Week 3 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Wheeler Bearcats (1-1) at
Lowell Red Devils (2-0) 

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Lowell will put it all on the line again Friday night when they try to put the 'rundown' on visiting Wheeler in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
(Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m., CDT on Friday, September 4, 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 (pay per view). The RRSN Lowell games you got for free last year are now (as many state broadcasts now are) pay-per-view.


ENROLLMENT: Wheeler - 536; LOWELL – 1,107.

I don’t believe that Wheeler, which only began its football program in 2000, has ever had more than 700 students, so this is their first meeting with Lowell in varsity football. Wheeler replaces Morton on the schedule because Morton is not playing this fall due to the Covid-19 virus. There is an assumption that Morton will return to the Lowell schedule in 2021 but the new consolidated Morton high school (four Hammond schools consolidate into two next year) will be at least a 5A school and may wish to find another foe.

WEATHER: Much better. Kickoff temperature will be around 70 degrees, as opposed to 80 degrees the last two weeks.
Humidity will be lower and the wind will be out of the northwest. Long range forecast say that the September 11 game at Griffith will be played in actual football weather. Mid 60s.


PARKING: I don’'t know how many fans Wheeler will bring to Lowell this Friday since this is a first-time ever meeting. Portage fans, on the whole, did not make the trip to South Lake County. I would not be surprised if the Bearcats brought more fans down to Route 2. For Wheeler folks coming to Lowell for the first time, parking next to the stadium is limited, but there is plenty of room south of the school building next to U.S. 2.

I don’t know how many tickets Wheeler will be allotted, but again, Wheeler has just a few dozen over 500 students. If the entire student body chose to come to Lowell Friday, there would be room for them. I’m guessing that Lowell folks want you to buy tickets in advance, but I’d also guess that if you don’t, they’ll sell you some anyway as long as there is room.


THE SITUATION: I feel a lot better about home football games in ‘virus-world 2020’ after last week. The Lowell-Portage game went off well. Students did attempt to get into the ‘social distancing’ and more than half the fans (I would guess) wore masks. There were concessions with no problem.
There is a general positive feeling that the season will be completed, although both teams had some players missing because they had come in contact with someone who had a positive Covid-19 virus test. Smaller schools (Wheeler and Andrean) obviously are less able to handle some missing players. But I have no indication that Wheeler will do anything but show up ready to play at Lowell for the first time.

One other note: When you’re at the game, if you can, buy stuff. Anything. Every school in the state is going to take a financial hit from the virus crisis and football helps finance the athletic department.

2020 (2A) Wheeler (1-1)
4-6 (2019), 4-5 (2018) 5-6 (2017) 4-6 (2016)
Coach Adam Hudak (4th year) 14-18 ... all games Friday at 7 p.m.

8-21 (W) 21-14 at (3A) River Forest (1-1)
8-28 (L) 7-45 at (4A) Kankakee Valley (2-0)
9-4 at (4A) Lowell (2-0)
9-11 (1A) South Central (1-1)
9-18 (2A) Boone Grove (0-2)
9-25 (Osceola) Grace (0-2)
10-2 at (1A) Bishop Noll (0-1)
10-9 (3A) Hanover Central (1-1)
10-16 at (4A) Griffith (0-0)

2A Sectional 33
vs. Whiting (0-0), Boone Grove (0-2), North Newton (1-1), Bowman Academy (1-0), Rensselaer (1-1) and Andrean (1-1).


SECTIONAL CHANGES: It’s a little unfair for Wheeler (and all the other schools here) to be in the same sectional with Andrean, a private school with big time football tradition.

Wheeler has only had varsity football for 20 years. The Bearcats' first coach (for just the year 2000) was Chip Pettit, the former Crown Point varsity coach whose son Will now plays quarterback for Crown Point. Wheeler’s second coach was Phil Mason (26-23 in 5 years), who presently coaches Michigan City. Wheeler’s third coach Dan Klimczak has been their most successful with records of 5-5 (2006), 11-2, (2007), 9-1 (2008) and 11-1 in both (2009) and (2010) and 12-1 in 2011. Take away the 2-8 season in 2004 and Wheeler has won at least four games in every season of varsity football.

WHEELER Update: The Bearcats are interesting to watch. They run a lot of two back double wing (no wide receiver) formations similar to Rensselaer. The first motion is often a fake for the Bombers and they have some reverses and halfback passes.

Wheeler has a good running back in Trey Gibson (6-1, 180) who has carried 33 times for 110 yards this season after gaining 898 yards rushing as a freshman in 2019. Gibson is a double threat. He’s also caught 10 passes for 109 yards in two games. Lowell has to know where this boys is on every play.

The quarterback is a transfer from Boone Grove named Preston Morris (6-1, 165) and he’s not bad either with 21 completions in 39 attempts for 213 yards and a TD. Morris also has run 13 times for 116 yards. Tight end Blaise Everson (6-3, 185) is a big target near the goal line.

Junior Trey Cook has made all his extra points so far, but he has not attempted a field goal. Cook also averages 39 yards a punt. He’s a strength for the Bearcats.

The defense for Wheeler has issues. They gave up 45 points to Kankakee Valley last week and it was 31-7 at the half. Junior inside linebacker Max Mortimer (5-8, 185) has 19 solo tackles in two weeks. Sophomore linebacker Troy Ribar (5-9, 150) has 14 solo stops. Junior defensive end Josh Bell (6-4, 202) has eight tackles and two sacks in two games.

If you notice that I haven’t mentioned many seniors, it's because there aren’t many. The ‘Max Preps’ high school football web site doesn’t always have updated rosters for every team, but the one they do have for the Bearcats lists only nine senior Bearcat football players.

If coach Adam Hudak, the old Lowell star, wanted a challenge for his young boys, here it is.


2020 (4A) LOWELL (2-0)
7-5 (2019), 10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016)
Coach Keith Kilmer (11th year, 82-38) all games Friday at 7 p.m.
8-21 (W) 6-0 at (6A) Crown Point (1-1)
8-28 (W) 37-19 (6A) Portage (1-1)
9-4 (2A) Wheeler (1-1)
9-11 at (4A) GRIFFITH (0-0)
9-18 (4A) HOBART (1-1)
9-25 (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-0)
10-2 at (4A) HIGHLAND (0-1)
10-9 (5A) MUNSTER (0-2)
10-16 at (2A) ANDREAN (1-1)

Class 4A Sectional 17
vs. Gary West Side (0-2), Griffith (0-0), Highland (0-1), East Chicago (0-0) or Hobart (1-1).


SECTIONAL CHANGES: Griffith will begin their season this week and East Chicago starts play September 11. Morton and Gavit will not play this season and that makes Sectional 17 a 6-team playoff with two first round byes. If you see Lowell playing Hobart in the sectional championship game again, your crystal ball is working perfectly.

LOWELL Update:


LOWELL – Lowell improved from week one to week two. The Devils got the running attack going with 285 yards on 47 carries. Joe Heuer has 274 yards rushing on 50 carries after two games. Quarterback Cam Stojancevich was only 4-of-12 and the Devils will be looking to set him up for a little more success this week, possibly to Mike Havel (6-3, 176), who has five catches for 30 yards in two games.

Lowell has not found a place-kicker (they were 1-of-3 on extra points last week) and that search will continue this week.

Defensively, Lowell would like to tighten up the pass defense. Portage was 9-of-18 for 143 yards and two TDs last week and the Wheeler coaches certainly saw the video of that. The Devils, led by linebackers Spencer Barta (6-3, 210) and Kyler Newcom (5-10, 185) and ends Sam Dumsky (603, 220) and Riley Binkley (6-5, 212) seem somewhat quicker and stronger up front than they were last year.

2A Wheeler (1-1) at 4A LOWELL (2-0)
Lowell Stadium (The Inferno): capacity 2,500



This spread seems accurate since Lowell has topped two mid-level 6A teams while Wheeler is coming off a loss to Class 3A Kankakee Valley. Wheeler is a 2A public school, which would not normally play Class 4A Lowell, so the Devils figure to be favored. For the record, Lowell was favored by 11 over Portage last week and they won 37-19. If the Devils didn’t score on the final play of the game, the final margin of victory would have been 12, a near direct hit for the computer.




LOWELL (09-04-2020) This should be an entertaining game, which is a back-handed way of saying that Wheeler will at least score some points.

Lowell will have some problems with the Bearcats' balanced double-wing attack that thrives on runs and short passes. Wheeler may even get to a 14-7 or 20-14 lead.

But I don't think the Bearcats can hold up for four quarters against Lowell running the football. Look for Joe Heuer and Jacob Chandler to both break 100 yards rushing and the Devils' offensive line will have another good night turning loose Devil backs for 300 yards rushing in a high-scoring win.



LOWELL 45, Wheeler 16

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Revised: September 03, 2020 .