Week 4 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Lowell (2-1) at Clark (1-2)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Lowell's Brandon Chocholek (59) is eager to find out what play QB John Alessia is about to call. The Lowell offensive line of Chocholek, Jake Steward, Kory King, Chandler Austgen and Bryan Schantz sparked a big rushing night in last week's 38-0 win over Morton. (Photo by Mark Smith)
Lowell QB John Alessia (2), who began the season as a wide receiver, safety and punt returner, ran for a 45 yard TD on a quarterback keeper last Saturday as the Devils defeated Morton. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When: Friday, September 7, 2018

Where:  Clark High School, 119th and Davis Ave. just east of Calumet Ave (119th is the Hammond/Whiting border).

Tickets:  $6 - (for everybody).

Kickoff:    7:00 p.m.
WTMK (88.5) FM live.

Enrollment: Hammond Clark 764; LOWELL - 1,186.

WEATHER: A noticeable (and welcome) change in the weather coming on Thursday. Much cooler with highs in the low 70s. Up near Lake Michigan, we could be down in the mid 60s by the second half Friday night.


PARKING: I don’t think Clark has enough parking for a big football game, but this isn't a big game so things may work out. Clark’s only won two games in three years. But they may lure a few extra local folks out to watch the Lowell team that is still ranked in the Top-10. The Clark athletic complex is just east of Calumet Ave at about 121st Street. These are old school bleachers, folks. In contrast to the Devils’ first road game of the season, Lowell fans will know they are not at Crown Point.


WHAT's AT STAKE: Nothing. This is the game Lowell signed up for when Griffith dropped them from the varsity football schedule two years ago. Clark is a 3A school. These two cannot meet in the post-season. Obviously, this is a little too much game for Clark, which is in a down cycle of football success (lost 33 of their last 35). Lowell won 63-6 last year and I think Clark will be very happy if they come within 14 points of the Devils.


HISTORY: Clark began playing varsity football in 1933 and they’ve never had a great team. From 1991 to 1993, the Pioneers were 22-6, but they did not play the top teams in NW Indiana.

The 1977 team was 9-1, but the 1978 team was 5-5. Clark has never had an undefeated regular season in varsity football and they have only won 10 playoff games in the 45 year history of the IHSAA state tournament.

From 1935 to 1974, Clark did not play Lowell, but in the Pioneers’ first year of varsity football they only had four opponents: Lowell, Hobart, Crown Point and long-closed Hammond Tech. I can find just six meetings of Lowell and Clark with Lowell leading the series 4-2.

These schools are further away from each other than it may seem. Lowell is the southern most school in Lake County and Clark is the second closest to Lake Michigan.

Athletic team prowess at all the Hammond school are affected by the enrollment drop at Hammond schools. Hammond had 110,000 citizens in the 1950s and 60s. Now, the city has about 70,000 residents. Clark had 1,200 students in the last decade. They are under 800 now.

Like I said last week when we were talking about Morton, the city needs high school consolidation. But a new high school combining two of the four Hammond public schools probably would not include Clark, which is at the far north end of the city.

I don't think Clark will be playing Lowell for many more years. The Pioneers need to find a smaller school like Bowman Academy or Boone Grove because of the need to at least be competitive.

If your team gets beat 63-6 a lot, boys aren’t thrilled to come out for the team. Right now, Clark needs numbers.
Clark also needs to get out of 3A Sectional 25, the hands down worst sectional in this part of the state. Clark can draw a sectional quarterfinal game in Twin Lakes, 75 miles away and then can be sent to play West Lafayette (90 miles) away the next week. The only way out for the Pioneers is if they were to become a 2A school, which might happen down the line.

I think it's time for Lowell-Hanover Central talks to begin. Hanover (723 students) is almost as big (enrollment-wise) as Clark and Hanover’s greater South Shore Conference (GSSC) is shaking up the football schedule after Noll dropped varsity football for two years.

Lowell is a 4A school that begins the season with two 6A schools, so they don’t they don’t need to travel 100 miles to play some mega-school in week four.

For those who don't know, Hanover is Lowell’s sister school. Most of the Hanover school district was the Lowell school district before Hanover opened in 1967.

The two schools have never met in varsity football. Hanover did not have football from 1973 to 2012. An HC-Lowell game would be a sellout at the box office. Lowell vs. Clark (or Morton or Hammond) is some distance from a sellout every year.

(3A) Clark (1-2)
1-9 (2017), 0-10 (2016), 0-10 (2015), 4-6 (2014)
Coach Nick Testa (2nd year) 2-11 all GLAC games in CAPS

8-18 (L) 7-54 (2A) Whiting (2-0)
8-24 (W) 34-26 at (2A) Lake Station (0-3)
8-31 (L) 6-56 (4A) Highland (1-2)
9-7 (Fri) (4A) Lowell (2-1)
9-14 (Fri) (4A) HAMMOND (0-2)
9-21 (Fri) at (4A) EAST CHICAGO (2-1)
9-28 (Fri) (4A) GAVIT (0-3)
10-5 (Fri) at (4A) GARY WEST SIDE (0-3)
10-12 (Fri) (4A) MORTON (1-2)

3A Sectional 25
10-19 (Fri) vs. Calumet, Twin Lakes, Wheeler, Hanover Central, Benton Central, Andrean and West Lafayette.


CLARK Update:

HAMMOND – Obviously, Clark has allowed 136 points in three games, so the defensive front has had issues. They may simply be outmanned at the line of scrimmage. Hopefully, Clark will have about 35 boys in uniform Friday night. Clark had 33 players on the pre-season roster.

The Pioneers' only win this year was 34-26 over Lake Station and that’s how they would win any games. High scoring. Lots of big plays. Clark has a young man named Fortune Woods (6-3, 188) who is asked to do a little bit of everything. He ran six times for 170 yards against Lake Station and made 18 tackles at linebacker. Woods also intercepted a pass and ran it back for a TD.

Throwing the ball is quarterback Matt Johnson (6-2, 203), who passed for 1,700 yards and 18 TDs last fall. Clark lines up in a college style spread offense with three or four receivers on every play. Woods will line up in the slot or in the backfield and Johnson will throw or hand the ball to him quite a bit. In several highlights, Woods lines up in the slot and comes in motion before the snap.

Other than Jason Tapper (6-2, 260), the Clark lines are inexperienced or small. Freshman Trey Taylor ran a kickoff back 90 yards for a TD against Lake Station.

An inherent problem Clark would seem to have is that they throw the ball a lot because that’s what they do best. Unfortunately, that puts their smallish defense back on the field quickly. The Pioneers have few substitutes to put in. If it’s a warm night, they will wear down in the second half. There’s no way to avoid it.

(4A) LOWELL (2-1)
14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 67-30) NWC Conference games in CAPS

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

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-20 (Fri) vs. East Chicago, Griffith, Gary West Side, Morton, Gavit, Hammond or Highland.
10-27 (Fri.) sectional semifinals
11-3 (Fri) Sectional 17 championship


LOWELL Update:

Lowell was very impressive last week in the 38-0 win over Morton. The Devils' defense scored two touchdowns, while the offensive line moves the pile for 286 yards on 36 carries. Lowell has allowed just 14 points and 509 yards in three games and this is with an all-new secondary from 2017.

Senior Ethan Igras, who has a broken right hand and can't play quarterback for awhile, was in on 12 tackles last week as a safety against Morton. Senior defensive end Blake Jansky had three quarterback sacks and six tackles for losses last week.

Backup QB John Alessia ran 10 times for 85 yards and a touchdown last week and no turnovers for the Lowell offense for the first time all season.

Junior kicker Nate Gard has a successful field goal boot in every game and is 7-for-7 on extra points.

Permission to speak freely? I thought Lowell’s offense would be their strength and the defense would be questionable. The season isn’t half over, but the opposite was true until last week when both units excelled.

Lowell is ranked in the Top-10 state wide, but they are not a Top-10 Class 4A team at this point. The Devils have 44 varsity players and there are only 26 juniors or seniors in the program. There are 2A public schools that have more than 26 juniors and seniors on the varsity.

This Friday’s game with an overmatched Clark squad is very important, because if Lowell gets a good lead like they did last week, the coaches can insert 9th and 10th graders to get more game experience. Because Lowell will need contributions from the sophomore and freshman class to win Class 4A Sectional 17 in November.

Still, so far, so good. Except for the fact that they have a couple of injuries, Lowell has to be quite happy with how the season has gone so far.

4A No. 3 LOWELL (2-1) at Clark (1-2)

Stadium capacity: 2,000

SAGARIN RATINGS:  Lowell by quite a bit. If you want to know how much Lowell is favored by this week, you’re going to have to look it up, because I’m just going to say that Lowell won 63-6 last season and leave it at that. Clark has lost to Class 2A Whiting, while Lowell has defeated Class 6A Crown Point. For the record, Lowell was favored by 21 last week and they won by 38.




HAMMOND (09-07-2018) I think Lowell’s defense can make this a short night if they get after the Clark offensive line early. That’s the biggest mismatch in this game. Look for the Pioneers to try anything early to try to get on the board. They have absolutely nothing to loses and in junior Fortune Woods, they have a college caliber athlete. What Lowell has to do is look at this as a ‘business trip.’ Get there. Be ready. Take care of business. And get back on the bus. The final score in this game has no significance.

Mom and dad. If your boy is a freshman or sophomore for Lowell and he’s on the varsity roster, you might want to take the trip to Clark because almost everyone on the roster will get into the game.

And to Lowell’s players. Don’t disrespect Clark by not preparing well and playing hard. Lowell is the best team Clark will see and the Pioneers are probably looking forward to this night. Don’t ‘go easy’ on them. They want your best.  


LOWELL 42, Clark 8


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Revised: September 04, 2018 .