Week 10 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Gary West Side (2-7) at 4A No. 1 Lowell (9-0)
Class 4A, Sectional 17 Quarterfinal

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Lowell's Jared Sojka blocks for halfback Tyler Wildman (32) in last year's Gary West Side-Lowell playoff game. The rematch is Friday night in Lowell on opening night of the 2017 Indiana High School Athletic association (IHSAA) state football tournament. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m. Friday, October 20, 2016
Lowell High School,Route 2 (Commercial Ave.) & Holtz Road, Lowell, IN (3 miles east of I-65 on Route 2).
Tickets:  $
WTMK (88.5) FM live, live updates of all local scores all night on WLPR (89.1) FM.

Gary West Side - 889; LOWELL - 1,210. (NOTE: Accoridng to the IHSAA, Gary West Side had 1,451 students in 1997.)

Near perfect. Highs in the low 70s during the day but by kickoff, we'll be in the low 60s. Light wins. No chance of rain. Excet for a couole of over-heated nights, this has been a good weather season. The long range forecast says 50-degree game time temperatures are coming next week.
This is probably the last really good night.

Parking:  Plenty. No matter how nice the weather is, virtually no one is coming all the way from the west side of Gary down to the south end of Lake County to watch this game. This isnt basketball. For Lowell, fans, this is a night when you can park faurly close to the field, show up at 6:45 and stroll on in.

WHAT'S AT STAKE:  This would be a major upset for Gary West Side. One of the top victories in school history. Kinda like Purdue beating Alabama in college football.

For Lowell, this is the start of the 'season season' where the Devils have high hopes. Lowell has won 13 sectional titles since 1992, including the last three Class 4A Sectional 17 championships in a row.

Class 4A Sectional 17 Quarterfinals, 10-20-2017

East Chicago (4-5) at Morton (7-2)
Hammond (3-6) at Griffith (8-1)
West Side (2-7) at LOWELL (9-0)
Highland (3-6) at Gavit (4-5)

NOTE: If Griffith wins over Hammond, they'll host either Morton or East Chicago. The Gavit-Highland winner hosts Lowell in the second round. When both teams in a bracket are at home or on the road, the team listed lower in the playoff bracket have priority on home field in the next round of sectional play.

It's my understanding that if Lowell plays a semifinal game on the road, they would host the championship game unless the opponent (it would have to be East Chicago) played the first two rounds on the road.

But it was also my understanding that the Cubs would play the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

The HISTORY:  In 1986, West Side had 1,695 students. Now, they are down under 900. Nearby Bowman Academy (on 5th street in Gary) has taken students who otherwise would have gone to West Side, but there's more to it than that.

The building, reportedly, is in disrepair and money isn't going to be put into a school building with severely declining enrollment. And let's be honest, we live in a state which does not value public schools in city areas. There's a reason Horace Mann (1921-2003), Wirt (1939-2009) and Lew Wallace (1926-2014) have all closed in the city of Gary in the last 15 years. Either Roosevelt or West Side will be gone soon as well. The state of Indiana has reportedly taken over control of Gary public schools and there isn't a lot of incentive to pour money into them. (Especially when the Gary Public School Corporation has a standing debt in excess of $100-Million. That's a lot of money, folks!)

Gary West Side has always been a basketball school. The Cougar boys are 11-time sectional champs and the 2002 state champs. The Cougar girls are 16-time sectional champs and the 2005 state Class 4A finalist.

No Gary school has won a sectional football title since 1989 and West Side has never won a sectional since the IHSAA began the state playoffs in 1973. The Cougars' football fortunes will rise if they drop to 3A by enrollment, which is inevitable. But the school has much bigger issues than that. (See financial note above.)

(4A) Gary West Side (2-7)
1-8 (2016), 4-6 (2015), 2-9 (2014), 7-5 (2013)
Coach Jason Johnson (7th season, 25-47)

8-18 (W) 46-42 at Gary Roosevelt (6-2)
8-25 (L) 6-41 at Woodstock, Ill. (4-4)
9-1 (L) 0-49 at Hobart (6-3)
9-8 (L) 6-24 at Bowman Academy (6-3)
9-15 (L) 14-49 at Morton (7-2)
9-22 (L) 20-34 Hammond (3-6)
9-29 (L) 14-21 East Chicago (4-5)
10-5 (W) 22-14 at Clark (1-8)
10-13 (L) 6-32 at Gavit (4-5)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-20 (F) at Lowell (9-0)

SCHEDULE: In the defense of whoever made this schedule, there's only three football playing teams in Gary. To get on the schedule of Morton and Hobart is good and Gavit and Hammond are natural opponents. The Problem is: They don't and can't play the schedule that Lowell, Morton and some others in their sectional face.


There's just not a lot of reporting on Gary football and statistics are hard to come by. But the Cougars have a running back named TaJeem Muhammad who is familiar to Lowell.
The Cougars played Lowell in the 4A Sectional semifinals last year and Lowell rolled up a 65-0 lead. The game was over.
But Muhammad, a 165-pound halfback, grabbed a handoff and outran the entire Lowell defense (there were subs in at the time) for an 86-yard run. For the game. Muhammad carried eight times for 109 yards. From watching video clips, that would sum up the Cougars. They have a lot of team speed including Muhammad, sophomore DeJaun Crews and linebacker Onyz Lawson.

West Side is not a big time passing team. They want to run the ball and shorten the game. This is the fourth meeting of West Side and Lowell in the last five years so the Cougars won't be scared to be playing the Devils. It's just a matter of how well they can run effective plays on offense to keep the ball. They must kick the ball well, which, reportedly, is a weakness. West Side has to win a low-scoring defensive struggle. There is no other path to victory.

LOWELL (9-0)
9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014), 6-4(2013)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8th season, 60-29)
Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) games in CAPS

8-18 (W) 27-13 (6A) Crown Point (5-4)
8-25 (W) 20-7 at (6A) Portage (4-5)
9-1 (W) 19-0 at (4A) Morton (7-2)
9-8 (W) 63-6 (3A) Clark (1-8)
9-15 (W) 27-13 at (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (4-5)
9-22 (W) 27-0 (4A) HIGHLAND (3-6)
9-29 (W) 28-9 at (5A) MUNSTER (3-6)
10-6 (W) 16-0 (3A) ANDREAN (6-3)
10-13 (W) 30-9 at 4A HOBART (6-3)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-20 (F) vs. Gary West Side (2-7)
10-27 (F) sat Highland (3-5) or Gavit (4-5)

Lowell won every game by 14 points or more, a feat more impressive when you add on that they only scored more than 30 points once. Wins over 6A teams Crown Point and Portage were the highlights. In hindsight, the 19-0 win over Morton (7-2) also was impressive. Lowell got a very good draw. They open at home and, should they win, will travel to Gavit or Highland. If Lowell reaches the 4A Sectional 17 championship game, I believe they will host either Griffith (8-1) or Morton (7-2). It's a long way off, but if they are successful, the Devils would probably be on the road for the regional and that's not a travel issue if the 4A Sectional 18 winner is Hobart or New Prairie. The state tourney game you do not want to play on the road is the semistate game, which could require a 100-mile road trip.

LOWELL Update:

Lowell had a strong final two weeks, topping Andrean 16-0 and Hobart 30-9. The Devils' defense did give up 117 yards rushing on 39 carries last week and Lowell, which has given up 55 points all season allowed the seventh TD of the year.

Senior safety Jordan Jusevitch was in on 16 tackles at Hobart as the Devils got better as the game went on. Lowell played without junior defensive end Blake Jansky, who has 16 tackles for losses and nine QB sacks this fall. It seemed highly unlikely that Jansky would play against West Side, but there was some confidence expressed that he would return this season. QB Ethan Igras finished the regular season with 42 completions on 86 attempts for 726 yards and eight TDs. Last season, Igras was 44 of 77 for 685 yards and nine TDs.

Lowell also finished the nine games with 18 turnovers, which is a few too many. The Devils have run 371 times for 1,662 yards, a 4.5 yards per carry average. Last week's win at Hobart was Lowell's 10th consecutive road victory.

Gary West Side (2-7) at 4A No. 1 LOWELL (9-0)

at 'The Inferno'  -  capacity - 2,500


Sagarin ratings:  Lowell by 'a lot'

Out of respect to West Side, I don't want to put down what the computer said. Let's put it this way. The computer said that Lowell played the 96th toughest football schedule in the state. West Side played the 258th toughest schedule. There's only 327 teams playing football.


LOWELL (10-20-2016) Here's another of those nights where the favored team controls how long this is a close game. Lowell has to respect this opponent. West Side will play hard. They are facing the number one team and they have nothing to lose. The Devils may need a quarter to understand that.

The Cougars may have some success running the ball early, but it won't last. Lowell will slowly build the lead, but it won't get near the 65 points the Devils scored on West Side last season.

Lowell's roster has to be ready. This is the night where almost everyone will get in. The final score will be conservative. Lowell wins twice if no one gets hurt.

LOWELL 35, Gary West Side 0


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Revised: October 20, 2017 .