Week 6 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Hobart (2-3) at Lowell (2-3)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Hobart began playing high school football in 1927. The four teams they played that year were Crown Point, East Chicago Roosevelt, Hammond high and Lowell. 89 years later, Lowell and Hobart meet again this Friday night in Lowell. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When: 7:00 p.m. Friday, September 23, 2016.
Where: Lowell High School  - 2501 East Commercial Ave. (Route 2 & Holtz Road, 3 miles west of I-65), Lowell, 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: Another very hot week has to be difficult on the players and it does not look like the temperatures drop to a reasonable football level this week. This global warming thing? Might want to look into it. Thursday was the 101st day this year with temperatures of 80 or above. Christmas is 3 months from Sunday and it is still 85 degrees every day. Maybe I'm overstating this a bit, but some of the teams with smaller rosters may eventually feel the effects of continually practicing in this heat. The late September sunset, now slightly before kickoff, will help a bit, but this
Friday is predicted to be be another warm, humid night.

I've been of the mind that since Hobart moved from the center of town to the new school building on 10th Street seven years ago that it was easier for visitors to find. It was an easier drive. It's always been easy to get to Lowell FROM Hobart. I you just head south out of town on 51 to 30. You come west to I-65 and you're in Lowell in a very short time.

I say this because I'm always a little surprised when Hobart fans don't fill up the visitors stands at Lowell. I thought Hobart would be 4-1 when they got to Lowell this week but they won't be. The Brickies surprisingly lost big at home 55-28 to Andrean. That's the kind of thing that chills the urge for the home fans to travel. I thought this was one of the feature games on both teams schedule, but that's just me. Here's a test case. No doubt it will be another warm night. No rain. Let's see who makes the short trip from Hobart.

I don't know how badly Hobart wants to win the Northwest Crossroads Conference. Obviously, Class 4A Sectional 18 next month is a bigger deal. Traditionally, since they moved to the NCC from the Duneland Conference, it's always been my impression that the league title hasn't meant as much to the football program. Hobart has 18 sectional titles. With that said: It's now or never for Hobart in league play. The Brickies (3-2, 2-1 NCC) play at Lowell (2-3, 2-1 NCC) Friday and at Munster (3-2, 2-0 NCC) on September 30. Two wins (and a Lowell win over Munster on October 7) gives Hobart the NCC title. If Lowell wins Friday and beats Munster and Andrean next month, the Devils win at least a half share of the NCC title. In league play, this is an elimination game. It is also not impossible these two teams meet again in regional play in November.

We tend to be self-centered. Lowell is named after a town in Massachusetts. Valparaiso is a large city in Chile, not just a town in Northwest Indiana. Did you know that our Hobart is not the original one. Hobart is an ocean port city of 200,000 on the island of Tasmania. Tasmania is one of the six states in the commonwealth of Australia, the sixth largest country on Earth. Hobart is the capital of Tasmania and was part of the British Empire at the start of the 19th Century. I swear I didn't know that until this week.

Our Hobart comes from land purchased from the Pottawatomi Indians by George Earle in the mid-1800s. He built, among other things, a dam on 'Deep River' in 1845 to power sawmills. That dam created 'Lake George', later named after him. Earle's brother Frederick Hobart Earle is who the city is named after.

I've always loved the story of why football players in 'our' Hobart became known as Brickies. Hobart, like many NW Indiana towns, originally served Chicago. Ridge Road is said to be the old stage coach (and later railroad route) from Detroit to Chicago. One of the original industries in Hobart was the making of Bricks for housing. Almost every structure was made of wood until folks got hold of the fact that wood burned down and brick didn't. From the 1850s at the early 1900s, Hobart was a brick making hub and its bricks (and lumber and mortar) were used extensively in Chicago. Men and teenage boys who worked hard in the brickyards were called 'brickies'.

Here's where a good legend gets cloudy. Hobart high school had a graduating class in the early 1900s, but Hobart didn't play varsity football until 1927. I heard originally that 'Brickies' were football players who got strong working in the 'brick yards' all summer, the secret to their gridiron dominance. That's a sweet story. But Hobart only had two winning varsity football seasons until the 1950s. There were no brickyards left in the 70s, 80s and 90s when Hobart was a football success story. Playing in the 7,000-seat 'Brickie Bowl', on old World War II WPA (government works program) project football stadium, coach Russ Deal (115-48-6 from 1948-1965) and Don Howell (314-73 from 1966 to 1998) built the Hobart football program into a power known state wide. So it was more the sons and grandsons of 'brickies' than it was actual 'brickies'.

What about the Brickie Bowl? It's still there. The 'bowl' sits quietly these days behind the 'City of Hobart' complex, which is the site of the old Hobart Middle School, on 4th street in 'downtown' Hobart. The press box is gone but the field and concrete home stands are still there. The railroad still runs behind the field and you can still park on grass just southwest of the tracks above the field (as I did for decades when I went there for a game). New residents probably wonder why there would be an old football field behind the police station.

The 'Distant' Replay

Late Lowell field goal stops Brickies

Team 1 2 3 4 F
LOWELL (5-1) 7 0 0 3 10
Hobart (4-2) 0 7 0 0 7

Friday, Sep. 21, 2007,  81 degrees, dry -- Northwest Crossroads Conference at Brickie Bowl, HOBART, IN

1st Qtr LOWELL (7-0)  Brandon Grubbe, 79-yard pass from Kurt Monix.  3 plays, 80 yards.  David Lang kick.  10:14 left.
2nd Qtr:   HOBART (7-7)  Bobby James, 6-yard pass from Matt Barras.  2 plays, 25 yards.  Mike Josifovski kick.  0:12 left.
3rd Qtr:  No scoring.
4th Qtr:
  LOWELL (10-7)  David Lang, 27-yard field goal.  76 yard drive, 17 plays. 1:09 left.

HOBART (24 carries, 88 yards)  Andrew Jackson (HB) 16-45 yards; Andrew Huddleston (FB) 3-30 yards; Tony Barras (QB) 5-13 yards. 
LOWELL (44 carries, 148 yards, one fumble) Brandon Grubbe (HB) 33-111 yards, fumble;  Kurt Monix (QB) 8-28 ; Cody Midgett (HB) 2-9;  Johnny Black (FB) 1-0.

HOBART: Matt Barras (QB) 5-13, 62 yards, one interception;
LOWELL: Kurt Monix (QB) 5-6, 173 yards, TD.

HOBART: Joey Aleman (WR) 1-24; Jeremy Coons (RB) 2-23; Bobby James (WR) 2-15 yards.
LOWELL: Brandon Grubbe (HB) 2-87 yards;  Jeff Barker (TE) 1-51 yards; TJ Lukasik (WR) 2-35 yards.

Hobart:  150 yards, 10 first downs, one turnover;
LOWELL:  321 yards, 12 first downs, one turnover.

HOBART: David Lang, who bounced a short field goal off the goal post in the second quarter, boomed a 27-yarder with 1:09 left to decide this defensive struggle. Bobby James grabbed a TD pass from Matt Barras just before halftime to tie the game 7-7. For Lowell, this was win two of a 10-game winning streak that carried the Devils to the state title game for the second time in three years.
For Hobart this was a tough loss and that was the story of the 2007 Brickies who lost 22-20 to Crown Point, 10-7 to Lowell, 20-15 to Morton and 17-14 in the sectional championship game to Griffith. Four losses by a total of 13 points. If it wasn't for bad luck, they'd have had no luck at all. Hobart was 8-3 in 2008, losing to Lowell 35-32.

David Lang was 12 of 18 on field goals for the Devils, earning three varsity letters at Lowell. Lang booted 39 field goals in 50 attempts from 2009 to 2011 for Butler. Hobart's Bobby James caught 173 passes for 2,904 yards in his three-year career and averaged 24.6 points per game his senior year in basketball before heading to Western Michigan on a football scholarship. This was Lowell's final game in the downtown Hobart 'Brickie Bowl', the home of Hobart high football for 68 years.

HOBART Update:

Hobart's season has been a surprise to me. They lost 27-10 to LaPorte (5-0) and 55-28 to Andrean (2-3) and the margin of victory may have shaken a little faith that this would be a big season for the Brickies. Loaded with impact seniors like Nick Ray, Mickey Wolfe, Jared Zanolla and Brandon James (12 catches, 252 yards, 3 TDs), the Brickies appear like they'll improve on last year's 5-5 team.

Hobart and Lowell have one thing in common. Lowell lost the regional 7-6 to (South Bend) St. Joseph's last season. Hobart lost the 4A Sectional 18 title game 19-17 to the same St. Joseph's team.
Hobart isn't especially big, but they are averaging 25 points a game and they shut down a Griffith team that beat Lowell 17-9. I thought this was the game-of-the year for Lowell, but the Devils have yet to play Andrean, which won by 27 over Hobart last Friday. The Brickies' game-by-game results are contradictory. They gave up 337 yards on 36 carries to LaPorte, but held Griffith and Kankakee Valley under 100 yards. Hobart has outscored the opposition 94-36 in the first half, but they have been out-scored in the second half 34-59.

QB - Nick Ray (6-0, 210) Senior:
You need to get ahead of Hobart so Nick Ray can't run the ball so much. Nick has carried 90 times for 613 yards after a 2015 season when he ran 113 times for 939 yards. The Brickies like Ray to have the ball. On defense, at middle linebacker, Ray has 28 tackles including 12 solo tackles and five tackles for loss. Lowell wants Nick Ray to have more tackles than he has carries Friday.

QB - Mickey Wolfe (6-2, 165) Senior:
Mickey Wolfe has his moments. The big one was three weeks ago against Griffith when he hit on 7-of-17 passes for 305 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Mickey was 12 of 24 last week in the 55-28 loss to Andrean, but he hasn't had a bad game all season. For the season, Wolfe has completed 39 of 72 passes for 692 yards and seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Last year, Mickey completed 67 of 114 passes for 1,022 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's not a runner. More pure passer. Wolfe and Ray give the Brickies a balanced offense.

WR- Jared Zanolla (5-10, 175) Senior:
Zanolla is a big play receiver. He's caught 18 passes for 306 yards and three touchdowns of 38, 42 and 87 yards. Jared is also a defensive back with 22 tackles this season. His uncle Dan was a defensive back on Hobart's 1987 state championship team. His coach Ryan Turley played on Hobart's 1989 state championship team. Hobart seniors know all about the history.

LOWELL Update:

Lowell has been somewhat unpredictable this season, to say the least. They have not run the ball as well as they usually do. They rolled last week 41-14 over a Highland (3-2) team that I thought was better than the Griffith (3-2) squad that beat Lowell 17-9 the week before. Lowell gained a season-high 364 yards on 48 carries last week, but before that, the Devils had just 586 yards on 131 carries. QB Dayton Hornickel is 24 of 51 for 255 yards passing with one TD. But in close games (read: the 3 losses), Lowell has not moved the ball when they needed to.

The Devils lost all-state safety Jordan Jusevitch, their leading tackler the last two seasons to a shoulder injury in week four. He is out indefinitely and won't play Friday against Hobart. Lowell has shifted their lineup around and now list as many as five sophomores in significant roles. This is a team with just 13 seniors and there were going to be a lot of underclassmen playing, but it all comes down to whether Lowell can dominate time of possession by running for first downs.

RB - Trevor Espravnick (5-11, 184) Senior:
Espravnik carried 21 times for 184 yards and two touchdowns last week and sparked Lowell's best running night of the season so far. For the season, Trevor has 502 yards and eight TDs on 66 carries. Espravnik also was in on five tackles including two for losses. As difficult as it is physically, as the season goes on, you may see more of Espravnik on both sides of the ball.

WR-CB - Jaeger Gill (5-11, 185) Junior:
Gill carried the ball five times for 97 yards last week including TD runs of 16 and 58 yards. JG has just 10 carries on the season for 145 yards, but he also has averaged 18 yards on three punt returns and 24.5 yards on eight kickoffs. Gill is also a top cornerback for the Devils and he'll be part of the crew trying to stay with Hobart's Brandon James and Jared Zanolla Friday night.

DE - Brandon Chocholek (5-11, 182) Sophomore:
Okay, I don't want to lie to you. I don't even know who Brandon Chocholek is. But last week, Brandon was in on seven tackles including four stops for 15 yards in losses. He was credited with a QB sack for a seven yard loss. For the season, Chocholek has participated in 12 tackles. This is big for schools the size of Lowell because an emerging sophomore holding down a position means one less player who has to play both ways. Four sophomores (Chocolek, Chandler Austgen, Blake Jansky and Ethan Igras) are listed as starters this week on the Lowell defense.

Hobart (3-2) at LOWELL (2-3)

at 'The Inferno' - capacity: 2,500


Sagarin computer ratings:  Lowell by 5.

LOWELL- The Devils are favored probably because of the surprising loss for Hobart last week against Andrean. To be fair, Lowell has played two Class 6A schools in Portage (3-2) and Crown Pont (2-3), while Hobart has taken on one 6A school in LaPorte. The Sagarin ratings always seem to get more accurate as the season progresses. If you remember, Lowell was favored by 23 points last week at Highland and they won 41-14.


LOWELL (09-23-2016) This should be a high scoring game. Lowell's defense gets tested early as Nick Ray powers for good yardage and an early TD. The Devils also will run it well and Dayton Hornickel will score on a short run to tie the game. A Hobart fumble gives Lowell a chance and Trevor Espravnik gives the home team a one TD lead. Lowell might find some passing success this Friday as Dayton Hornickel hits Mitch Wildman for a TD. Hobart closes the gap to 21-14 before the half on a TD pass from Mickey Wolfe to Brandon James.

A Lowell defender like Logan Charters will get a pass interception in the third quarter and Espravnik will score his second TD for a 28-14 lead. Hobart gets a long kick return from Jared Zanolla and Nick Ray runs it in to close the gap again. But Lowell will be able to run it on this night. The Devils take key time off the clock late and Jake Post lifts a late field goal to end the scoring.

The team with less turnovers wins this one. Lowell has lost seven fumbles this season, but I think they get a handle on that this week. Hobart has had four passes intercepted in the last three games and the Devils take advantage of that.

LOWELL 31, Hobart 21


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Revised: September 22, 2016 .