Week 8 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Lowell Red Devils (6-1)
at Andrean 59ers (6-1)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


When it gets dark Friday, it will be time to come out of the helmet for Class 3A No.5 Andrean to face Class 4A No. 5 Lowell in Merrillville. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m. CDT on Friday, October 5, 2018

Where:  Andrean High School, 5959 Broadway in Merrillville, Ind.


TV/Radio/Internet:  None.


ENROLLMENT: Andrean 510; Lowell 1,186.

WEATHER: The natural grass at Andrean might be a little soggy because there is some rain scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Last week some Northwest Indiana games began in a light rain and some didn’t. That may be the case this Friday as well. We’ll still have summer like evening temperature in the upper 60s.


PARKING: There isn’t a lot of parking at Andrean. There never has been. It's just not that big a school. Never has been. Even 30 years ago, Andrean had about 1,000 students. I don’t know what they did every day back then. Now, with a little more than 500 students, I’d assume they’re fine for day-to-day school. But for major athletic events, you really do need to arrive before 6:30 p.m. Traditionally, football parking at Andrean spills over into the mall west of the school. That’s where I always end up and it’s a long walk to the field. Be ready.

WHAT's AT STAKE: Lowell and Andrean are both 3-0 in a 5-game Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) season, so they need this game to help win the conference. Neither team can clinch the conference title Friday. Beyond that, Lowell is 4A and Andrean is 3A. These teams will not meet in the state tournament. This is a ‘one night only’ matchup to see who can have it their way.


THE HISTORY: Andrean is the 59-year old Catholic school named after the first arch bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Gary, Andrew Grutka. I am still not sure if Andrean teams are called the '59ers' because of the address of the school: 5959 Broadway ... or if, because of when the school opened in 1959, if they nicknamed Andrean athletes after the 49ers, the classic gold rush adventurers of the mid-1800s, for whom the National Football League's San Francisco 49ers were named in the late 1940s.

In the 1960s and 70s, the story was that most Andrean students came from Gary. Now, I am guessing that most come from the Tri-Town (Schererville, Dyer and St. John area), Hobart and Crown Point. Friday’s quarterback Zack Merrill is from Hobart.

In 1986, Andrean was officially listed by the IHSAA as having 1,083 students. This season, Andrean is listed as having 510 teenagers. There is concern there for one of NW Indiana’s top athletic schools.

In the last year I remember it being discussed publically if Andrean should remain at 5959 Broadway. As the population of Northwest Indiana has shifted south, the school has considered moving south and, at least for now, has rejected it.

They need to reconsider. If you’re a good young athlete in Lake County, you probably consider Andrean, or are asked to. But the facilities there pale compared to most Lake County public schools.
And it's no longer in a good location from a kid and family standpoint. It's next to a mall and locked into a small campus.

Andrean’s athletic ‘brand name’ has never had a higher profile. The baseball team won another state championship (the school’s 6th) last spring. The volleyball team is the defending Class 2A state champ. Boys basketball won a sectional title last march and football won the state title in 2013 and was state runner-up in 2014.

Forgetting their high percentage of Andrean kids that go to college overall, athletes very much want to go there and it would help if they were in a neighborhood and not squeezed into a commercial area with little to no room for expansion.

If Andrean could build a new facility in Crown Point or Schererville, the enrollment would double in 5-10 years. That’s why Illiana Christian high school is in a new building now in Dyer after half a century just across the state line in Lansing, Illinois. In another 20-30 years, I don't think there’s any way Andrean is in the same location they’re at now.

And they’ll still win state in baseball.

(3A) Andrean (6-1)
8-4 (2017), 5-6 (2016), 7-4 (2015), 14-1 (2014)
Coach Chris Skinner (3rd year) 19-11 all NCC games in CAPS

8-17 (L) 14-20 at (6A) Merrillville (4-3)
8-24 (W) 24-0 at (3A) Hanover Central (3-4)
8-31 (W) 44-28 at (4A) New Prairie (4-3)
9-7 (W) 59-0 (4A) Hammond (0-6)
9-14 (W) 41-7 at (4A) HOBART (6-1)
9-21 (W) 52-0 at (4A) MUNSTER (1-6)
9-28 (W) 52-21 at (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-5)
10-5 (Fri) (4A) LOWELL (6-1)
10-12 (Fri) (4A) HIGHLAND (3-4)

3 Sectional 25
10-19 (Fri) vs. Calumet, Wheeler, Twin Lakes, Clark, West Lafayette, Hanover Central and Benton Central




MERRILLVILLE – Andrean has rebounded from a surprising opening night loss to Merrillville with six consecutive wins. The 59ers spend a lot of time in the end zone. They have scored 39 touchdowns in seven games and the Andrean offense starts with senior quarterback Zack Merrill (6-1, 195) who is starting for the second year in a row. Most 59ers plays center around Merrill, more so than most QBs. The Andrean star has completed 103 of 141 passes for 1,527 yards, 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

When you add in Merrill’s 54 runs for 227 yards and four more TDs and you have Merrill running or passing on 195 of the 59ers’ 328 plays in the first seven games. Merrill, who was 117 of 213 for 1,344 yards in 2017, has thrown for at least 160 yards in every Andrean game.

Last year Merrill was 3 of 17 for 41 yards against Lowell, the worst game of his career. He’ll certainly be ready to make up for that Friday. Andrean runs the same (or a similar) run-pass option offense that Lowell now uses much of the time. On video, the 59ers use three wide receivers, a tight end and a running back on many plays. Last week the runner was sophomore Ryan Walsh (5-10, 170), who has carried 40 times for 333 yards, over eight yards a carry.

The top 59er receiver is sophomore Nick Flesher (6-0, 175) who leads all of Northwest Indiana with 50 catches for 615 yards and 10 TDs. But senior Tyler Thomas (6-0, 165) makes a lot of big plays. He’s caught just 14 this fall for 447 yards, over 31 yards per catch.

Defensively, linebacker Cam Williams (6-3, 215) has 32 tackles, including 10 tackles for losses. Defensive lineman Evan Satorski (6-2, 240) had 53 tackles and 13 tackles for losses. Senior defensive back Zach Kammer (5-11, 165) has 25 tackles and three of the 59ers’ 13 interceptions.

Junior JJ Wadas is 35 of 36 on extra points and 5-of-5 on field goals. His longest field goal has been 33 yards, but he’s probably good from 40 yards in.

Andrean has 18 seniors, many in key roles. Senior two-way starter fullback-linebacker River Walsh (6-1, 210) was hurt (leg) in the third game of the season and he has not returned to action. Andrean is a fairly complete team. They probably should be 7-0.


Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC)
1. ANDREAN (3-0) 6-1
2. LOWELL (3-0) 6-1
3. Hobart (2-1) 6-1
4. Highland (1-2) 3-4
5. Kankakee Valley (0-3) 2-5
6. Munster (0-3) 1-6

Andrean 52, Kankakee Valley 21
Hobart 28, Highland 14
LOWELL 21, Munster 12

Hobart (6-1) at Munster (1-6)
Kankakee Valley (2-5) at Highland (3-4)
LOWELL (6-1) at ANDREAN (6-1)

Kankakee Valley (2-5) at Munster (1-6)
Highland (3-4) at Andrean (6-1)
LOWELL (6-1) at Hobart (6-1)
*end of the regular season.


NCC UPDATE: To win the NCC, Lowell will probably have to defeat Andrean (6-1) and Hobart (6-1). Andrean has already defeated Hobart and will need a win over Highland on October 12 to win an undisputed NCC title. Lowell is the defending NCC champ. Hobart and Griffith tied for the 2016 league championship. To be honest, I never get the impression that the league title means a lot to either Andrean or Lowell. Not that they don't want it, but they’re defined by how many sectionals they win.


(4A) LOWELL (6-1)
14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 70-31) NCC Conference games in CAPS
8-17 (W) 17-7 at (6A) Crown Point (3-4)
8-24 (L) 3-7 (6A) Portage (4-3)
8-31 (W) 38-0 (4A) Morton (5-2)
9-7 (W) 51-0 at (3A) Clark (2-5)
9-14 (W) 13-10 (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-5)
9-21 (W) 7-0 (4A) at HIGHLAND (3-4)
9-28 (W) 21-12 (5A) MUNSTER (1-6)
10-6 (Fri) (3A) at ANDREAN (6-1)
10-13 (Fri) (4A) HOBART (6-1)

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 got senior Ethan Igras back at quarterback in a 21-12 win over Munster. Igras was just 5-of-13 for 81 yards, but he ran 13 times for 61 yards. Igras at QB also allowed backup QB John Alessia to return to an all-purpose role where he was credited with a pass reception for 49 yards, recovered a fumble, blocked a kick and grabbed an interception.

Halfback Tyler Wildman carried 24 times for 123 yards to raise his totals to 168 carries for 727 yards on the season. Senior receiver-defensive back-punt returner Shawn Mooney caught four passes against Munster for 32 yards. Mooney has caught 11 of Lowell’s team total of 31 pass receptions for 101 yards.

Junior kicker Nate Gard is 18 of 18 on extra point kicks and six field goals in 12 attempts. Lowell linebacker Michael Langen was in on 12 tackles last week against Munster in the 21-12 win. The 12 points was the most scored on Lowell in any game so far this season, something that may speak to the seven teams they’ve played. (This is the last week anybody can say that.)

Opponents have had some success throwing the ball against the Devils, making 71 of 152 attempts for 891 yards. Lowell has allowed just 245 yards rushing all season. I'm eager to see what the Devils try to ‘take away’ from Andrean and what defensive strategy they try against a team that averages 350 yards and 40 points a game.

Offensively, I don't think I know exactly what the Devils can do. The Devils haven’t been at full strength most of the season.

4A No. 5 LOWELL (6-1) at 3A No. 5 ANDREAN (6-1)
Father Eckert Stadium: Capacity 3,000

SAGARIN RATINGS: Andrean by 19.

I’m surprised at this spread, but the computer loves Andrean. The 59ers are rated 47th in the state overall and fifth among Class 3A schools. Andrean is rated ahead of undefeated 4A schools Northview (7-0) and Angola (7-0) on the computer. Lowell is ranked only 115th, probably due to how poorly the teams that they have beaten have done. Morton is the only winning team that Lowell has defeated, probably because Portage (4-3) and Morton (5-2) are the only winning teams Lowell has played until this week. 




MERRILLVILLE (10-05-2018) I think the 59ers get off to a fast start, scoring on a run by Ryan Walsh. The Devils don’t get much on their first two possessions and a field goal by JJ Wadas after a long drive makes it 10-0.

Lowell’s Ethan Igras gets into the end zone in the second period to cut the lead, but a pass from Zack Merrill to sophomore Nick Flesher makes it 17-7 at the half.

A run by Shawn Mooney sets up the Devils for a Tyler Wildman TD run to narrow the lead in the third quarter. But a second TD pass from Merrill to Flesher makes it 24-14. The 59ers get a second field goal by Wadas to close out the scoring.

When you looked at the Lowell schedule at the start of the season, this is the one game they didn’t figure to win. Andrean won't run for 100 yards, but Merrill will get 200 yards passing. The Devils’ need a season-high total of rushing yards to control this game and I don’t think they can get it here.




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Revised: October 04, 2018 .