Week 15 -  Football Game of the Week Preview

4A No. 1 Lowell (14-0) vs.
No. 9 East Central (11-3)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Last time Lowell was in the Lucas Oil Stadium, the Devils met top-ranked Evansville Reitz. Nine years later, Lowell is the No. 1 team taking on East Central Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Mark Smith)

What: The 45th Indiana State Football Championships. Game 5. The Class 4A championship.

2:30 p.m. (Lowell time) 3:30 p.m. (Fort Wayne time) on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.

Lucas Oil Stadium, downtown Indianapolis.

WTMK (88.5) FM and WJOB (1230) AM live. This game will also be on line at IHSAA-TV.org. The last three times Lowell was in the finals, Lakeshore public TV carried the game for all in NW Indiana. The situation has deteriorated since them. FOX Sports Indiana will carry Lowell-East Central live to most of the state. But NOT Northwest Indiana. NWI is in the 'Chicago market" and FOX Sports Indiana can't be shown in the Chicago Market. I don't think the game is available on cable or on satellite. Folks in Lafayette and South Bend can watch, but folks in Lowell can't. I know this is not much, but a replay of Lowell-EC can be seen on FOX Sports.

Tickets: $15 per day (there are 3 games each on Friday and Saturday.) Kids under the age of five get in free. Gates open at 11 a.m. EST every day. You can stay all day if you want to. It's warm inside.

Enrollment: East Central - 1,304; LOWELL - 1,210

The second best thing about getting to the state finals is that you play your final game indoors. Most boys would pay to play a game on the home field of the Indianapolis Colts. For fans, this is also a dream. You sit indoors. You can take your coat off. If you are far from the field, you can watch replays on the giant video screen. Kids can run around in the aisles. It's 70 degrees inside. There's food. And you get to see three games, if you choose to. If you are from Lowell, or if you play varsity football, you should go. You really should.

PARKING: Here's what you probably need to remember. There is a lot of parking at Lucas Oil Stadium obviously. But you will probably have to pay at least $10 to park. If you're willing to walk a few blocks, there are streets where you can park for free, especially if you get there early. But if you want to park in that big, fancy parking garage that's part of the stadium? That will cost you. Another bit of useful advice: Remember where you parked.

East Central is playing for the school's second varsity football state championship. The Trojans won the title in 1994 and they are in the title game for the fourth time. Bishop Dwenger defeated East Central 27-3 in the 2015 state championship game.

Lowell is also playing for the school's second state championship and they are also in the 4A final game for the fourth time. Lowell defeated Roncalli 28-27 in 1995 and they lost twice to (Evansville) Reitz 33-14 and 23-9 in 2007 and 2009.

East Central is in St. Leon, Indiana which, in the last census, in 2010, had 678 people. It's always been this small. The 1900 census had St. Leon with 369 residents. St. Leon is in Dearborn County and the county is listed as having 50,000 people. So there's a lot of people there, just not in St. Leon.

The only other schools in Dearborn County are Class 3A Lawrenceburg and Class 4A South Dearborn. Lawrenceburg, a state finalist in 2016, was 11-2 this year and lost 15-14 to EC in the 'Skyline Chili' Classic. Folks think a lot of chili in Cincinnati.

I don't know what East Central people think of this, but EC is considered a suburban Cincinnati team. There's significant coverage of Lawrenceburg and South Dearborn in the Cincinnati media because they are so close to the Ohio state line. Lawrenceburg and East Central is big rivalry, just renewed this year after they didn't play for a few years.

East Central is a long time power. When Hobart won the 1993 state 4A title, the team they beat was East Central. Lowell coach Keith Kilmer called East Central 'The Lowell of the South" and there's a lot of similarities. They've won 18 sectionals, eight regionals, four semistates and one state title.

Lowell fans know that Lowell has won four semistates and one state title. EC isn't surrounded by two public school giants like Lowell (Lake Central and Crown Point) is and there aren't two dozen football playing schools in Dearborn County like there are in Lake County. But, from great distance, East Central seems like a football program with a lot of tradition and pride just like Lowell has.

This particular EC team has now won three sectionals and three regionals in a row. This 'class' watched EC lose the state title game as sophomores in 2015 and lose the semistate as juniors. Reportedly, the excitement about football has returned from the glory days (EC was 14-0 and state champs in 1994).

Talk is there could be as many as 10,000 folks from Dearborn County in the Lucas Oil Arena by mid-afternoon Saturday to watch the local boys go for the title.

The 'distant replay'
Team 1 2 3 4 F
LOWELL   (11-4) 0 7 7 14 28 
Roncalli   (12-3) 7 14 6 0 27

Saturday, Nov. 26, 2005,  Class 4A, State Championship at RCA Dome, Indianapolis, IN.

1st Qtr (RONCALLI 7-0) - Chris Merkel, 4-yard run. 42-yard drive, 9 plays. Chad Hert kick.  6:57 left.

2nd Qtr(LOWELL 7-7) - Scott Gray, 8-yard run. 68-yard drive, 5 plays. David Lang kick.  6:11 left.
(RONCALLI 14-7) - Andy Barkocy, 64-yard pass from Paul Corsaro. Hert kick.  5:14 left.
(RONCALLI 21-7) - Bill Perry, 7-yard pass from Corsaro, Paul Hert kick.  2:28 left.
3rd Qtr(LOWELL 14-21)  - Scott Gray, 1-yard run.  70 yard drive, 15 plays.  Lang kick. 5:04 left.
(RONCALLI 27-14) - Brandon Axum, 24-yard run. Kick blocked by Jimmy Ritter. 71-yard drive, 9 plays. 1:25 left
4th Qtr(LOWELL 21-27) - Jeff Clemens, 20-yard pass from Jimmy Ritter. 65 yard drive, 10 plays. Lang kick. 9:12 left.
(LOWELL 28-27) - Scott Gray, 4-yard run.  28-yard drive, 4 plays. Lang kick. 5:51 left.


Team Statistics












Passes Att-Comp-Int






Fumble Returns-Yards



Punt Returns-Yards



Kickoff Returns-Yards



Interception Returns-Yards



Punts (Number-Avg)









Possession Time



Third-Down Conversions

6 of 12

5 of 9

Fourth-Down Conversions

3 of 4

1 of 2

Red-Zone Scores-Chances



Sacks By: Number-Yards





LOWELL (52-267 yards) Scott Gray 19-153; Steffan Peck 8-54; Jeff Clemens 11-46; Jimmy Ritter 11-18
RONCALLI (36-150) Chris Merkel 22-109; Nick Barton 2-23; Brandon Axum 2-20; Kirk Cahill  2-12; Paul Corsaro (8-minus-14).



Jimmy Ritter 7-of-13, 67 yards, one TD, 0 INTs.
Paul Corsaro (R) 7-of-10, 120 yards, 2 TDs, one INT.



LOWELL - Jeff Clemens (L) 3-41 yards;  Steffan Peck (L) 2-8; Chris Lampa (L) 1-11;
Joe Wojcik  1-7.   

RONCALLI - Andy Barkocy (R) 1-64 yards; Kirk Cahill (R) 1-13 yards; Eric Duncan (R) 1-13; 

Joe Britner (R) 1-11; Chris Merkel (R) 1-7; Bill Perry (R) 1-7; Rory Babb (R) 1-5.



LOWELL-Josh Kuiper 1-18..



Gray (L) one;  Corsaro (R) one

LOWELL-Chris Lampa 2, Jeff Barker;  RONCALLI-Brandon Roberts


LOWELL - CLEMENS, Jeff 10; KUIPER, Josh 7; KING, Ryan 4; GRAY, Scott 3; LAMPA, Chris 4; WINEL, Ethan 1; TRAVIS, Jed 2;
DOWLING, Mike 1; McGEE, Eric 2; BARKER, Jeff 2; LANG, David 1;
STANIEWICZ, Mike 1; PECK, Steffan 1; LUNSFORD, Mark 1. 

RONCALLI - PERRY, Bill 7; WILSON, Steve 4; BONICH, Nick 6; LALLY, Chris 4; AGRESTA, Jordan 7;
MERKEL, Nick 6; AXUM, Brandon 6; ROBERTS,Brandon 4; PETERMAN, Tyler 3;
DANHAUER, Kyle 3; JENKINS, Josh 3 LAWSON, Lyle 2; DUNCAN, Eric 0; BABB,
Rory 1 KOLISEK, Jake 1; BOVA, Matt 0; MASENGALE, Pete 0.


INDIANAPOLIS (11-26-2005) I'm older than dirt. I remember football games with no overtime and the days when a 5-hour energy drink was a Coca-Cola. But when I am asked what's the greatest game I ever saw, it takes about five seconds for me to answer.

In the years that have passed there has grown somewhat of a mythology around this day. The suggestion that people outside the Lowell school building expected the Devils to hang in with Indianapolis Catholic super power Roncalli in the 2005 Class 4A state championship game.

That is not the way it was. In the previous decade, the Roncalli Rebels ruled Class 4A. They had won consecutive state titles in 2002, 2003 and 2004. In the 20 years from 1985-2004, Roncalli won eight state championships.

2005 Roncalli didn't blow teams away. The Rebels just stopped them when they had to. But it was who Roncalli beat that year that stood out. In the 2005 sectional semifinals Roncalli defeated Indy superpower Cathedral (10-2) by four points 16-12. In the regional, the Rebels had defeated Greenwood (11-2) with the former Merrillville coach Rick Wimmer 17-7. In the 4A southern semistate, Roncalli defeated Jasper (11-2) and Hall-of-Fame coach Jerry Brewer 14-9. No one in Indiana state history had ever won four consecutive state championships. On this November day 12 years ago, Roncalli was just four quarters away.

On the other side of the field was Lowell. But not the Lowell we follow today. This was the Lowell team that started the 2005 season with a 1-4 record. Ben Geffert, who is now coach of Griffith, played on the Panthers team that shut out 2005 Lowell 21-0. Chris Skinner, who is now Andrean's head coach, played on the top-ranked Class 3A 59er team that shut out 2005 Lowell 7-0 in 2005.

Somehow, Lowell got back on track. The Devils rallied to beat Concord 30-23 in the regional and they rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat Fort Wayne South 16-14 in the semistate.

Not only had Lowell never played in a state championship game in any team sport. But in the recorded history of Lowell football the Devils had never even played a game south of Monticello and here they were walking out to meet one of the giants of Indiana high school football. The famed "Indiana Cathlolic school football mafia." Teams like Cathedral and Bishop Chatard and Roncalli that have dominated the state tournament since it began in 1973.

Going into that game against Lowell, Roncalli had won 23 playoff games in a row and the I remember trying to explain to a couple of Indy people where Lowell even was. Most knew it was somewhere south of Gary. That was about it.

The game is well documented. Lowell was down 27-14 at the start of the fourth quarter and Roncalli had a 4th-and-1 at midfield. Coach Kirk Kennedy went to midfield and had a one-way conversation with the defense. Lowell stopped the Rebels and began to rally.

My most vivid memory of the actual game to this day is Josh Kuiper's interception was with the score 27-21 with about six minutes left in the game. The wave of noise from the Red Devil stands behind me was almost a scream and it made me turn and look at the Lowell people on their feet. To be honest, it was the first time all day that I thought Lowell could win this game.

When Lowell got the lead 28-27 and then sacked the Roncalli QB on fourth down with 1:12 to play, I put my hand up to my mouth in 'Oh My God' style. Everyone on the sidelines was celebrating and I was just standing there looking stunned. I remember the former long time Lowell athletic director Don Bales, who had been the football scorekeeper on the sidelines during the hard times of the 1970s and 80s, coming up to me and shaking me and saying "What's wrong, Mark? You Okay?"

"This isn't possible," I said quietly. "I can't believe this is happening."

You guys may know I'm not from Lowell and I don't have any kids who ever went to school there. I actually started covering the team in 1998 when they were 2-8. Lowell people, like many towns, think that their Lowell boys should always win because they are "their boys."

But, to an outsider like me, Lowell is a relatively small 4A public school that has won 14 sectionals, eight regionals and four semistates in the last 26 seasons with giant football playing schools Lake Central and Crown Point on their borders.

Other than the coaches and players and you people who continue to root for them, there is no reason Lowell has done what they have done. They have no built-in advantages. I don't have a video copy of the Lowell-Roncalli game anymore. I set my VCR to record the game while I was in Indianapolis. I gave the copy away to someone who wanted it and I never got it back. I'm thinking about trying to buy a copy this Saturday. The IHSAA sells state finals videos.

Lowell returned to the state title game in 2007 and 2009, but they did not win, even though those Devil teams might have had better teams in those years than then they did when they beat Roncalli, a school that won the Rebels' ninth state title last year, going 15-0.

I've written this before, but my favorite memory surrounding the 2005 game occurred on the drive home. When you go to any state finals, the IHSAA gives you a sideline pass and I don't take it off until I get home.

So when I got off I-65 somewhere to get some gas or something, a lady saw my pass and asked, "Were you at the state finals?"

"Yeah", I said.

"Do you have any kids who played?," she asked. I said "No."

Just trying to be nice, she asked, "Well, did your team win?"

I remember hesitating and smiling. I could have explained what I was doing there, but I just said:

"Yeah, my team won."


She said, "That's great".

Twelve years later, it still is.

(4A) East Central (11-3)
11-3 (2016), 12-3 (2015), 8-4 (2014), 4-7 (2013)
Coach Justin Roden (5th year) 46-20

8-18 (W) 15-14 at (3A) Lawrenceburg (11-2)
8-25 (L) 24-27 (Division II) Harrison, Ohio (8-3)
9-1 (L) 0-13 (Division II) Cincinnati (Ohio) LaSalle (10-3)
9-8 (W) 41-36 (4A) at Franklin County (6-5)
9-15 (W) 51-10 (3A) Batesville (7-4)
9-22 (W) 34-0 (4A) South Dearborn (3-8)
9-29 (W) 50-0 (4A) Connersville (4-6)
10-6 (W) 51-0 (3A) Greensburg (4-7)
10-13 (L) 14-31 (3A) at Bishop Chatard (7-6)

Class 4A Sectional 23
10-20 (W) 48-6 at Edgewood (3-7)
10-27 (W) 51-0 South Dearborn (3-8)
11-3 (W) 24-0 Silver Creek (9-3)

4A Regional
11-10 (W) 35-13 No. 3 Evansville Central (11-2)

4A Semistate

11-17 (W) 27-14 No. 18 Greenwood (11-3)

4A State Finals - 3:30 p.m. EST
11-15 (Sat) vs. No. 1 LOWELL (14-0) 3:30 p.m. (EST)


SCHEDULE: The game that jumps out at you is the 22-point victory over No. 3 Evansville Central. That was a big deal. Evansville Central was 9-2 last year and I'd bet they had plans on going a lot further. The playoff path for East Central was similar to Lowell's. The Trojans defeated two teams with losing records and have now topped three big winning teams. I'm impressed that EC went to Ohio to find tough teams to play and didn't just beat up the teams close to them. Those two early season losses probably benefitted them. With that said, other than Bishop Chatard, I don't know much for sure about the teams EC has played.


East Central is obviously a good defensive team with five shutouts in 14 games. The Trojans have allowed only 23 total points in five post-season games. Linebacker Logan Moser (5-10, 175) has 12 tackles for loss which suggests a very aggressive player. Corner Jayden Williamson (5-10, 192) is big for that position and the fact that he's also a running back indicates he's got speed.
Linebacker Landon Foster (5-10, 170) leads the team with 78 tackles. Ken Grindling (5-11, 210) has six QB sacks to lead the Trojans. EC's statistics are relatively low indicating that they are fairly strict when they count tackles and assists.

For them to have the defense they have, these boys are making more plays than the numbers indicate. EC's base defense is listed as being a 3-4-4 but that means nothing. Lowell's base defense is listed as being a 4-2-5 but that's not always what Bishop Dwenger saw last Friday.

I'm also guessing that like Lowell, EC does not see many good passing teams. Both sides may have a revelation Saturday, because the game changes dramatically when you're playing indoors. East Central will call a couple of plays Saturday they don't call in 40-degree November winds.

EC has a boy named Caden Browndyke (5-11, 155) who may make a big difference against Lowell. Browndyke is 49 of 55 on extra points and 8-of-9 on field goals. On kickoffs, he has just two touchbacks but, again, that may change indoors. Browndyke clearly has a strong leg.

Junior quarterback Alex Maxwell (6-1, 180) is just 53 of 89 for 607 yards, but he's a good athlete. A varsity basketball player, Maxwell has run 162 times for 989 yards and 19 touchdowns. Watching very limited video, I think Maxwell throws the ball well. He has thrown just five passes combined in the last two games. But he was 11 of 16 for 179 yards in the season-opener against Lawrenceburg. Throwing is just not in East Central's game plan. At least, not until Saturday.

The top ball carrier for EC is senior Logan Storie (5-11, 175) and you have to stop him to beat the Trojans. He is not hard to find. Storie wears No. 1 and he has run 229 times for 1922 yards. The Trojans may start the game getting the ball to other people, but they won't get away from Storie for long. Logan ran 216 times for 1,832 yards last season. Storie in his career has 484 carries for 3,996 yards and 47 TDs. This will be his final high school game and there is no doubt he's running it 15-20 times against Lowell.


Storie also has 10 catches for 210 yards out of the backfield. EC's top receiver is big tight end Justin Brown (6-5, 214) who has 26 catches for 408 yards. Just when you think Storie is coming, they pull up and flip it to Brown, probably near the goal line.

EC's offensive line was all-new this year but it's been good. The Trojans had three runs of 40 yards or more against Greenwood last week. The center is senior Michael Medlock (5-10, 233) with guards Cody Bentley (6-1, 266), a sophomore and junior Hunter Tidwell (5-9, 216). Junior Cole Rosfeld (6-2, 230) is at one tackle and a big freshman Luke Collinsworth (6-5, 265) is the other. That's where this game will be decided. Can the young line of EC get a standoff against the experienced multiple fronts of Lowell?

LOWELL (14-0)
9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014), 6-4(2013)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8th season, 62-29)
Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) games in CAPS

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

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-20 (W) 41-0 Gary West Side (2-8)
10-27 (W) 35-0 at Highland (4-7)
11-4 (W) 42-7 No. 10 Griffith (10-2)

Class 4A Regional

11-11 (W) 25-20 No. 6 New Prairie (11-2)

Class 4A Semistate
11-18 (W) 21-7 at No. 8 Bishop Dwenger (10-3)

Class 4A state final game
11-26 (Sat) vs. No. 9 East Central (11-3) in the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis - 3:30 p.m. EST.


SCHEDULE: Lowell has defeated three Top-10 teams the last week, so competitively, they will be ready to take on a fourth ranked squad in East Central. Looking back. Playing Gary West Side in the 4A Sectional 17 quarterfinal may have benefitted Lowell beyond the sectional. That game was half a 'bye week' for most of the starting players. So when you needed more in the regional and semistate, the boys had it to give. And playing the semistate on Friday, as tough as it was for fans of the Devils to get to Fort Wayne late Friday, it gave Lowell an extra day of prep time (Saturday) on a holiday week. I think Lowell playing two Class 6A teams in August is the same as East Central playing two Ohio teams early in the season.

They sought out teams that were tougher and deeper than most of the teams in their league. Both Lowell and East Central have played good schedules. I don't think EC is better than the last two teams Lowell has played, but again things change indoors.

LOWELL Update:

Lowell's win over Bishop Dwenger might be misleading to East Central. In the 4A semisate game in Fort Wayne, Red Devil senior Jordan Jusevitch ran the ball 15 times for 134 yards and all three Lowell TDs. Jusevitch also caught four passes for 47 yards. But that was different from what Lowell did all season and it's unlikely that will be the offense Saturday. Playing indoors in perfect conditions, junior QB Ethan Igras (68 of 136, 1,272 yards, 13 TDs and five interceptions) is probably going to be looking to get the bal to Jaeger Gill (22 catches, 615 yards, 8 TDs), a sprinter who will be a much bigger threat than he is on a rainy night or in the wet turf in Lowell.

Not that Jusevitch won't be involved. The Lowell all-state safety leads the Devils with 14 TDs, 101 tackles and seven pass interceptions. The biggest problem playing Lowell is Gill and Jusevitch. The pair have combined for 26 TDs: 11 rush TDs, 4 kick return TDs. 10 pass receptions TDs and one interception touchdown.

The other problem playing Lowell is that if you are too concerned about Gill and Jusevitch, you give limited coverage to Igras and Tyler Wildman, who has rushed 182 times for 870 yards and 10 TDs. Fullback Cedric Cashcetta has 73 carries for 374 yards and eight TDs.

In a close game, Lowell's kicking needs to be good. They have missed 10 extra points and the Devils can't afford any of that Saturday.

Defensively, Lowell's quickness should translate well to their first game indoors. I don't think Blake Jansky (10 sacks, 20 tackles for losses) is 100%, but he's playing. Chandler Austgen at defensive tackle has 10 tackles for loss. He's double blocked sometimes. That's hard to do.

I think EC tries to run their QB and halfback as they always do, but they will challenge Lowell's strength, the secondary. Pass defense is a lot different indoors because the conditions help the passer instead of hurting him. Weather is the 12th defender and there's no weather in Lucas Oil Stadium.

New Prairie had some receivers open in the regional but couldn't hit them. That big tight end EC has may play a major role.


LOWELL (14-0) vs. East Central (11-3)

Lucas Oil Stadium - capacity 58,000


SAGARIN RATINGS: East Central by 1.

In the interest of full disclosure, Bishop Dwenger was favored by one last week and Lowell won by 14. Not knowing the exact quality of the Ohio teams EC has played, I don't know if this 'number' is accurate or not. The Devils have defeated three ranked teams in a row, but none ranked as high as the Evansville Central team East Central defeated. As always, anything less than a 3-point spread is basically an even game.



INDIANAPOLIS (11-25-2017) Most state championship games begin with mistakes or very conservative play. I don't think that will be the case Saturday. Lowell expected to get here and EC was here two years ago, albeit with a much different cast of players.

The Devils strike first on a long pass-and-run play from Ethan Igras to Jaeger Gill. EC comes back with a sustained drive. Top rusher Logan Storie ties the game with a short second quarter run.

Teams always come with a play they haven't run all year for the state title game. Let me guess. Lowell hasn't completed a pass to halfback Tyler Wildman all season. Here it comes. Out of a spread formation, Wildman gets a short toss or a shovel pass and gains big yards. Jordan Jusevitch scores on a short run for a 14-7 lead. EC kicker Caden Browndyke cuts the lead to 14-10 with a field goal.

I've noticed that local teams didn't kick or punt to Jusevitch and Gill, that out-of-the-area teams feel they can kick and cover against Lowell's top two players. I think if Gill gets a good shot at a kick return, no one will catch him. That will happen in the third quarter and the Devils will lead 20-10.

Lowell adds a late TD by Cedric Caschetta after an interception.

The Devils are a fast team that's been playing on slow surfaces or in cold weather most of the year. Both teams will play faster Saturday and defensively, Lowell was pretty fast to begin with. East Central appears somewhat similar to Bishop Dwenger and they will try everything. But Lowell has multiple personalities on offense and no opponent has yet dealt with all of them. It's been a really good year for the Devils and it will end that way.


LOWELL 27, East Central 10

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Revised: November 24, 2017 .