Week 3 -  Football Game of the Week Preview

4A Kankakee Valley (1-1)
at 4A Lowell (0-2)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Kankakee Valley has thrown the ball 40 times in the Kougars' first two games. We'll see if the Kougars can bank on their new-found passing attack Friday night when they visit the Devils in Lowell. (Photo by Mark Smith)


When:  Friday, Sept. 2, 2016

Where:  Lowell High School  - 2501 E. Commercial AVE. (3 miles west of I-65 on US Rt. 2), Lowell, Indiana.

Tickets:  $6

Kickoff:   7:00 p.m.
TV/Radio/Internet: WTMK (88.5) FM live coverage, live updates of all local scores all night on WLPR (89.1) FM.

Enrollment: Kankakee Valley - 1,094; LOWELL - 1,187.

WEATHER: I was wrong here last week saying it would be cool and dry for week two. It was neither. But the USA-365 'Weather Center' insists that it will be cooler this Friday. Highs in the low-70s and mid-game temperatures in the mid-60s, where we need it for football. Now, the 'weather center' also predicted that Jamaica would win the downhill skiing gold medal at the last winter Olympics so you can be excused for having little faith in what you read here weather wise. With that said, after seemingly 99 days of mid-80s with high humidity, the forecast is for Friday is for temperatures in the upper-60s for the third week of the season.

PARKING: Kankakee Valley usually brings a good group of fans to Lowell. This is a rivalry game (the Milk Jug is on the line) and, other than the game with Rensselaer, this is the shortest trip KV fans have to make to see a road game. The stands were not filled to capacity last Friday for Portage-Lowell and I think the consistent heat had something to do with it. Lowell's 0-2 start probably won't affect the home crowd and it could encourage a few more visitors from Jasper County.

WHAT's AT STAKE: Here is the opening game of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) season. A Lowell win reinvents them as league title favorites, but a KV win shakes everything up. In a year when The Devils and perennial power Andrean have shown some weakness early, the Kougars have to see this as their chance to step up to the top. Lowell leads the series 22-4 and the 17-7 KV win at Lowell four years ago broke a 27-year Lowell win streak. Kankakee Valley has won the last two times they have come to Lowell, getting their hands on the 'Milk can', the 'old farm equipment-turned-traveling trophy' that goes to the winner of this matchup. Usually this game means more to KV than it does to Lowell. Not this time. The Devils will be motivated not so much by a worn out piece of dairy equipment, but by the fear of going 0-3 for the second time in three years.

The HISTORY: Jasper and Newton counties (the same thing until the mid-1800s) have always, to me, been retarded in their growth because of what they were originally. The movement of glaciers left the area well south of Lake Michigan as fresh water marsh land.  The Grand Kankakee Marsh, the so called "Everglades of the North," which includes all the DeMotte area, was once the purest wetlands in North America. It overflowed with animals, fish and vegetation to the extent that many from all over the country came to hunt and fish there. The watery marsh left very little area that could be inhabited or farmed. DeMotte is said to be 'elevated' about 600 feet above sea level. In the early 1900s, in the spirit of progress, the marsh land (almost all of Jasper County) was drained to allow for more farmers and homes. They basically channeled all the water into the Kankakee River. There is a great locally produced Lakeshore Public TV documentary about the marsh, what it was like and what happened to it.

Aside from the crime of ruining 500,000 acres of pure and fertile grounds with almost endless wildlife, the draining of the Marsh began the population growth of Jasper County later than it did in places to the north. I think that's why Jasper and Newton Counties are so lightly populated today. That was the Marsh in the 1800s. When the railroad came through in 1882, it opened up the few settlers in the marsh area to sell the plentiful animal goods, pelts, crops, lumber and even hay easily found in the area to folks in Chicago, by railroad through Momence, Illinois. After the great Chicago Fire in 1871, much of the burned area was reportedly rebuilt using lumber from the Kankakee Marsh area.

That's why DeMotte is where it is. It was a stop on the railroad on the way to Illinois. DeMotte is a town of 3,800. Wheatfield, a "suburb" of DeMotte, had 853 people at the last census. As someone who has worn out several vehicles driving around to high schools, the Jasper county areas around where Rensselaer and Kankakee Valley are have always been fascinating to me when you see how quiet and open they still are and imagine what a Noah's Ark of nature they must have once been.

In the 1980s, I remember the DeMotte area as being predicted to be a booming residential area, as, I'd guess, those responsible for the the draining of the marsh, eventually envisioned. Thirty years ago, the 1986 enrollment of Kankakee Valley high was listed as 869 by the IHSAA. The 2016 enrollment for KV is 1,110. The 1980 population of DeMotte was listed (according to the census) at 2,559 and the 2010 population (the census is taken every 10 years) was listed as about 3,814. The area is growing like Lowell (5,827 in 1980 to 9,276 in 2010) but its hardly getting a flood of residents like Schererville (13,000 in 1980 to 29,000 in 2010) and Crown Point (16,000 in 1980 to 29,000 in 2010) are.

Maybe it is yet to happen. Look at it this way. As of 2010, Lake County was a 626-square mile area with nearly a half million (496,000) residents. Jasper County is a 561-square mile area with about 33,500 residents. There's a lot of wide open spaces.

Kankakee Valley high school is a 1970 consolidation of DeMotte and Wheatfield high schools in Jasper County. There is no record of Lowell ever playing DeMotte or Wheatfield, possibly because Wheatfield and DeMotte played 8-man football prior to 1965 due to a lack of students. But I'd be very surprised if Lowell teams, in some way (JV or freshmen) didn't compete with their neighbors to the south.

Lowell and Kankakee Valley are a probably more similar than is Lowell and any school in the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) is. They are neighbors and rivals and Lowell's presence was probably why KV wanted to be in the NCC (they joined in 2007) when the DeMotte area really isn't that similar to the home territory of anyone else in that league.

The 'Distant Replay'

Lowell defense shuts down Wilson, beats KV

Team 1 2 3 4 F
Kankakee Valley (8-2) 0 0 0 6 6
LOWELL (5-5) 0 7 0 17 24

Friday, October 20, 2006, 47 degrees in  Lowell, 4A Sectional 9 Quarterfinal

1st Qtr No scoring.
2nd Qtr
LOWELL (7-0) Max Znika, 43-yard run.  53 yards, 4 plays. David Lang kick. 8:22 left. 
3rd QtrNo scoring.
4th Qtr
LOWELL (14-0) Steffan Peck, 50-yard punt return.  Lang kick.  9:31 left.
LOWELL (17-0) Doug Lang, 20-yard field goal.  After Ben Rigby recovered Dustin Wilson's fumble on the kickoff.  7:40 left
LOWELL (24-0)  Jeff Barker, 23-yard run.  33-yard drive, 3 plays.  Lang kick.  5:01 left.
KANKAKEE VALLEY (24-6)  Dustin Wilson, 12-yard run.  75 yard drive, 4 plays.  Pass failed.  2:54 left

TURNOVERS:   KV (2);      LOWELL (0)
TOTAL YARDS:  KV - 170      LOWELL - 332 yards

KV RUSHING (33-98 yards, TD)  Kevin O'Neal (FB) 9-45 yards; Alex Byers (QB) 13-42 yards; Dustin Wilson (HB) 11-11 yards, TD.

LOWELL RUSHING (48-304 yards)  Max Znika (HB) 33-223 yards, TD; Steffan Peck (HB) 12-44 yards; Josh Kuiper (QB) 1-13 yards; Lukas Palmer (WR) 1-1 yard; Jeff Barker (TE) 1-23 yards, TD.

LOWELL PASSING:  Josh Kuiper (QB) 1-2, 28 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs   
KV PASSING: Alex Byers (QB) 6-12, 72 yards, INT; Dustin Wilson (HB) 0-1, 0 yards

- Dustin Wilson (HB) 5-55 yards; Ryan Boezeman (WR) 1-17 yards
LOWELL - Jeff Barker (TE) 1-28 yards


LOWELL: This was one of the biggest games in the KV-Lowell series because it was a playoff game matching Lowell's defending state champions against KV and track star Dustin Wilson, who had scored 33 touchdowns in the nine game regular season. It was senior Max Znika carrying 33 times for 223 yards that was the No. 2 highlight. The No.1 highlight was the Lowell defense holding Wilson to a career low 11 yards on 11 carries. The only way the Kougars could get the ball to their scoring star was by throwing him short passes. But Wilson didn't get to the end zone until the Devils led 24-0. KV would end the season 8-2 and they had five consecutive losing seasons after that until coach Brad Stewart turned a 2-8 team in 2011 into an 8-2 team in 2012. Lowell would defeat KV, Gary Roosevelt and Hobart to win the 2006 Class 4A Sectional 17 title before losing in regional play 33-14 to Concord. The next three seasons (2007 to 2009), Lowell would go 39-5, the best three-year record in school history.


The Kougars have split their first two, topping county rival Rensselaer 21-14, but losing last week 26-24 at Morton. That was an odd game. Morton led 26-0 before KV scored four times in the second half, the last one, a 39-yard field goal by Milan Dezelich with 3:00 left. I don't understand why KV did not go for the first down from the 32-yard line, especially as quarterback Nick Schoonveld had already completed 16 of 31 for 178 yards and 2 TDs.

The Kougars did give up 270 yards rushing to Morton, including 189 on 18 carries by Morton senior QB Tevin Armstrong. That was a week after they gave up 304 yards on 37 carries to Rensselaer. That's a big 'red flag' for Kankakee Valley going into a game against Lowell. KV Kicker Milan Dezelich boomed a 39-yard field goal against Morton last week and he is 5-for-5 on extra points so far this year. Wide receiver Sammy Parker (5-9, 150) may be tiny, but he has caught seven passes for 130 yards. KV only averaged 17 points a game last season and now they've posted 20 and 24 in the first two games. This isn't your father's Kankakee Valley offense.

QB - Nick Schoonveld (6-2, 180) Junior:
Schoonveld is 12 of 25 for 266 yards and 3 TDs (one interception) so far. He's also run for two short TDs. Nick is an athletic run-pass double threat. I don't know how much KV runs the option anymore, because Schoonveld is different from the kind of QBs KV has had. He can roll out and throw right or left. Not an overly strong arm, but he gets his feet in position and obviously can make plays. Lowell is a difficult team to throw against, but Schoonveld might be the best passer they've seen so far.

OT-DE - Gavin Bakker (6-4, 260) Senior:
KV's team captain. Bakker is a basketball player with the strength to drive defenders backward and the mobility to rush the passer. The video highlights of Gavin online are all about his blocking ability. Bakker looks like the anchor of the Kougar line and defenders on short yardage plays will have to deal with him.

HB-CB - Donald Nannenga (5-11, 165) Sophomore:
Nannenga (27 carries, 116 yards) obviously isn't a power runner, but he broke loose for an 82-yard TD run against Rensselaer. On defense, where he is considered a good future prospect at cornerback, Nannenga has 12 tackles and he is the KV punt returner. The fact that a sophomore would even get 27 carries in two games indicates to me what KV coaches think of Donald Nannenga.

LOWELL Update:

Lowell could be 2-0, but they aren't and they're facing a team that has defeated them in Lowell the last two times they've played KV. So it's been a tough week at practice, I'm sure. The Devils haven't scored a point in the first quarter or the fourth quarter in two games. Fourth quarter scoring can be deceptive, but you can't have a winning team if you don't score early. I thought the Devils improved on both sides of the ball from week one to week two, but the offense only had one way to go after the 86-yard total offense in the 9-3 loss at Crown Point. Lowell's defense only allowed 16 of Portage's 28 points last week, two TDs were scored on turnovers. But new QB Dayton Hornickel is a decent 12 of 21 for 114 yards. He has been sacked 11 times and there's a lot of factors there.

It's no secret that Lowell is trying to develop depth, because a lot of their skill position players play offense and defense, but they have been outplayed in the fourth quarter so far. A lot of that is facing two Class 6A teams with big rosters, but that's an excuse. Lowell has lost their last two home games by one point.

There's a tendency to want to make changes when you lose games, but one point losses and overtime losses? Again, Lowell has a recent history (2005, 2006, 2014) of starting the season 0-2 or 1-3 and winning the sectional in November. I don't think there's going to be any major non-injury personnel changes from last week.

TE-DE - Blake Jansky (6-0, 185) sophomore:
Lowell has a strong sophomore class and here comes another varsity rookie. Blake Janskey's hit on Portage QB Anthony Maceo produced sophomore Ethan Igras' interception touchdown last week. An undersized defensive end at this point, Jansky has four tackles for losses in just two games and has been in on 13 tackles overall. The Devils will need him rushing the passer and chasing KV's speedy John Nannanga this Friday.

TE-LB - Mitch Wildman (6-1, 182) Junior:
Last year Wildman was in on 45 tackles. This year, in two games, Mitch has 12 tackles and eight assists in just two games. Wildman and Jansky both start defensively and Mitch seems to get a little more playing time on the offensive side of the ball. He caught his first two career varsity passes for 25 yards last week against Portage while being in on nine stops.

FB-LB - Austin Giordano (5-10, 197) Senior:
Giordano didn't play in the loss at Crown Point, but he made an impact in his return last week against Portage with 10 tackles and a forced fumble. The surprise came on the offensive side of the ball where Giordano caught five passes as a kind of a large slot receiver and picked up 37 yards. Austin grabbed a grand total of one pass last season. His pass catching prowess aside, Giordano is a key part of the Devils' defense.



At 'The Inferno; Capacity: 2,500. 


Sagarin computer ratings:  Lowell by 25.


LOWELL - Lowell is still rated 12th in the weekly Indiana Football Coaches Association poll so you and I are not the only ones who still think they're pretty good, even though they're still pretty winless. I don't think this spread is accurate because KV is going to score. The gap probably comes from the fact that Lowell has played two Class 6A schools while KV has defeated Class 3A Rensselaer 21-14 and lost to 4A Morton 28-26. For the record, the Sagarin ratings still have Lowell four points better than Portage and even with Crown Point, two teams they have lost to.


LOWELL (09-02-2016) This should be a spirited matchup because KV sees a game they can win and Lowell sees a game they must win. I think Lowell finally gets off to a fast start, running the football for an opening possession TD, a run by Trevor Espravnik. I'm looking an early interception by the Devils' Tucker Greenholt and a TD run from Austin Giordano.

KV strikes back on a screen pass TD to Donald Nannenga in the second quarter to cut the lead to 14-7. But Lowell mounts another rushing drive and a sneak from Dayton Hornickel ups the lead to 20-7 at the half.

KV commits to the air, but an interception from Jordan Jusevitch sets up a second Espravnik TD. KV's QB Nick Schoonveld runs for a TD to close the gap to 27-14, but a third Lowell interception ends any Kougar hopes. Hornickel runs for a second TD in the fourth quarter and Lowell adds a late TD by Tyler Wildman.

KV's new passing attack will help them against some teams, but not Lowell, which has good pass rushers and they are well equipped in the secondary. The final score won't reflect the relative merits of the two teams as much as it will the fact that this is a bad matchup for the Kougars.

LOWELL 41, Kankakee Valley 14

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Revised: September 01, 2016 .