Week 7 -  Football Game of the Week Preview

Lowell (5-0) at Highland (3-2)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Lowell hopes to put up enough points on the right side of the scoreboard Friday night when they invade Highland to play the Trojans. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m., CDT, Friday, October 2, 2020.

Where:  Highland High School  - 9135 Erie Street (2 blocks east of Kennedy Ave.), Highland, IN.
Tickets: $6
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: Highland – 1,024; LOWELL – 1,107.

In 1986, Highland had 1,464 students while Lowell had 1,004 teens. In 2006, Highland had 1,114 kids and Lowell had 1,192 students. Highland is about to become a 3A school and, concerning the 2021 football tournament, that would be a boost.

Weather: Only the strong survive. We witness the ‘rise of the fall’ Friday with daytime temperatures in the mid-50s dropping into the upper 40s by game time and the low-40s by the second half. Maybe 43 degrees by 9 p.m. Social distancing may get tough Friday if you have warm friends you can't hug up next to. This is the coldest night of the year so far.

Good news: Long range forecasts for October 9 suggest a return to the 60s. But this Friday, ‘Chili’ is on the menu. And not the kind with spices and beef and beans.


PARKING/TICKETS: Tickets at Highland are probably still limited, but that may not matter on this night. Only hard core football lovers and next-of-kin will probably show up for this one.

Highland does not have a lot of parking. Many times I’ve ended up in the church parking lot (I always show up late) south of the school. This is Highland’s Homecoming game, but according to the Highland web site, I’m not sure they will have the usual ceremonies due to Covid-19 concerns. This is Highland’s final home game for the senior class so there should be a good crowd. But 48 degrees? Wow.


THE SITUATION: After a couple of rocky weeks with the Covid-19 virus situation, only Valparaiso and Plymouth are idle this week due to ramifications of the pandemic. Highland lost their opener to a virus postponement, but they have played five weeks in a row. Lowell lost the Hobart game in week five.

So far, little has been lost (except home gate receipts) and most Northwest Indiana teams will play seven, eight or nine games. Cross your fingers now because teams in Class 4A do not get a playoff first round bye. The Sectional draw will be held on Thursday, October 8 and any Covid-19 incidents past week eight will probably end the season for the team that is stricken.


Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC)

Past NCC champs: Hobart (5-0) in 2019, ANDREAN (5-0) in 2018, LOWELL (5-0) in 2017

NCC record Overall record Points scored- allowed
ANDREAN 2-0 (5-1) 217-88
LOWELL 1-0 (5-1) 144-81
Kankakee Valley 2-1 (5-1) 233-57
Highland 1-1 (3-2) 109-112
Hobart 0-1 (3-2) 135-68
Munster 0-2 (1-5) 47-218


Friday, October 2
Andrean at Munster
LOWELL at Highland
Hobart at Kankakee Valley

Friday, October 9
Andrean at Kankakee Valley
Highland at Hobart
Munster at LOWELL

Friday, October 16
Hobart at Munster
Kankakee Valley at Highland
(end of the season)

NCC OUTLOOK: No one except Munster is mathematically out of the race for first place yet but a second loss (loser of Hobart-KV) virtually does eliminate any team at this point. Andrean can finish 5-0 in league play while the best Lowell can do is 4-0 but since Lowell ends the season at Andrean, there is little chance of a first place tie between those two schools. Either Lowell or Andrean wins the 2020 NCC title by winning their final three games.

2020 (4A) Highland (3-2)
4-7 (2019), 4-6 (2018), 4-7 (2017) 5-6 (2016)
Coach Pete Koulianos (3rd year, 11-15) Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) games in CAPs

8-28 (L) 0-31 (6A) Crown Point (3-2)
9-4 (W) 44-20 (4A) Gary West Side (1-4)
9-11 (W) 35-6 at (1A) Lake Station (0-6)
9-18 (L) 10-52 at (2A) ANDREAN (5-1)
9-25 (W) 20-3 at (4A) MUNSTER (1-5)

10-2 (4A) LOWELL (5-0)
10-9 (4A) at HOBART (4-2)
10-16 at (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (5-1)

Class 4A Sectional 17
vs. Gary West Side (1-4), Griffith (2-4), East Chicago (0-3), Gavit (0-0), Morton (0-0), or Hobart (3-2) and Lowell (5-0).

SECTIONAL OUTLOOK: Highland needs to be in the opposite bracket from Lowell and Hobart. It's that simple. It is not impossible for the Trojans to beat BOTH the Devils and the Brickies in Sectional 17 play. But it is much more likely that they could upset Lowell OR Hobart, not both. The fact that Morton and Gavit will begin play this week and will participate in Sectional 17, helps Highland because they could draw Highland in the first round.


HIGHLAND - To be blunt, Highland has beaten the three teams they should have beaten (Munster, Lake Station and Gary West Side) and they have lost big to the two teams that were superior to them, Crown Point and Andrean.

The Trojans run the ball a lot with quarterback Evan Litavecz and hard running halfback Christian Rios. Last week, Munster seemed to key on Rios and Litavecz (21 carries, 112 yards) helped the Trojans outgain Munster 299-162.

Litavecz (6-3,165) is not a great passer, but let the record show: Last week the two-year starter completed 6-of-12 for 112 yards. He’s a run-pass threat on every play. Rios (5-10, 200) is a rough rider who has not had big numbers behind Highland’s almost all-new offensive line this year, but he was the Trojans leading rusher in 2019 and Rios is also a quality starting linebacker. The Trojans line up in a one-back, four wide receiver formation, but they won't be throwing 25 passes on a cold, windy night.

If the Trojans keep the game close, kicker Ian Fulkerson can put the winning points on the board. Fulkerson booted field goals of 31 and 37 yards last week against Munster.

The problem with the Trojans has been defense against the run. Highland gave up 437 yards on 41 carries in the 31-0 loss to Crown Point and, three weeks later, gave up 312 yards on 23 carries against 2A No. 1 Andrean. That’s this week’s game right there. Lowell averages 200 yards rushing a game and five yards a carry.

Highland cannot let them do that Friday and, on a frisky weather night, they will surely bring eight or nine boys up close to the line to stop the Devil runners.

2020 (4A) LOWELL (5-0)
7-5 (2019), 10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016)
Coach Keith Kilmer (11th year, 85-38) all NCC games in CAPS.
8-21 (W) 6-0 at (6A) Crown Point (3-2)
8-28 (W) 37-19 (6A) Portage (3-4)
9-4 (W) 26-13 (2A) Wheeler (4-2)
9-11 (W) 28-47 at (4A) GRIFFITH (2-2)
9-25 (W) 28-21 (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (5-1)

10-2 at (4A) HIGHLAND (3-2)
10-9 (5A) MUNSTER (1-5)
10-16 at (2A) ANDREAN (5-1)

Class 4A Sectional 17
vs. Morton (0-0), Gavit (0-0), Gary West Side (0-3), Griffith (2-2), Highland (3-2), East Chicago (0-3) or Hobart (3-2).


SECTIONAL CHANGES: This is certainly the final year for Class 4A Sectional 17 as we know it. Morton and Gavit will be involved in the Hammond school consolidation which will leave just two schools (probably 1,500 student Class 5A schools) in Hammond. Griffith has 653 students. They will almost certainly be 3A in the next classification. Maybe even 2A. East Chicago (1,063) could also be 3A at the next classification as well.


LOWELL Update:

LOWELL – After watching the Devils for a generation, I have unavoidably developed high standards for Lowell and for 4-˝ weeks I didn’t think this was a special team. But in the second half last week against Kankakee Valley, trailing 21-0, I changed my mind. I don’t know how Lowell came from behind to win 28-21. I watched it and I don’t know how they did it. KV seemed unbeatable. Lowell didn’t even gain a yard in the first quarter. Not one yard. But a shorthanded Lowell team scored the final 28 points of the game for a great victory.

So what now?

I believe Lowell gets back several players who were put in quarantine on September 17. Some starters were not on the field against KV last week and now they’ll be back. Junior Spencer Barta (6-3, 210) and senior Caleb Miranda (6-2, 216) played on both offense and defense last week and I don’t think that’s something Lowell wants to do very often..

An uncomfortable oddity about last week’s game is that Lowell used only Joe Heuer (23 carrries, 136 yards) to run the ball. No one else touched it. That may have been by necessity due to lack of other runners and linemen. Among those returning this week should be junior halfback Ryan Marx (38 carries, 264 yards, 5 TDs) and look for a more diversified run offense.

Also, Lowell probably already knows, after a 61-yard TD reception, that they have to get the ball to senior Michael Havel Ericks (6-3, 175) more or at least establish him as a threat.

Lowell’s defensive coaches starting with defensive coordinator TJ Lukasik, found a way to stop the previously unstoppable Kankakee Valley offense last week. TJ (defensive backs) and Luke Lukasik (linebackers), Robert (line) and Jim Szafranski (linebackers) found a way to blank the Kougars. Confidence has to be at a season-long high.

Also, sophomore kicker Caden Britton was 4-for-4 on extra points in a game where a miss would have been crucial. Britton, who missed time early, is 9-of-12 on conversions for the season.

The 2020 Red Devils are a young team for the second year in a row. On Lowell's 2019 playoff roster, the Devils had 12 seniors, 17 juniors, 25 sophomores and nine freshmen.
Of Lowell’s 61-player 2020 roster, 18 are seniors 25 are juniors and 18 are sophomores.

Young teams need inspiring wins and Lowell got one last week.

Lowell (5-0) at Highland (3-2)


Trojan Stadium: capacity 3,000


This spread is very high. Lowell doesn’t run up the score on people because they are most comfortable running the ball. But the gap here probably comes from Highland’s big number losses against the two winning teams (Crown Point and Andrean) that they have faced. Lowell has wins over Crown Point (3-2) and Kankakee Valley (5-1) and even the victories over Wheeler (4-2) and Griffith (2-2) carry a little weight. For the record, Kankakee Valley and Lowell was rated even on the computer last week and Lowell won 28-21.




HIGHLAND (10-02-2020) Both teams are coming off wins over rivalry opponents, but teams that have hurt Lowell have been able to throw downfield like Portage and KV. Special teams plays have hurt the Devils this season, but not tonight. I see a somewhat rare quick start for Lowell.

The Devils get a pass interception early and score a rushing TD for quick 7-0 lead.

Highland gets a field goal from Ian Wilkerson in the second quarter, but Lowell gets a big kickoff return and goes up 14-3. A long Highland drive ends with a second Wilkerson field goal, cutting the lead to 14-6 at halftime. But a strong third quarter Lowell drive and a TD pass from Cam Stojancevich to Michael Havel-Ericks boosts the lead to 21-6.

A third Lowell rushing TD ups the score early in the fourth quarter and the Trojans connect on an Evan Litavecz TD pass and conversion run to create the final score.

It's not a night for high scores and Lowell has only allowed 26 second half points all season. This is a business trip for the Devils. They rush for 200 yards, get three turnovers and get back on the bus on a cold October night.



LOWELL 27, Highland 14

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Revised: October 01, 2020 .