Week 6 -  Football Game of the Week Preview

Highland (2-3) at Lowell (5-0)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

It'll be a hot summer night in late September for the Trojans when Highland invades Lowell in the Northwest Crossroads Conference Friday night. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m., CDT, Friday, September 22, 2017.

Where:  Lowell High School  - 2051 E. Commercial AVE (Route 2), Lowell, IN. (3 miles west of I-65).
Tickets: $6
TV/Radio/Internet: WTMK (88.5) FM live, live updates of all local scores all night on WLPR (89.1) FM.

Weather: Rough week for the boys as the heat has returned for the end of the month. It may have been a tough week in the late afternoon practice window where the temperatures stayed in the mid-80s. Friday's forecast is for summer-like temperatures in the low 90s, but with sunset now coming before the 7 p.m. kickoff, things will cool off early. It's a good night to be playing on natural turf. This Friday will be far too hot for football, but this appears to be the final week of non-football level heat. 


PARKING: This will be an easy parking night because we're probably not going to get an invasion of fans from Highland. The Trojans do score points (25.2 per game) so they are entertaining. But, after the 40-21 loss to arch-rival Munster last week, there may not be much motivation to drive to the south end of the county. That game was expected to be close, but it was 27-0 Munster in the second quarter. So Lowell fans can stroll up about 6:45 and they should be able to find parking easily and get in on time.


WHAT'S AT STAKE: It's the second game in the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC), so nobody is out of the race for first place. If Highland beats Lowell, they can still win the NCC title. So I expect them to play hard. Both Lowell and Highland are in 4A Sectional 17, so this could be the first of two meetings between these two schools.

Lowell won't talk about it certainly, but they want to complete the 9-game regular season undefeated. The Devils have won 13 sectional and seven regional titles in the last 25 years, but in the 119 (there is an indication Lowell was playing high school football in 1898) year history of Red Devil football, Lowell has just four (1936, 1993, 2008 and 2015) undefeated regular seasons. Obviously no senior class has ever played on two of those teams.

If the three-time defending 4A Sectional 17 champion Devils need motivation to get them through the regular season, there it is.


The HISTORY: Highland has almost always played Lowell. The school began playing football in 1958 and Highland and Lowell were rivals in the old Lake Suburban Conference (1971 to 1992).

The Trojans began to play Lowell in 1961 and they dominated the series for 30 years.

But, as they have on virtually everyone in Lake County in the last decade, Lowell has reversed the football fortunes on Highland in varsity football. Highland leads the all-time series 30-27, but Lowell has won the last 15 meetings between the two schools, all by 10 points or more.

Highland has never been a consistent football power. They have just three 10-win seasons, 1978 (10-1), 1982 (11-1) and 1998 (10-2).


The Trojans did reach the 5A state finals in 1987 when they were 9-5, but there have been just 17 winning varsity football season in the Trojans' 60-year history. Why?

Because football is a numbers game and Highland has never been that big a school. In 1986, Highland had 1,486 students and they were in a conference with Lake Central, which had 2,160 students.

Part of the reason for the break up of the Lake Suburban Conference was that Lake Central and Crown Point grew too large for schools like Highland and Griffith. If Highland people are patient, the Trojans will one day again have their time at the top of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC), which only includes one school (Munster, which has 1,504 students) that is significantly larger than they are.

There are many factors as to why Highland hasn't won more than six games in any football season since 2001. But one of the advantages to being old is that you see the cycles. Lowell once went 24 years (1969 to 1993) without a winning record in varsity football and the Devils now haven't had a losing football record in 19 years.

It's the circle of life.

(4A) Highland (2-3)
5-6 (2016), 4-6 (2015), 6-5 (2014), 5-6, (2013)
coach Trent Grider (6th year) 25-35...all kickoffs at 7 p.m.
Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) league games in CAPS

8-18 (L) 23-27 Morton (3-2)
8-25 (L) 6-35 at Crown Point (2-3)
9-1 (W) 69-12 Clark (0-5)
9-8 (W) 25-12 at Gavit (1-4)
9-15 (L) 21-40 MUNSTER (2-3)
9-22 (F) at LOWELL (5-0)
9-29 (F) HOBART (4-1)
10-6 (F) KANKAKEE VALLEY (3-2)
10-13 (F) ANDREAN (3-2)

HIGHLAND - This is turning into a very tough schedule for Highland. At the start of the year, they might not have seen Lowell, Andrean and Hobart as all Top-20 teams in their class. Plus Morton and Kankakee Valley are winning.

Highland will almost surely see six teams with regular season records of 5-4 or better and they might see eight. It's a tough schedule, but with four sectional opponents on the schedule, Highland gets to preview many potential sectional foes. This is a good schedule.


This is supposed to be a good year for the Trojans with 14 starters back from last year's 5-6 squad, but it went bad on opening night. Highland outgained Morton 292-167, but lost three turnovers that cost them the victory 27-23. Two Highland fumbles were run back for Morton TDs.

The Trojans were never in the game against Crown Point or Munster and I wonder if that has taken a toll on their group confidence. What I don't know is: How tough was last week's 40-20 loss to arch-rival and neighbor Munster?

It was a game I thought the Trojans would win and they were out of it quickly. Can they come back with a top effort on the road?

Highland isn't as big as Lowell is up front, but they aren't small, as they are led by co-captains Ethan Fitt (5-11, 255) and Gannon Grider (6-6, 250) and defensive tackle Keon Reeves (6-3, 250).
The Trojans' kicker Kyle Tanis booted a 30-yard field goal against Morton and they held the Governors to only six first downs.

But the Trojans operate around junior QB Dean Foundos (6-1, 165) a slickster who can run and pass if he gets time. Foundos ran for TDs of three and 10 yards last week while firing a 22-yard TD pass to Kaiden Smolar. But Foundos was sacked an unofficial nine times in the 35-6 loss at Crown Point in August.

The Trojans have good size upfront and skill in multi-position player Trent Saven (6-1, 180), a good receiver, and wingback Rafa Rios (5-9, 180), a good runner. They use a lot of motion and misdirection. If you get fooled and out of position, they can score. Highland's offense looks more like Munster than it does last week's opponent, Kankakee Valley, which did break at least three 40-yard plays against the Lowell defense.

But I wonder if the ups and downs of this season have weighed heavily on Highland. We'll know every quickly Friday.

LOWELL (5-0)
9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014), 6-4(2013)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8th season, 54-29)
Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) games in CAPS

8-18 (W) 27-13 (6A) Crown Point (2-3)
8-25 (W) 20-7 at (6A) Portage (3-2)
9-1 (W) 19-0 at (4A) Morton (3-2)
9-8 (W) 63-3 (3A) Clark (0-5)
9-15 (W) 27-13 at 4A KANKAKEE VALLEY (3-2)

9-22 (F) 4A HIGHLAND (2-3)
9-29 (F) at 5A MUNSTER (2-3)
10-6 (F) 3A ANDREAN (3-2)
10-13 (F) at 4A HOBART (4-1)

Class 4A Sectional 17
with Hammond, Highland, Griffith, Gavit, East Chicago, Gary West Side and Morton.

SCHEDULE: Lowell's schedule was going to be difficult with 6A schools Portage and Crown Point starting off. Counting KV (3-2), Andrean (3-2), Morton (3-2) and Hobart (4-1), the Devils are seeing a lot of winning teams. I'm not sure how good Highland (2-3) and Munster (2-3) are these next two weeks, but the final game with Hobart (4-1) is getting bigger and bigger every week.

Lowell's schedule requires them to be businesslike. The Devils started with the two 6A schools and they close with two ranked teams in 3A No. 13 Andrean and 4A No. 13 Hobart. The middle five games are an exercise in taking care of business.


LOWELL Update:

LOWELL - One of the few advantages of being old is that you've seen a of things. But I have never seen a high school team (other than Northwood or Northridge, where half the team is named Yoder) that, at midseason, had two brothers on offense, neither of whom was a quarterback, who led the team in rushing (Tyler Wildman) and receiving (Mitch Wildman).

Tyler Wildman carried 13 times last week for a career best 136 yards and three TDs. Tight end Mitch Wildman caught two passes for 23 yards giving him seven catches (that's a lot by Lowell standards) for 134 yards this fall.

Lowell's rushing attack has picked up in the last two weeks and they now average 4.7 yards a carry for the year. The Devils are trying to maximize the skill players they have and by splitting all-area stars Jordan Jusevitch and Jaeger Gill out as wide receivers, they get to run against six man fronts.

The Devils have only thrown the ball 45 times this season and they only threw it nine times last week. It seems like they are throwing more because of the spread formations.

Lowell has found another runner in the last couple of weeks in senior Cedric Caschetta (5-8, 190) who has 144 yards on 27 carries (5.3 per carry) on the year. The Devils have other boys who can carry the ball and if they can keep Gill and Jusevitch playing receiver on offense, they can spread the field for the running backs and save energy to be fulltime defenders on Lowell's highly-rated defense.

QB Ethan Igras (18 of 34, 346 yards, 3 TDs), a two-year starter as a junior, is the key to it all. Igras, who has also carried 32 times for 222 yards, has played well, but it is a little bit uncomfortable that they Devils haven't scored more than 27 points against anybody but Clark (0-5).

Does that matter? I think it might down the line.

Last year's 9-5 Red Devil team scored 30 or more points nine times.

Highland (2-3) at 4A No. 2 Lowell (5-0)


Lowell stadium, The Inferno: Capacity 2,500


I think this ranking is a little hard on Highland. I know that Lowell defeated the Morton team that topped Highland. Lowell defeated the Crown Point team that beat Highland by 29. But 32 points seems a little high for a Lowell team that, again, hasn't scored more than 27 against anybody but Clark. Lowell should be a double digit favorite but 32 points seems a little over the top.




LOWELL (09-22-2017) This is a tough matchup for Highland, because Lowell has a little more speed and size than the team (Munster) the Trojans just lost to. The Devils will start fast with TDs from Ethan Igras and Tyler Wildman. Highland QB Dean Foundos gets into the end zone late in the second quarter to make it 14-7, but another rushing TD from Igras ups the lead to 21-7 at the half.

Lowell will grab a couple of interceptions in the second half as Highland has to throw to rally. Cedric Caschetta may get a second half TD. Soph Nate Cubit might get one as well as the Devils will have more than a two-TD lead throughout the fourth quarter.

Munster ran for five TDs on Highland. Crown Point ran for 400 yards on the Trojans. It will be a good night to throw the ball and Highland won't be shut out. But I think this is the game (other than Clark) when the Devils move the ball consistently for the majority of four quarters. It looks like Highland is a little outmanned in the lines here.



LOWELL 42, Highland 14

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Revised: September 20, 2017 .