Week 13 - Football Game of the Week Preview

The Class 4A Regional:
Lowell (10-2)
at Mishawaka (11-1)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Lowell visits one of the great stadiums in Indiana high school football Friday when they ride the big yellow bus to Mishawaka's Steele Stadium where the Cavemen are undefeated at home this season. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When: Friday, Nov. 9, 2018;  Kick-off: 6:30 p.m. CST (7:30 p.m. EST)

Where: Mishawaka High School - 1202 LincolnWay West - Mishawaka, Ind.

Tickets$7 (Regional price)

TV/Radio/Internet: No radio in NW Indiana.

Enrollment: Mishawaka 1,475; LOWELL - 1,186.

WEATHER: Rough. Really rough. Temperatures in the mid-30s during the day. Upper 20s late in the game. Good chance for light rain or snow during the game. If you go, be realistic about sitting or standing outdoors for two hours. This is a night when you most definitely want to park as close as possible so you can go sit in your car at halftime.

Steele Field is a stadium and you can go downstairs to get out of the rain. But this will not be a pleasant night for anyone involved.
The last time I was at Mishawaka, they had a bad natural grass field. Steel Field was built in 1938 as part of an old government works project. But last year, the field was renovated with artificial turf, a new track and a new scoreboard.
The old place looks great on line, although you may not be able to tell if it snows Friday.


PARKING: I don't remember a lot of parking at Mishawaka’s Steele Stadium. The site is in a neighborhood and, if the school lot is full (unlikely due to the weather), there’s a chance you might be able to park outside the visitors grandstand right next to the stadium.


WHAT's AT STAKE: Everybody is a sectional champion at this point so, to me, this is the second half of the playoffs. Eight teams. Three weeks. No byes. Mishawaka has won 12 sectionals (including eight in Class 5A) but they have never won a state title. They lost the 2016 Class 5A regional 31-7 to Snider. Lowell has won five sectionals and two regionals in a row. The Devils lost the 2017 4A state championship game 14-7 to East Central.

Lowell has reached the state finals four times and they were the 2005 Class 4A state champion. Mishawaka would host Bishop Dwenger in the semistate, but they would travel to Angola, which is near the Ohio and Michigan state line in far northeast Stueben County.

Lowell gets one last home game with a win. The Devils would host Dwenger or Angola on November 16.


CLASS 4A Regionals
LOWELL (10-2) at at No. 2 Mishawaka [11-1] 6:30 CST (7:30 EST)

No. 5 Angola [12-0] at No. 6 Bishop Dwenger [11-1] 7 p.m. (EST)
No. 7 Mooresville (11-1) at No. 4 Marion (12-0) 7 p.m. (EST)
No. 8 Evansville Central (11-1) at No. 3 East Central (11-1) Saturday at 3 p.m. EST


The HISTORY: Mishawaka is a city of about 49,000 on the St. Joseph’s river in St. Joseph’s County next to South Bend. Penn, Mishawaka and Marian are the three high schools which get Mishawaka kids. The Cavemen have played football since, at least, 1902 and they have more tradition that anyone playing this sport in this state. Before there was a state tournament in Indiana, the press picked a ‘mythical’ state champion based on writer’s opinion.

Mishawaka was the ‘mythical’ state champ in 1920 (7-0-2), 1925 (8-0), 1926 (8-0), 1935 (10-2) and 1950 (9-1). And the good times have come back under coach Bart Curtis. Mishawaka was 11-2 in 2009, 12-1 in 2010, 11-2 in 2012 and 10-3 in 2016. Cutris left to go to Warsaw this season, but long time assistant Keith Kinder has kept the train rolling with an 11-1 season.

But that’s not the question you want to ask about Mishawaka.

Mishawaka high school athletes are called 'Cavemen'. What’s up with that?

I'm guessing sportswriters were on the field 100 years ago (no press boxes, obviously) and the legend is: A sportswriter heard a cheerleader comment at the 1919 Mishawaka-South Bend Central game about how the Mishawaka boys would fight like Cavemen against the heavily favored South Bend team. Mishawaka won, the writer needed something clever to say, the name caught on and they've officially been Cavemen since the 1930s. The original nickname for Mishawaka was the Maroons.

Bless them for changing that.

Mishawaka and Elkhart Central are two of the charter members of the Northern Indiana Conference that began in 1927 and expectations are always high for them. Lowell lost to the ‘state champ’ 1926 Mishawaka team by a 57-0 score and they didn’t play the Cavemen again until 2011 when the Cavemen (7-5) won 35-14 in a Sectional 18 playoff game in Lowell.

The next night, on a night full of heavy rain on a muddy field, Lowell lost 27-0 at Mishawaka. It was a low point in Devils recent history. But that Mishawaka team went 11-4 and reached to the state championship game losing 56-29 to Cathedral.

There’s no rivalry between Lowell and Mishawaka and no real reason for the schools to even think about each other. But let the record show; when Mishawaka has played Lowell, they’ve always had a good team.

(4A) Mishawaka (11-1)
6-5 (2017), 10-3 (2016), 8-4 (2015), 9-32 (2014)
Coach Keith Kinder (1st year) 11-1, all Northern Indiana Conference (NIC) games in CAPS

8-17 (W) 35-14 at (6A) Portage (4-6)
8-24 (W) 29-20 (6A) Valparaiso (10-1)
8-31 (L) 24-27 at (Chicago) (8A) Marist (11-1)
9-7 (W) 25-13 (5A) at (S. Bend) ADAMS (3-7)
9-14 (W) 27-21 at (4A) NEW PRAIRIE (7-4)
9-21 (W) 22-15 (5A) ELKHART CENTRAL (6-6)
9-28 (W) 26-24 (4A) (S. Bend) ST. JOSEPH’S (7-5)
10-5 (W) 35-17 (3A) (Mishawaka) Marian (6-5)
10-12 (W) 49-42 (OT) at (6A) PENN (9-2)

4A Sectional 18
10-19 (W) 35-7 at Hobart (7-3)
10-26 (W) 35-28 (So. Bend) Riley (6-5)
11-2 (W) 27-23 (So. Bend) St. Joseph’s (7-5)

4A Regional
11-9 (Fri) vs. Lowell (10-2)

4A Semistate
11-16 (Fri) at Angola (13-0) or home vs. Bishop Dwenger (11-2)



MISHAWAKA - Mishawaka is a problem for most teams that face them because you don’t run their offense, so you can't very well simulate it in practice. That’s part of the reason they have scored at least 24 points on every team they’ve faced this year.

The Cavemen run a triple option running attack out of a double wing set. Quarterback Sam Shivley (5-10, 165) can give to the fullback, keep the ball or pitch to a halfback. Shivley has carried 165 times for 1,025 yards and 25 touchdowns and he ran for four TDs against Penn. He’s a very good ball handler. The fullback is Chris Harkness (5-7, 175), a hard-running low-rider who is very difficult to tackle.

You can stop him five or six times in a row and it doesn’t matter. He keeps coming. Harkness has run the ball 365 times for a school-record 2,417 yards and 23 touchdowns. In the sectional game against Riley, Harkness carried 35 times for 276 yards. Against arch-rival Penn, he carried 25 times for 264 yards. Against Valparaiso, he ran for 172 yards. No one has stopped him this season.

The Cavemen have run the ball 632 times this year. Shivley and Harkness have run it 530 of those times.

Pitchouts go to senior Brad Taylor (5-10, 175), who has 231 yards on 38 carries and the Cavemen use a wingback reverse with Donovan Snyder (5-10, 165) who has 385 yards on 49 carries. Snyder is the backup QB and he can throw the ball.

Shivley has thrown the ball only 31 times all year but he is 17 of 31 for 324 yards and five touchdowns.

The Cavemen aren't especially big up front, but they control tempo. Shivley will bring the team to the line without a huddle and they’ll bring a player in motion and have him stop and go back where he was, just to look at the at the defense. The Cavemen run their offense quickly and smoothly. It’s a big challenge, as several good teams have found out.

Defensively, Mishawaka has good size on the perimeter in safeties CJ Fisher (6-0, 175) and Devin Jiminez (6-2, 175), linebackers Derrick Dawson (6-1, 220) and Thomas Frailing (6-1, 210) and Joe Willis (5-10, 210). Mishawaka isn't especially big up front and their season totals of 21 quarterback sacks and 12 interceptions (four by Fisher) are not especially high.

The Cavemen have given up an uncomfortable amount of yards and points (251 in 12 games) and and I’m not sure why. Riley gained 166 yards rushing and 206 yards passing. St. Joe quarterback Austin Ruzkowksi was 20 of 28 passing against Mishawaka.

But the Cavemen stopped the 47-game Northern Indiana Conference (NIC) win streak of Penn at Penn in that 49-42 game. They have won seven games by 10 points or less. Mishawaka has to have the confidence that builds when you win a lot of big games.

(4A) LOWELL (10-2)
14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 75-32), NCC Conference games in CAPS

8-17 (W) 17-7 at (6A) Crown Point (4-6)
8-24 (L) 3-7 (6A) Portage (4-6)
8-31 (W) 38-0 (4A) Morton (9-3)
9-7 (W) 51-0 at (3A) Clark (3-7)
9-14 (W) 13-10 (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-8)
9-21 (W) 7-0 (4A) at HIGHLAND (4-6)
9-28 (W) 21-12 (5A) MUNSTER (2-7)
10-5 (L) 15-36 (3A) at ANDREAN (10-1)
10-12 (W) 34-7 (4A) HOBART (7-3)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-19 (W) 34-14 at Highland (4-6)
10-27 (W) 45-14 vs. Griffith (8-3)
11-2 (W) 20-14 vs Morton (9-2)

Class 4A Regional

11-9 (Fri) at Mishawaka (11-1)

Class 4A Semistate

11-6 (Fri.) home vs. Angola (13-0) or Bishop Dwenger (12-1)


LOWELL Update:

Lowell passed their first close test of the post-season last week in the 20-14 win over Morton. The Governors rolled up 230 yards passing but Lowell held on for the win. Last week three-year starting QB Ethan Igras made big plays rushing 19 times for 91 yards and completing 9-of-14 passes for 159 yards. Lowell posted 15 first downs. Eight rushing and seven passing.

Tyler Wildman has 17 rushing touchdowns and he’ll look for a chance to break loose against the Cavemen. I think you’ll see a little of fullback/tight end Mike Langen carrying the ball on this night as well.

The all senior offensive line of Bryan Schantz (5-10, 195), Brandon Chocholek (6-1, 215), Chandler Austgen (6-2, 283), Jake Steward (6-0, 224) and Kory King (5-11, 234) should be in the spotlight on a bad weather night. This is going to be a throwback game. Nobody’s throwing for 300 yards Friday.

A key player will again be junior kicker Nate Gard, who has a school-record 13 field goals and is averaging 37.2 yards per punt.

Lowell is 17-4 in post-season games in the last five seasons.

Lowell’s defense, led by Langen (10 tackles for losses, 5 ½ sacks) Austgen (18 tackles for losses, 5 ½ sacks) and Jansky (22 tackles for loss including 14 sacks) will face a head on challenge from the relentless Mishawaka running attack.

But the Cavemen aren’t going to throw the ball 33 times like Griffith did at Lowell two weeks ago or even 26 times like Morton did last week.

Mishawaka’s averages over 300 yards rushing per game. Nobody has rushed for 200 yards against Lowell this fall. Something has got to give here.


Lowell 1000-yard rushers
...in the state tournament era (1973-present):

1. Brandon Grubbe (2009) 403 carries, 2,417 yards
2. Ike James (2014) 319-2,411 yards
3. Scott Gray (2005) 323-2,336 yards
4. Michael Pickett (1994) 339-2,256 yards
5. Trevor Espravnik (2016) 329 carries, 1,947 yards
6. Toby Goetz (2004) 276-1,939 yards
7 Ike James (2015) 347-1,931 yards
8. Brandon Grubbe (2008) 316-1,831 yards
9. Matt Pernick (1996) 229-1,827 yards
10. George Fields (2012) 277-1,811 yards

11. Michael Pickett (1993) 273-1,687 yards
12. Brandon Grubbe (2007) 281-1,675 yards
13. Justin Henley (2002) 167- 1,552 yards
14. Cole Midgett (2010) 195-1,481 yards
15. Justin Henley (2003) 227-1,447 yards
16. Mike French (2000) 200-1,382 yards
17.George Fields (2013) 209-1,377 yards
18. Matt Pernick (1995) 175-1,349 yards
19. Max Znika (2006) 224-1,302 yards
20. Mike French (1999) 226 carries, 1,280 yards
21. Tyler Wildman (2018) 278 carries, 1,177 yards

22. Sean Anderson (2001) 242-1,048 yards
23. Nick Holley (1997) 131-1,014 yards

LOWELL (10-2) at MISHAWAKA (11-1)
at Steele Field - capacity: 8,000

Sagarin computer ratings: 
Mishawaka by 16


This is strength of schedule pick. Lowell has played a few good teams (Morton, Andrean, Hobart) but nothing like Mishawaka, which has faced St. Joseph’s, Marian, New Prairie and Penn. Plus Lowell lost 7-3 to Portage and Mishawaka rolled over Portage 35-14. Of 320 football-playing schools Mishawaka’s schedule is rated the 46th best (Lowell’s is 147th) and I don't believe that considers Marist (10-1), an out of state team. For the record, Lowell was favored by 20 over Morton last week and they defeated the Governors 20-14.


MISHAWAKA (11-09-2018) I know that Mishawaka has played high scoring games (they average scoring 39 a game and allow 22 a game) all season, but this should be a relatively low scoring contest.

After a scoreless first quarter Lowell takes a 3-0 lead on a Nate Gard field goal. The Cavemen lead 7-3 at the half after a long drive and a TD run by quarterback Scott Shivley. But both sides have trouble running the ball on a night when passing will be handcuffed by the weather.

Lowell goes ahead on an option run from Ethan Igras and that score holds until the fourth quarter when a pass from Igras to Blake Jansky runs the lead to 17-7. The Cavemen repeatedly drive into Lowell territory and fullback Chris Harkness scores midway in the final quarter. Lowell can't run the clock out, but a late pass interception by Jon Alessia ends the last Mishawaka drive.
Passing teams have hurt Lowell at times this year. But the Devils have given up a grand total of 537 yards rushing all season. Mishawaka is favored at home, but I think this is a good matchup for Lowell.


LOWELL 17, Mishawaka 14

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Revised: November 09, 2018.