Week 13 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Lowell (8-4) at Hobart (10-2)
in the Class 4A Regional

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Hobart's Brickies hope the city isn't too friendly to Lowell when the Devils visit for the regional championship this Friday night. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When: 7:00 p.m. Friday, November 11, 2016.
Where: Hobart High School - 2211 East 10th Street, Hobart, IN.
Tickets: $6
TV/Radio/Internet: WTMK (88.5) FM live; live updates of all local scores all night on WLPR (89.1) FM.
Enrollment: Hobart - 1,326; LOWELL - 1,187.

WEATHER: It's about time it got cold at night and it will this Friday. Forget the daytime high of 50. It will be dark two hours before kickoff and game time temperatures will be in the low 40s. It should be windy, too. North winds 15-20 miles an hour, at the least. We're about to find out how many 'friends of the programs' will sit out two hours to support the boys. When you are addressing what to wear for this game, accept the fact that it's 13 days from Thanksgiving and it is going to feel like it. But no rain is forecast. This is about as good as you can expect for November 11.

The new Hobart high school has a lot of parking, but this game should draw a lot of fans. Not only are both teams on long winning streaks but this game is, in many respects, the 'end game' for both sides. Parking at Hobart is north of the field and extends all the way back to 10th street. Long time fans will remember that the old Hobart Brickie Bowl was at the middle school and had virtually no big game parking. You may end up parking on the north side of the high school (the field is on the south side) but you should be able to get in the lot. The visitors stands at the new Hobart high school are large, but Lowell fans may fill them up. In warm weather a capacity crowd would be a good bet but the windy and cold conditions may keep some people home.

Everything. For Hobart, this is a return to glory moment. The last Hobart sectional championship before last week was last century. Back in 1997. The school that won four state titles (1987-89-91 and 93) went a generation without even winning a sectional. Some Hobart players are sons of dads who played in the glory days of the 80s and 90s. Coach Ryan Turley played on one of those teams. And now, the Brickies come home, just two wins from the Class 4A state championship game and a return to the days when Hobart's Brickies were the undisputed kings of Northwest Indiana high school football.

For Lowell. This is judgment day. Two years ago, Lowell won the 4A Sectional 17 championship and drove an hour to LaPorte County to play the regional championship game on a field where New Prairie high officials had worked all day to remove six inches of snow. Lowell lost 28-27 when Ike James slipped and fell on a two-point conversion run. Last year, Lowell roared to an 11-0 record before they lost 7-6 to South Bend St. Joseph's in a home game where Lowell failed on multiple chances to score. In the state tournament era, I cannot find a NW Indiana team that lost the regional championship game two years in a row by one point each time. For Lowell's seniors, this is one final chance to right a two-year wrong.

Class 4A
Regional Championships - Nov. 11, 2016
LOWELL (8-4) at No. 11 Hobart (10-2)
No. 4 New Haven (11-0) and No.2 Northwood (12-0)
Delta (8-4) at No.1 (Indianapolis) Roncalli (12-0)
No. 7 East Central (10-2) at
No. 3 (Evansville) Reitz (11-1) Saturday. 4 p.m. Central

The HISTORY: Let's look to three memorable Lowell-Hobart games.

Hobart 42, LOWELL 41
September 24, 2010

This was the highest scoring game in this series, decided when Hobart's Mike Prusiecki grabbed a 19-yard pass form Sam Kosich with 2:32 to play. The Brickies halfback Jamer Merritt ran the ball 26 times for 215 yards and three TDs. Lowell's Cole Midgett carried the ball 27 times for a Lowell school-record 315 yards and four TDs. Cole Midgett ended the season with 1,481 yards on 195 carries.

LOWELL 14, Hobart 7
October 10, 2005

Scott Gray's 10-yard run in the third quarter broke a 7-7 tie at Hobart and gave the Devils a 14-7 victory and a 4-4 record after eight games. Five weeks later, Gray ran 31 times for 252 yards and two TDs as Lowell won the rematch 32-6 in the regional title game. Three weeks after that. Gray gained 153 yards on 19 carries as Lowell won the 4A state title 28-27 over Roncalli in the old Hoosier Dome. For the year, Scott Gray gained 2,336 yards on 323 carries.

LOWELL 28, Hobart 25
November 11, 1994

This was the pivotal game in modern Lowell history. Hobart had won state titles in 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1993. Lowell had not had a winning season for 25 years from 1970 to 1992, including 0-10 records in 1978, 79 and 1983. On the first play of the game, Lowell's Hall-o-Famer Michael Pickett ran 80 yards for a TD. The Devils completed only two passes all night, but one was from Kevin Bachinski (Lowell's present athletic director) to two-way star Mike Loggins to give the Devils their final TD in a 28-25 victory.

The 'Distant' Replay

Brickies run down Lowell

Team 1 2 3 4 F
Hobart (4-2) 0 7 8 3 18
LOWELL (2-4) 0 6 0 6 12

Friday, September 23, 2016 - 72 degrees, humid in LOWELL, Ind.

1st QtrNo scoring.
2nd QtrLOWELL (6-0) Jaeger Gill, 32-yard run. 82-yard drive, 4 plays. Bad snap on conversion. 10:17 left.
HOBART (6-7)
Nick Ray, 85-yard run. 85 yard drive, 2 plays. Adrian Cantos kick. 1:50 left.
3rd Qtr: HOBART (6-15) Nick Ray, 29-yard run. 82-yard drive, 11 plays. 2-point conversion pass from Jared Zanolla to Giovante Galloway. 6:20 left.
4th Qtr: HOBART (6-18) Adrian Cantos, 29-yard field goal. 46-yard drive, 13 plays. 5:27 left.
LOWELL (12-18)
Mitch Wildman, 29-yard pass from Ethan Igras. 65-yard drive 5 plays. 2-point conversion pass incomplete. 3:35 left.


HOBART (48 carries, 293 yards, 2 TDs, 0 fumbles): Nick Ray (FB) 28 carries, 226 yards, 2 TDs, Chris Tyler (HB) 13 carries, 60 yards, Mickey Wolfe (QB) 6-4 yards ( 2 sacks minus-9) Jared Zanolla (HB) 1-3 yards.

LOWELL (19 carries, 131 yards, one TD, 0 fumbles): Trevor Espravnik (HB) 11 carries; Jaeger Gill (HB) 5 carries, 63 yards; Austin Giordano (FB) 3-42 yards, Dayton Hornickel (QB) 2 carries, 4 yards.

HOBART: Mickey Wolfe (QB) 6 of 13, 60 yards, one interception;
LOWELL : Dayton Hornickel (QB) 0-for-3, one interception, Ethan Igras (QB) 2-2, 39 yads, TD, Jaeger Gill (HB) 0-for-1, one interception.


HOBART: Chris Tyler (HB) 2 catches, 38 yards, Brandon James (WR) 2-12 yards, Jared Zanolla (HB) 2-11 yards; LOWELL: Mitch Wildman (TE) 2 catches, 39 yards, TD.

HOBART: 353 yards, 16 first downs, one turnover; LOWELL 170 yards, 5 first downs, 3 turnovers.

Logan Charters (LOWELL), Jared Zanolla (HOBART), Brandon James (HOBART).

Fumble recoveries:
Brandon James (HOBART).

LOWELL (09-23-2016) This is the earlier Lowell-Hobart game from seven weeks ago. And it wasn't as close as the final score indicated. The Brickies out-gained Lowell 353-170 and ran 61 plays from scrimmage to just 25 for Lowell. Hobart led 18-6 with 5:27 to play and that could easily have been the final score.

But it must be said that Lowell should have led 7-0 at the half. Nick Ray's 85-yard TD run with 1:50 left in the second quarter probably does not happen if Lowell star safety Jordan Jusevitch (injured and unavailable) had been in the game. Hobart's 205-pound fullback Nick Ray carried the ball 28 times. Eight of his runs resulted in first downs and two became touchdowns and he would have had more had he not left with a minor injury early in the fourth quarter.

This was a sign post game for both sides. Hobart was coming off a 55-28 loss to Andrean and this win erased that. They have not been stopped since that night, when they won game one of the Brickies' present 7-game winning streak. The 18-12 Hobart win was also Lowell's last loss. Since this night, Lowell has been a freight train going downhill, winning six consecutive games by 14 points or more and outscoring three sectional foes by the combined score of 156-22.

This game begged for a rematch for a couple of reasons and that rematch comes this Friday night.

HOBART Update:

Hobart has won three playoff games by a combined score of 113-49, including a 35-14 rout of 9th-ranked New Prairie (9-3) last week. QB Mickey Wolfe (70 of 153, 1,163 yards, 13 TDs) was 8-of-17 for 118 yards last week. The Brickies have lost only to LaPorte (9-2) and Andrean (5-6). Place kicker Alex Cantos is 35 of 37 on extra points and he has booted four field goals, including a 38-yarder.

For what it's worth, the last eight teams to play Hobart have scored at least two touchdowns. Hobart has won seven of those games. This is Hobart's first 10-win season since they were 10-2 in 2006, a season that ended in a 31-28 loss to Lowell. Hobart's last regional title was in 1996, a year they lost to Cathedral in the 4A state title game.

FB-LB - Nick Ray (6-0, 210) Senior:
Nick Ray is Hobart's best player. On offense, he has run 200 times for 1,411 yards, nine 100-yard games and 18 touchdowns. On defense, Ray has been in on 84 tackles including 12 tackles for loss and Nick would have more yards from scrimmage if he hadn't been used predominately on defense in some games. Ray has 2,453 career yards gained on 331 carries, a 7.4 yard career average.
Not that it will matter Friday, but Nick holds the discus record at Hobart as well: 179 feet, 7 inches. Ray, who carried 19 times for 108 yards last week, has surprising speed. He is one of the premier athletes in this area and the one player Lowell must stop this Friday.

WR-DB - Brandon James (5-9 ,155):
Brandon James is another two-way player who is rarely off the field. James has caught 34 passes for 544 yards and seven touchdowns on offense and he has 34 tackles and four interceptions on defense. James has also run back 12 kickoffs for a 30.8 yard average. If Brandon James, who caught six passes for two TDs last week, doesn't make any big plays on a Friday night, Hobart's probably not winning.

WR- Jared Zanolla (5-10, 175) Senior:
Jared Zanolla is also al over the place for the Brickies. On offense, he's carried the ball 64 times for 483 yards as a wingback. Jared has caught 24 passes for 443 yards and four touchdowns. On defense, he's been in on 35 tackles and grabbed three interceptions. Last week, Zanolla carried 19 times for 114 yards in the 35-14 win at New Prairie. Like James, Jared Zanolla usually makes a significant play every Friday.

LOWELL Update:

Lowell has won six games in a row after a 2-4 start and they have scored at least 30 points in all six games. This is their third consecutive rematch game. Lowell has defeated Morton twice (33-6 and 49-2) and they have beaten Munster twice (41-10 and 42-14). Lowell has allowed 145 points in 12 games, a 12.1 point per game average. Quietly, Lowell, known for decades as having a 99% rushing offense, has diversified. Lowell QBs have thrown 23 touchdown passes the last two season (25 games) and have completed 112 of 227 passes for 1,831 yards the last two years. That's not a lot, but the Devils' record is 20-5 in those games. But this late in the year as the temperatures fall and the night winds wail, expect Lowell to go back to hard core run game.

RB - Trevor Espravnick (5-11, 184) Senior:

Espravnik carried 34 times for 217 yards and three touchdowns last week against Munster and he's up to 1,574 yards on 243 carries (24 TDs) this season. In the post-season, Espravnik has 78 carries for 529 yards and nine touchdowns. How much is he worn down? Trevor has run 243 times in 12 games which is a lot, but it's only 20 times a game. In 13 games last season, Ike James ran the ball 347 times. In 134 games in 2013, Ike ran the ball 319 times. Nobody carries the ball 243 times in 12 games and doesn't get beaten up. But those carries that were 'saved' earlier seem to be functioning near full power in the final month of the season.

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. Brandon Grubbe (2008) 405 carries, 2,345 yards
4. Michael Pickett (1994) 339-2,256 yards
5. Toby Goetz (2004) 276-1,939 yards
6. Ike James (2015) 347-1,931 yards
7. Brandon Grubbe (2008) 315 carries, 1,831 yards
8. Matt Pernick (1996) 229-1,827 yards
9. George Fields (2012) 277-1,811 yards
10. Michael Pickett (1993) 273-1,687 yards
11. Brandon Grubbe (2007) 281-1,675 yards
12. Trevor Espravnik (2016) 243 carries, 1,674 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) 2000-1,382 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. Sean Anderson (2001) 242-1,048 yards
22. Nick Holley (1997) 131-1,014 yards

From the USA-365 'research center', if you've read this list in the past, you'll notice that Brandon Grubbe's 2008 season (315 carries, 1,831 yards) has been added this week. It had been left out because the 'research center' isn't perfect. Also, the total rushing yardage for Lowell's tailback the last three years is 6,016 yards, more than Brandon Grubbe's 5,923 yards in three seasons from 2007 to 2009. The 'research center' reports that the only player who has started and played regularly at the same position on offense the last three seasons is fullback Austin Giordano, who has been the lead blocker. Like Paul Harvey used to say (kids ask your grandpa who Paul Harvey was), "Now you know the 'rest of the story."

QB-LB - Ethan Igras (5-8, 163) Sophomore:

Ethan Igras completed 5-of-10 passes for 144 yards and two TDs last week in the sectional championship win over Munster. For the season, he is 35 of 56 for 592 yards, nine TDs and one interception. Ethan is throwing about 10 times a game, but as you can see, he has nine TDs on 35 throws. Igras began the year on defense where he has 37 tackles including seven tackles for losses, but he's not playing much defense now.

Saftey-WR - Jordan Jusevitch (6-0, 201) Junior:
Jordan was in on 13 tackles in last Friday's 42-14 win at Munster. The junior safety also intercepted two passes and ran one back 50 yards for a touchdown. On offense, he caught two passes for 24 yards. For the season, Jusevitch has five interceptions, three fumble recoveries and 83 tackles. When Lowell lost to Hobart in September, Jusevitch was injured and not able to play. Obviously he's a major factor on defense. We're about to find out how much of a factor.

Cornerback-WR - Jaeger Gill (5-11, 185) Junior:
Jaeger Gill puts up 'fantasy football' numbers. Check it out. Gill has 34 carries for 323 yards (9.5 per carry). Nine catches for 248 yards (27.6 per catch). Nine punt returns for a 14.8 yard average. 13 kickoff returns for a 23.5 yard average. Hobart knows the Red Devil sprinter well and will be paying special attention Friday night.

LOWELL (8-4) at Hobart (10-2)

at 'The Brickyard' - capacity: 2,500


Sagarin computer ratings:  Lowell by 1.

LOWELL- One point (actually it's more than one but less than 2) is basically an even game, despite the fact that Hobart won the earlier meeting by six. Both teams are on long winning streaks. Hobart defeated Griffith, but lost to Andrrean. Lowell defeated Andrean but lost to Griffith. There's not a lot to choose from here.


LOWELL (11-11-2016) This may be a higher scoring a game than it was the first time. I think this night comes down to whether Lowell can stop Nick Ray and early on, they won't be able to. I think Ray scores the game's first TD, giving the Brickies a 7-0 lead.

Jordan Jusevitch, who has only touched the ball on offense 47 times, will grab a short pass and break a long TD to tie the game late in the first quarter. The Devils get an interception from Jaeger Gill and a short Jake Post field goal gives the Devils a 10-7 lead, but a long run by Jared Zanolla puts the Brickies back ahead 14-10.

Lowell gets a long kickoff return touchdown from Gill to take a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter. As the second half goes on, the Devils begin to run the ball successfully. Trevor Espravnik's rushing TD late in the third period extends the lead to 24-14. Late in the game, a Jusevitch interception leads to another TD by Espravnik and Hobart's rushing success diminishes later in the game.

Watching the first game, Hobart never let Lowell get the ball. That won't happen a second time. Hobart's goal was to win the first sectional since the 90s. They'd like to go on, but the sectional was the biggest landmark goal. The Devils expected to win the sectional and are deeply motivated to win the regional after bitter losses at this exact point in the last two state tournaments. Lowell has waited 12 months for this Friday night.

LOWELL 31, Hobart 14


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Revised: November 10, 2016 .