Week6 - Football Game of the Week Preview
Lowell (4-1) at Highland (3-2)
USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith
|Lowell hasn't lost at Highland since 2002 but the Trojans will have a 3-game winning streak when Lowell gets to town this Friday. (Photo by Mark Smith)|
When: 7:00 p.m., CDT, Friday, September 21, 2018.
Highland High School - 9135 Erie Street (2 blocks east of Kennedy Ave.),
TV/Radio/Internet: WTMK (88.5) FM live.
Weather: Unstable. A 90-degree Thursday is supposed to turn into a 70-degree Friday night and that usually means a storm somewhere in there. Hey, wouldn't it be fun if we had another electrical storm and we all had to leave the stadium? What did I say?
PARKING: Highland high is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood and it has never had a lot of parking. This is one of those nights when you want to get there before 6:30 p.m. so you don’t have to walk some distance. Highland is 3-2 and the last time the Trojans were 4-2 was 2002. I’d expect a good size home crowd to show up watch this game.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: First place in the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC). At least, a part of it. The winner of Friday’s Lowell-Highland game figures to be tied with Andrean for first place in the NCC with three weeks left in the season.
The HISTORY: Highland is a town of about 24,000 and its population
has remained steady for quite some time. Highland had 23,546 people according to
the 2000 census and 23,696 people according to the 1990 census.
Highland had 24,947 people in 1970.
It isn’t growing probably because it can't. Highland has about seven square miles and it's almost all residential neighborhoods. The enrollment at Highland was about 1500 in the mid-1980s and is a little over 1,100 now and it probably won't be growing soon.
Highland is somewhat of an older community, meaning its residents are older. According to the 2010 census, about 20% of Highland citizens are age 18 and under. By comparison 26% of Lowell citizens are 18 and under and 28% of Cedar Lake citizens are 18 and under.
Highland began playing varsity football in 1958 and their first game with Lowell was a 19-13 win in 1961. Highland and Lowell met every year from 1961 to 1992 when the Lake Suburban Conference (LSC) broke up and Highland went to the Lake Athletic Conference. Except for a 1995 playoff game, the Trojans and Devils did not meet again until Lowell joined the new Lake Athletic Conference (1993-2006) in 1998.
Highland and Lowell, who were both charter members of the Northwest Crossroads
Conference (NCC) in 2007, have now met every year for the last 20 seasons.
Highland won three Lake Suburban Conference championships (1978, 1982-83) and
two Lake Athletic Conference (LAC) titles (1998-99) but they have yet to finish
first in the NCC.
Highland football has had one winning season (6-5 in 2014) season since 2001 and it's not all about them. Lowell’s rise to power and the addition of Andrean to the NCC (Andrean was not in the Lake Suburban Conference and did not join the Lake Athletic Conference until 2008) has left Highland behind somewhat in varsity football.
The future of Highland in football and all other team sports is: They need to move to a smaller conference. Griffith realized that two years ago and left the NCC for the small school Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC). Highland is going to have to do the same thing.
The town isn’t going to get any bigger and the school isn’t going to get any bigger. Highland high needs to find a league (the GSSC) where their level of enrollment can find rivals where they can win their share of the time.
Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC)
NCC UPDATE: Some leagues have the
race for first place wrapped up long before the final week. The Northwest
Crossroads Conference (NCC) won't be one of them this season. Unless Highland
pulls a major upset this Friday, the NCC race will be decided on October 5 when
Lowell travels to Andrean. Highland appears to be in the race, but that may be
an illusion since they have Lowell (4-1), Hobart (4-1) and Andrean (4-1) yet to
For the record, Lowell has won nine NCC games in a row.
(4A) Highland (3-2)
4-7 (2017), 5-6 (2016), 4-6 (2015), 6-5 (2014)
Coach Pete Koulianos (1st year) 2-2 all NCC games in CAPS
8-17 (L) 6-16 at (4A) Morton (3-2)
8-24 (L) 10-14 (6A) Crown Point (2-3)
9-1 (W) 56-6 at (3A) Clark (2-3)
9-7 (W) 37-7 at (4A) Gavit (2-3)
9-14 (W) 30-20 at (4A) MUNSTER (1-4)
9-21 (Fri) (4A) LOWELL (4-1)
9-28 (Fri) at (4A) HOBART (4-1)
10-5 (Fri) (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-3)
10-12 (Fri) at (3A) ANDREAN (4-1)
4A Sectional 17
10-19 (Fri) vs. Gavit, Morton, Hammond High, Griffith, East Chicago Gary West Side and LOWELL.
HIGHLAND – It's hard to believe, but this
is the first three-game winning streak for Highland varsity football in 16
years. And the Trojans had a serious chance to be 5-0, losing by 10 to Morton
and by four to Crown Point.
True, Highland has not beaten anyone with a winning record. But new coach Pete Koulianos (formerly the Hanover Central coach) has seen his boys win three games on the road in consecutive weeks. I’d bet they will be playing at a peak when Lowell gets off the bus this Friday.
What is that peak?
The Trojans are keyed by their defense, which has not allowed anyone to score more than 20 points so far.
Cornerback Riley Bertalan (5-9, 152) has 14 solo tackles, while linebacker Kaiden Smolar (5-8, 175) has 13. Defensive tackle Steven Nieman (6-2, 250) has 20 total tackles, including 11 solo stops. Safety Billy Morinville (6-4, 195) has four pass interceptions.
Highland’s problem has been on the offensive side of the ball. The Trojans scored 206 points in 11 games (18.7 per game) last year and 69 of those points came against Clark. Obviously, the Trojans have scored 30 or more three games in a row, but against the top two teams they’ve played, Highland totaled 16 points.
The Trojans senior quarterback Dean Foundos (6-1, 160) is 26 of 65 for 493 yards passing with two TDs and three interceptions. Smolar has carried 68 times for 483 yards and eight TDs. Senior end Trent Slaven (6-1, 190) has caught 10 passes for 166 yards.
But that’s it. Foundos is not a runner and Highland’s second leading rusher is Rafael Rios (5-8, 170) who has 119 yards on 16 carries. Of 190 non-punts for Highland in five games, it's either Smolar running (68 times) or Fondos passing (65 times).
But at home, if the defense holds up against the Devils and the Trojans don’t turn the ball over, Highland clearly could make enough plays on offense to come out on top.
14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015), 8-5 (2014)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 69-30) NWC Conference games in CAPS
8-17 (W) 17-7 at (6A) Crown Point (2-3)
8-24 (L) 3-7 (6A) Portage (3-2)
8-31 (W) 38-0 (4A) Morton (3-2)
9-7 (W) 51-0 at (3A) Clark (2-3)
9-14 (W) 13-10 (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-3)
9-21 (Fri) (4A) at HIGHLAND (3-2)
9-28 (Fri) (5A) MUNSTER (1-4)
10-5 (Fri) (3A) at ANDREAN (4-1)
10-12 (Fri) (4A) HOBART (4-1)
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 – The Devils played just well enough to win last week 13-10 over Kankakee Valley. They out-gained the Kougars 297-184, but KV led 10-3 at the half. I don't know anything for sure about the Lowell injury situation. Lineman Kory King (5-11, 235) missed last week and he's a key man on the offensive line. Two-year starting quarterback Ethan Igras suffered a right hand injury on August 17 and he hasn’t played QB since. He may be close to coming back to the offense. But Lowell moved the ball well in the second half last week with John Alessia at QB. The Devils have completed just 24 passes all season and until they they connect on a few more, they’ll see seven and eight-man fronts designed to stop the runners.
On defense, Lowell has stayed strong. The Devils
have 12 quarterback sacks led by senior Blake Jansky (6) and linebacker Mike
Langen (3). Junior Aaron DuBord (6-2, 205) has 20 tackles and Junior Bryan
Stoner (6-0, 225) has four tackles for losses. Lowell has given up just 27 first
downs and three touchdowns all season.
The way to attack the Devils has been through the air where five foes have completed 48 of 106 for 621 yards. The run defense has been all it can be. Lowell has allowed 128 yards rushing in five games. A total of 128 yards.
Lowell kicker Nate Gard has been a significant factor booting six field goals in five games.
Senior receiver and defensive back Shawn Mooney has also been a prime time player. Mooney (5-10, 145) has run the ball three times for 44 yards. He has caught six passes for 61 yards. Mooney has a 57-yard interception return for a TD and a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Not counting last year’s 4A state title game (a neutral site), Lowell has won 15 consecutive ‘true’ road games.
Lowell (4-1) at Highland (3-2)
Zip Sypult Field: Capacity 2,500
SAGARIN RATINGS: LOWELL by 12.
I’m surprised this spread is not higher. Lowell beat Morton 38-0 and Morton beat Highland by 10. Lowell also topped Crown Point by 10 and the Bulldogs beat Highland 14-10. Highland’s 30-20 win at Munster certainly lifted their profile. But the gap here should be a little wider. For the record, Lowell was favored to beat Kankakee Valley by 28 and the Devils won 13-10.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN:
LOWELL (09-21-2018) All signs points to
another low-scoring game, but the Devils take an early 7-0 lead here on a long
pass-and-run TD to Sean Mooney. The Devils’ Adam Bank grabs a pass interception
and a Nate Gard field goal makes it 10-0 before halftime.
Highland’s Dean Fondous finds his top receiver Trent Slaven for a third quarter TD, but the Devils are going to get a blocked punt on this night (they were very close against KV) and a Tyler Wildman TD ups the score to 17-7.
Halfback Kaiden Smolar gets 60 yards on 10-15 carries, but he never breaks away for the long TD the Trojans need. Lowell gets three sacks and two turnovers in this one. A second field goal by Gard creates the final score.
Highland plays everybody close, but while Fondous will throw 20 times, the Trojans don’t pass the ball well enough to upset the Devils here.
LOWELL 20, Highland 7
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Revised: September 19, 2018 .