Week 5 -  Football Game of the Week Preview


4A Kankakee Valley (2-2)
at 4A Lowell (3-1)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Lowell's offensive line rotation, which includes Kory King (57), Trevor Matovina (72), Jake Steward (55), Bryan Schantz (51) and Brandon Chocholek (59), hopes to put more first downs up on the scoreboard Friday night when Kankakee Valley comes to Lowell. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.

Where:  Lowell High School, 3 miles west of I-65 on US Route 2.

Tickets:  $6.

Kickoff:   7 p.m.
TV/Radio/Internet: WTMK (88.5) FM live coverage.

Enrollment: Kankakee Valley 1,078; LOWELL - 1,186.

WEATHER: Very good, Low 70s at the start. Mid 60s by the end. Very little chance of rain. A little warm for players. Perfect for the fans.


PARKING: I believe KV will bring more fans to Lowell than Portage and Morton did, so there might be some issues with parking near the field. For KV folks who have not been to Lowell in a few years, they have more parking than they used to. There is a ton of parking in front of the school (the field is behind the building at Lowell), so there is space for everybody if you don't mind a little walk.


WHAT's AT STAKE: The Old Milk Can. Lowell plays for the Old Leather Helmet (Crown Point) and The Old Milk Can (KV).
Hey, KV plays Rensselaer for the ‘Cracker Barrell’ trophy. I do not know the history of the ‘Milk Can’ but I can guess. KV is one of just two schools in Jasper County and the legend is that in another era, boys would come in right off the fields at harvest time to football practice in DeMotte and Wheatfield. If that’s not true, it should be.

More significantly this Friday, the Lowell-KV game begins the five week Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) season. A KV win changes the outlook for their entire season. The Devils have to be aware. This game has always seemed to be much biggest to the Kougars than it is to Lowell.


The HISTORY: Kankakee Valley high school is a 1970 consolidation of DeMotte and Wheatfield high schools, both of whom played eight man football since the middle of the 20th century.

The name Kankakee Valley comes from the area, the 100,000 acres of Indiana and Illinois called the Kankakee Valley Marsh region. Originally formed by the Wisconsin glacier melting thousands of years ago, the Kankakee River runs 183 miles all the way from the Illinois River southwest of Chicago, running east all the way in a cutting line to South Bend, Indiana.

When I moved to Indiana in the mid-80s and first visited Jasper County for golf tournaments and ball games, I was sure this was the ‘boom town’ of Northwest Indiana. This was the place that folks from Lake County would migrate to. KV would have 2000 students and with endless space and growth potential, the northern Jasper County area would become the ‘new Crown Point’.

It never happened. And it's just as well. DeMotte has about 4,000 people. Wheatfield has about 1,000.

And the high school leveled off (the 1986 IHSAA student enrollment of KV was 869) at a little more than 1,000 students. About the perfect size for high school.

In football, KV has never had an extended run of success, probably because they’ve had nine varsity coaches in 20 years.

There’s a lot of similarities between KV and Lowell. I’d guess Kougar football players would like people to see more similarities between the two towns on the football field.

(4A) Kankakee Valley (2-2)
3-7 (2017), 3-8 (2016), 4-6 (2015), 6-5 (2014)
Coach James Broyles (1st year) 2-2 all NWC games in CAPS
8-17 (L) 12-34 (2A) Rensselaer (3-1)
8-24 (L) 9-21 at (3A) Wheeler (2-1)
8-31 (W) 23-20 at (4A) (S. Bend) Washington (2-2)
9-7 (W) (2A) at North Newton (2-2)
9-14 (Fri) at (4A) LOWELL (3-1)
9-21 (Fri) (4A) HOBART (4-0)
9-28 (Fri) (3A) ANDREAN (3-1)
10-5 (Fri) at (4A) HIGHLAND (2-2)
10-12 (Fri) at (5A) MUNSTER (1-3)

4A Sectional 18

10-19 (Fri) vs. South Bend schools Washington, Riley, Clay and St, Joseph’s, Hobart, Mishawaka and New Prairie


Kankakee Valley Update:

I see a bit of a revival by Kankakee Valley.

A month before the season began they didn't have a head coach. Former player James Broyles stepped in and KV lost their first two games at home, including an upset loss to Wheeler. But facing three road games in a row, the Kougars rallied to win 23-20 at South Bend Washington and they rallied to win 16-13 at North Newton. Not exactly a resurrection, but certainly a boost to the boys in uniform.

Now they face powers Lowell (3-1), Hobart (4-0) and Andrean (3-1).

The main man for the Kougars is senior Wade Williams (6-6, 205) the quarterback and defensive end. He’s not that fast, but he’s 6-foot-6 and he’s coming at you all night. Wade looks like a decent passer (13 of 22 for 125 yards at Washington) but you probably want KV to throw the ball.

KV runs a two-man option with Williams and junior running back Nate Swafford (5-10, 175) and they can control the ball on teams. Swafford had 104 yards on 23 carries last week. Kicker Nate Ritchie seems to have 40-yard range. His 34-yard fourth quarter field goal broke a 20-20 tie at Washington with just six seconds to play. Ritchie has five field goals this season.

The Kougars’ offense is not a scoring machine (only 15 points a game), but if the defense can keep it close, KV has some play makers who can win the game late in the night.

The Kougars’ defense held North Newton to just 13 points last week, but I don't know how effective the Spartans are. Williams plays defensive end along side Trevor Helton (5-10, 205) and in front of Swafford, a linebacker.

Three-year starter linebacker/running back Donald Nannenga (5-10, 175), projected to be a key on both sides of the ball, was hurt in week one and I do not believe he has played since then. I don’t know he won't play against the Devils (I don't always know who is on the injury list for Lowell. I have no idea who’s out for KV) and he would add a lot.

In golf, when you hit your tee shot into the weeds and you have to make some crazy shots to earn a par on the hole you’re playing, it's called ‘scrambling’. Sometimes you make miraculous plays just to stay even. KV, with a new coach and without their best player, is scrambling right now.

(4A) LOWELL (3-1)
14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 68-30) NWC Conference games in CAPS
8-17 (W) 17-7 at (6A) Crown Point (2-2)
8-24 (L) 3-7 (6A) Portage (2-2)
8-31 (W) 38-0 (4A) Morton (2-2)
9-7 (W) 51-0 at (3A) Clark (1-3)
9-14 (Fri) (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-2)
9-21 (Fri) (4A) at HIGHLAND (1-3)
9-28 (Fri) (5A) MUNSTER (1-3)
10-6 (Fri) (3A) at ANDREAN (3-1)
10-13 (Fri) (4A) HOBART (4-0)

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:

When I first got a Lowell roster this year, I kept looking for the second page. Is this all?

A quick count showed 44 varsity players. Broken down: 14 seniors. 12 juniors. 16 sophomores and two freshmen. I keep mentioning this because it is remarkable (KV has 60) and may have become a rallying cry.

The ‘44’ are one defensive stop away from being undefeated and the ‘44’ defense has allowed just two touchdowns in four games. The ‘44’ offense scored 38 points (okay there was a special teams’ TD and a defensive TD) against Morton and 51 against Clark.

The leading tackler on the ‘44’ defense is, oddly enough, No. 44, Blake Jansky who has five QB sacks and eight tackles for loss. Senior Mike Langen has three sacks and Chandler Austgen has five tackles for loss. But I don't want to leave anybody out because almost everybody on the roster plays (at least seven Devils start on both sides of the ball) in a starting or supporting role.

Okay, I know the Devils will see better offenses than they have played so far. But let the record show: Lowell has allowed 14 points, 19 first downs and just 565 total yards in four games.

Senior Shawn Mooney (5-10, 145), who ran an interception back 57 yards for a touchdown against Morton on Aug. 31, ran a punt back 48 yards for a TD last week at Clark. Freshman Ryan Marx (5-5, 145) scored two TDs rushing and 2-for-4 at quarterback in extended time at Clark. Another freshman Joe Heuer (5-5, 161) ran four times for 44 yards and a TD. Sophomore Adam Bank (5-5, (150), carried four times for 21 yards and touchdown. Bank has played some meaningful series in the defensive secondary.

Some of the folks who follow sports around Northwest Indiana are not surprised Lowell is winning because Lowell has been winning. The last three seasons, Lowell is 35-7. But they lost their starting QB in the first game, a 17-7 win over Crown Point. Lowell had 44 varsity players. CP has 88 including 37 players in the sophomore class.

We reach the midseason mark Friday night. Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) play now begins and everybody knows everybody. But, so far, the ‘44’ have kept the shine on the tradition of Lowell football.



At Lowell's Stadium 'The Inferno': Capacity 2,500

Sagarin computer ratings: 
Lowell by 28.

This has to do with the schedules of these two teams. Lowell and KV are both Class 4A. KV has played one 4A school, one 3A school and two 2A rivals in North Newton and Rensselaer. Lowell has played Class 3A Clark, Class 4A Morton and two big Class 6A schools in Portage (2-2) and Crown Point (2-2). And the Devils have done much better against those foes. That suggests a big spread.
For the record, Lowell was favored to beat Clark by 60 last week and they won 51-0.


WHEATFIELD (09-14-2018) Since I don’t know until game time, I have to assume who will and won't play. I think halfback-linebacker Donald Nannenga (ankle) does not play for KV and I believe that quarterback-safety Ethan Igras (broken right hand) is still limited to defense-only for Lowell.

Lowell has two shutouts in a row, but Nate Ritchie puts the Kougars on the board early with a field goal inside 40 yards. But the Devils take a 7-3 halftime lead on a run by Tyler Wildman.

KV takes it to the air and a TD pass from big Wade Williams to put KV ahead 10-7 in the third period. Lowell’s John Alessia hits tight end Blake Jansky for the go-ahead Lowell score late in the third period and, as the Kougars try to rally late, an interception by Sean Mooney sets up Wildman’s second TD. Add a late Nate Gard field goal to create the final score. It’ll come down to whether KV can run their option attack on Lowell and I don’t think they can consistently.

The Devils scrimmaged Merrillville and then played Crown Point and Portage. Since they’ve started playing schools their own size, Lowell obviously has gained confidence. Plus, they always seem to want to keep that dusty old ‘Milk Can’.

LOWELL 24, Kankakee Valley 10

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Revised: September 12, 2018 .