

Lowell had lost the opening game of sectional play for four years in a row before wins over Griffith 48-7 and West Side 41-0 to reach the title game of 4A Sectional 17. But here comes Morton, which defeated Lowell 42-41 in August and rolled in to Lowell with a 10-1 record.

When Lowell fumbled the ball three times in the first half, the Devils' 6-3 lead seemed weak. After three periods, Lowell led 9-3, but there were doubts. Thee shouldn't have been. Lowell’s defense held again and again. Munster turned the ball over five time and two touchdowns by Ike James started the home town celebration. The Lowell program, which won seven consecutive sectional from 2003 to 2009, was finally back on the block.

The Devils went on to lose a classic regional championship game 28-27 at New Prairie but the Devil roar had been restored. Since that day, Lowell has won Class 4A Sectional 17 every year, five championships in a row. In 2015, 2017 and 2018, the Devils beat Morton to get there.

Since the start of the 2014 season, Lowell is 54-16, Morton is 38-21. Lowell has won five sectionals. Morton has won none. That 28-3 game was the final one for coach Roy Richards at Morton, who was let go in 2015. The Governors suffered until present coach Sean Kinsey got the Governors winning again in 2017.

But if that 9-3 lead hadn't held in the fourth quarter in November of 2014, and if Morton had gone on to beat New Prairie in the regional, how much different would things have been?

2019 (4A) Morton (1-1)
9-3 (2018), 8-3 (2017), 4-7 (2016), 6-5 (2015)
Coach Sean Kinsey (4th year) 22-14

8-23 (L) 18-19 at (4A) Highland (1-1)
8-30 (W) 20-0 at (6A) Lake Central (1-1)

9-6(Fri) (4A) Lowell (1-1)
9-13 (Fri) at (5A) Munster (0-2)
9-20 (Fri.) Gary West Side (1-1)
9-27 (Fri.) (4A) Gavit (1-1)

10-4 (Fri.) at (3A) Hammond (0-2)
10-11 (Fri.) at (4A) East Chicago (1-1)
10-18 (Fri.) vs. (3A) Clark (1-1)

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


MORTON Update:

Morton lost quarterback Credell Prather to injury in the first quarter of the season opener at Highland. Published reports have him back later this season. But Prather, who started all 11 games last year and threw for 22 touchdowns, won't be the QB against Lowell tonight.

The new quarterback is junior Paris Hewlett (6-1, 170), who completed 9-of-18 against Lake Central for 158 yards and two TDs to junior end Marcus Hardy (6-3, 175). Morton does some nice things on offense with misdirection. They use three wide receivers, a halfback and a wingback. Hewlett handled the ball well with fakes to both backs on almost every play. Demaruis Rias gained 95 yards on 15 carries at LC. The offense is a little slow developing, but Hewlett has a strong arm.

Near the goal line at LC, Morton took out the quarterback and went to a ‘direct snap’ offense with speedy junior Jo Jo Johnson (5-11, 170) getting the ball and running with it. Joe Colvin (5-11, 210) is the center and senior Carson Johnson (6-2, 270) and Eduardo Gallardo (6-3, 315) man a big offensive line.

Defensively, Morton plays a daring style. Against Lake Central, the Governors rarely used a safety. Morton covered all the receivers 1-on-1 and sits everybody else within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Johnson and senior Tiara Spence (6-0, 184) lead a secondary that has no one in the middle of the field and just dares the offense to throw on them.

Morton’s big fault is that they draw an uncomfortable amount of penalties. I don't know why. The Governors committed 17 penalties against Highland in week one and 14 more in the win at Lake Central. Many of the penalties seem to be on offense, although Lake Central seemed to think the Morton defensive backs were a little too ‘hands on.’

Can the Governors play a game where they only draw five or six penalties? They’d be hard to beat. Morton also fumbled the ball three times in the first half against Lake Central and got away with it. The kicking game is just okay.

The Governors are a spirited team. Lowell folks remember last October when the Governors ran onto the field at Lowell with one kid carrying a giant sized Morton flag that he waved to the crowd. Just having fun.

Morton is also a talented team. They should be 2-0 and this is their first home game this year. It goes without saying that the Governors' upperclassmen are surely tired of losing to Lowell.


2019 (4A) LOWELL (1-1)
10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017), 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 75-34) NCC Conference games in CAPS

8-23 (W) 21-19 vs. (6A) Crown Point (1-1)
8-30 (L) 9-35 at (6A) Portage (1-1)

9-6 (Fri) at (4A) Morton (1-1)
9-13 (Fri.) vs. (4A) Griffith (0-2)
9-20 (Fri.) vs. (4A) at KANKAKEE VALLEY (1-1)
9-27 (Fri.) vs. (4A) HIGHLAND (1-1)
10-4 (Fri.) at (5A) MUNSTER (0-2)
10-11 (Fri.) vs. (3A) ANDREAN (1-1)
10-18 (Fri) at (4A) HOBART (0-2)

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


LOWELL Update:

Lowell gave up good passing yards for the second week in a row last week in the loss at Portage and Morton is sure to test the secondary quickly in week three. I still think the Devils have a good group of defensive backs, but two experienced QBs (CP’s Will Pettit and Portage’s Zack Warchus) have combined for 494 yards passing and 15 passing first downs in two weeks.

The Devils’ Kyler Newcomb (5-11, 181) has three QB sacks in two weeks and I’d expect the Devils to put a lot of extra pressure on Morton’s new QB Paris Hewlitt, showing blitzes and faking them if only to draw penalties from Morton’s highly penalized offensive line.

On offense, Lowell got 100 yards rushing from junior Ryan Marx, who suffered a foot injury in the third quarter. If Marx can't go or is limited, junior Adam Bank (5-8, 160) looks very similar; a small quick, strong runner.

But if Morton is going to play without a safety, bringing seven men to the front, Lowell QB Cameron Stojancevich (16 of 33, 246 yards) is going to get some chances to throw the ball into 1-on-1 coverage or sideways on wide receiver screen passes.

This game could come down to whether the Devils can block Morton’s pass rush long enough to get the ball down field against Morton’s defensive backs. Once and if Lowell can get the Governors to respect the pass, I think the Devils can run on Morton.

Confidence is crucial on this night. Morton surely considers Lowell the team they must beat to have a good season. This is the Governors biggest game of the regular season. Lowell has faced two good teams in the first two weeks, but the Devils didn't hit and tackle with bad intentions at Portage. Lowell was a little soft in the first half and they paid full price for it.

I’m guessing that will change this Friday in Hammond.

4A No. 4 LOWELL (1-1) at
Morton (1-1)


Maury Zlotnik Field: capacity 5,000



This rating probably has to do with the schedule these two teams have played. Lowell has faced Class 6A Crown Point and Class 6A Portage. Morton has faced Class 6A Lake Central and 4A Highland. CP’s 24-0 win over Highland last week made Lowell's 21-19 win over CP look even better on the computer. As of this week, Portage, the team that beat Lowell, would be a 31-point favorite over Highland, the team that beat Morton. 




HAMMOND (09-06-2019) This looks like a low-scoring game to me.

Lowell gets started on a TD pass from Cameron Stojancevich to John Alessia. Morton’s Jo Jo Johnson brings a kick back deep into Devil territory and he scores on a direct snap run from scrimmage.

Morton struggles again with penalties that keep them off the scoreboard the rest of the half. Neither side reaches double figures before halftime.

After a Governor’s fumble, a TD run by Adam Bank puts Lowell up 14-6 and a Nate Gard field goal lifts the lead to 11. Jo Jo Johnson’s second TD creates the final score.

Both teams will struggle on offense, but the Morton team that played the first two weeks just makes too many mistakes on offense and has too much inexperience at QB to take out a Lowell defense that has something to prove after a bad night in Porter County.




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Revised: September 05, 2019 .