Week 6 -  Football Game of the Week Preview

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

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Lowell only has four regular season home games in the 2019 season and the third is this Friday against Highland at 7 p.m. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m., CDT, Friday, September 27, 2019.

Where:  Lowell High School  - 2051 E. Commercial AVE (Route 2), Lowell, IN. (3 miles west of I-65).
Tickets: $6
TV/Radio/Internet: None.

Enrollment: Highland – 1,140; LOWELL – 1,128.

Weather: This looks like the first rainy Friday night of the season. Some forecasts have it raining much of the day Friday and for those of you who like electrical storms, this night could give you a real jolt. The temperatures will be in the upper 60s, good for football and the boys do love sliding around on the wet grass. But for fans, there is no way around it. We have avoided raindrops all season on Friday night. Week six is when the rain comes down. 


PARKING: I think there’s a positive feeling at Highland and that might have transmitted into a good crowd on Friday if the weather forecast was different. But with some September rain set to come down much of the day, I think the visiting crowd from Highland may be slim. That means there will be plenty of room to park for the third home game of the season.


WHAT'S AT STAKE: In the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC), this is an important game because both schools won their league debut last week. To get to 2-0 in a six-team league would be strong for either team, but Highland has never won the NCC so it's a little bigger for them. But Lowell, which won the NCC in 2017, lost the league title last year to Andrean. To get it back, the Devils obviously need this game.


The HISTORY: Highland has a less-than-stellar football history with Lowell. The Trojans began playing Lowell in 1961 and Highland won most of the early meetings. That has changed.


The numbers I have say that Highland leads the all-time varsity football series with Lowell 30-28, but Lowell has won the last 17 meetings over the last 16 years. Highland defeated Lowell 23-13 on Friday, the 13th in September of 2002.

Lowell won the matchup by the exact same score, 23-13 in 2003 and that’s it. The Devils have won 17 games in a row from the Trojans.

Many of the games have been blowouts but last year, Lowell won just 7-0. The Devils need to understand that none of the Highland boys they are playing were not yet born the last time the Trojans won at Lowell (Sept. 7, 24-21 in overtime in 2001).

I’m guessing that beating Lowell was on any pre-season Highland list of hoped-for accomplishments.

The 'Distant Replay'...


Devils run over Trojans 42-12

Team 1 2 3 4 F
LOWELL (3-2, 2-1 NCC) 0 21 14 7 42
HIGHLAND (1-4, 0-3 NCC) 6 0 0 6 12

Friday, September 14, 2012,  65-degrees at HIGHLAND, IN

1st Qtr: HIGHLAND (6-0) Gunner Grider. 1-yard run. 45-yard drive, 12 plays. Kick blocked by Anthony Lopez. 6:20 left.
Qtr:  LOWELL (7-6) George Fields, 2-yard run (11th TD). 64-yard drive, 13 plays. Colton Wilkey kick. 11:55 left.
LOWELL (14-6) George Fields, 8-yard run (12th TD). 26-yard drive, 6 plays after Paul Mauer recovered a fumbled punt. Colton Wilkey kick. 5:31 left.
LOWELL (21-6) Mitch Leckrone, 8-yard pass from Bryan Thomas. 83-yard drive, 6 plays. Colton Wilkey kick. 1:08 left.
3rd Qtr: LOWELL (28-6) George Fields, 14-yard run (13th TD). 65-yard drive, 8 plays. Colton Wilkey kick. 8:13 left.
LOWELL (35-6) Nick Hamm, 3-yard run. 54-yard drive, 6 plays. Colton Wilkey kick. 3:14 left.

4th Qtr: 
LOWELL (42-6) Nick Hamm, 8-yard run. 37-yard drive, 4 plays. Colton Wilkey kick. 11:36 left.
HIGHLAND (42-12) Gunner Grider, 2-yard run. 70-yards drive, 12 plays. 7:35 left.


HIGHLAND (29 carries, 119 yards, 2 TDs)
LaKice Brooks (FB) 11-68 yards; Gunner Grider (QB) 5-3 yards (sack-minus 4), 2 TDs; Matt Holl (HB) 3- minus-2 yards; Iab Hardy (HB) 1-5 yards; BrandonMcGregor (HB) 1-2 yards; James Gasky (HB) 3-27 yards; Pat O'Donnell (HB) 1-11 yards; Jeff Pasquineli (HB) 1-2 yards; Josh Salazar (HB) 1-3 yards.

LOWELL (50 carries, 359 yards, 5 TDs)
George Fields (HB) 20 carries, 180 yards, 3 TDs; Nick Hamm (FB) 5-28 yards, 2 TDs; Bryan Thomas (QB) 12-56 yards (sack-minus-3); Danny garza (HB) 5-49 yards, Eddie Simmons (WR) 1-11 yards; Austin Belt (HB) 3-26 yards; Caleb Raby (HB) 2-3 yards; Jacob Rothrock (HB ) 2-4 yards; Seth Anderson (QB) 1-2 yards.


HIGHLAND: Gunner Grider (QB) 4-10, 36 yards;
LOWELL: Bryan Thomas (QB) 1-2, 8 yards, TD.


HIGHLAND: Tommy Brankin (WR) 2-19; Lakice Brooks (FB) 1-6 yards, Jerry O'Donnell (WR) 1-11 yards;
LOWELL: Mitch Leckrone (TE) 1-8 yards, TD.


HIGHLAND: 0 touchbacks; 0-for-0 extra points (one blocked):
LOWELL: Colton Wilkey (PK) 0 touchbacks, 6-for-6 extra points.


HIGHLAND (09-14-2012) Seven years ago, Highland came out strong against Lowell, scoring in the first six minutes. Lowell was just 2-2 at this point and they had some doubts. The Devils were coming off a 5-5 season and they’d barely nipped Griffith 36-35 the week before.

Highland was just 1-3, they’d lost three games in a row and the Trojans were 2-8 the season before in 2011. I doubt anyone gave Highland a serious chance to win on this night against the Devils.
But the Trojans led 6-0 after one quarter.

Fast forward to the present day where 2019 Lowell has not been able to stop teams on their first possession. Crown Point, Portage, Morton and Kankakee Valley have all scored a touchdown the first time they’ve had the ball.

It's a good debate as to whether a heavily favored team benefits from the opposition scoring first in a game. You can make a case for the early scoring helping the favored team focus on taking care of business.

On the other hand, most teams that score the first touchdown in a high school football game go on to win that game. Seven years ago, it was a wake-up call. 2,000-yard rusher George Fields scored three times and Lowell ‘rallied’ to win easily.

Lowell was only 5-5 that season and just 6-4 the next year in 2013. But they didn't lose to Highland.

(4A) Highland (3-2)
4-6 (2018), 4-7 (2017) 5-6 (2016), 4-6 (2015)
Coach Pete Koulianos (2 years, 7-8) NCC Conference games in CAPS

8-23 (W) 19-18 vs. (4A) Morton (4-1)
8-30 (L) 0-24 at (6A) Crown Point (3-2)
9-6 (L) 14-34 at (Lansing, Ill.) T.F. South (2-2)
9-13 (W) 14-0 (4A) Gavit (1-4)
9-20 (W) 30-3 (4A) MUNSTER (0-5)
9-27 (Fri.) at (4A) LOWELL (3-2)
10-4 (Fri.) (4A) HOBART (3-2)
10-11 (Fri.) at (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-3)
10-18 (Fri) (2A) ANDREAN (2-3)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-25 (Fri) quarterfinal vs. Griffith, East Chicago, Gavit, Morton, Lowell, Gary West Side and Hobart.



It's been a good season for the Trojans. Playing a fairly tough schedule, Highland is over .500. This is a school that has not won more than six varsity football games in any one season in 18 years.

The Trojans' big offensive threat is running back Christian Rios (5-10, 210), a power running threat, who ran 13 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns last week in Highland’s 30-3 victory over Munster. Everything works for Highland if Rios can run the ball. The Trojans have had some injury issues at quarterback and junior quarterback Ethan Litavecz (6-3, 165) threw only three passes last week.

Highland’s defense has been good more often than not this fall even with four two-way players. Sam Perez (6-3, 285) plays both ways on the lines and Rios is also an outside linebacker. Left guard Cody LaNeave (5-10, 180) is also a quality senior outside linebacker. Cornerback Quinten McToy (6-3, 195) is a starting wide receiver.

The last two Highland wins over Gavit and Munster were expected, but the 19-18 upset of Morton (4-1) was a surprise.

What the Trojans probably bring to Lowell Friday night more than anything else is emotion. They have to feel that they can beat Lowell and end one of the longest head-to-head league droughts in this part of the state.

If Highland scores early Friday, it could be their night.

2019 (4A) LOWELL (3-2)
10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 77-34) NCC Conference games in CAPS

8-23 (W) 21-19 vs. (6A) Crown Point (3-2)
8-30 (L) 9-35 at (6A) Portage (1-4)
9-6 (L) 23-35 at (4A) Morton (4-1)
9-13 (W) 42-28 (4A) Griffith (0-5)
9-20 (W) 21-14 (4A) at KANKAKEE VALLEY (2-3)
9-27 (Fri.) vs. (4A) HIGHLAND (3-2)
10-4 (Fri.) at (5A) MUNSTER (0-5)
10-11 (Fri.) vs. (3A) ANDREAN (2-3)
10-18 (Fri) at (4A) HOBART (3-2)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-25 (Fri) quarterfinal vs. Griffith, East Chicago, Gavit, Morton, Highland, Gary West Side and Hobart.


LOWELL Update:

What you think of Lowell depends on when you see them. Lowell has been outscored 84-45 in the first half this season and they have outscored the opposition 71-47 though five games. Lowell has scored a total of 10 points in the first quarter in five games. Lowell has allowed just seven points total in the third quarter all season.

Obviously, they know that falling behind early and rallying late is not a plan. I am not smart enough to tell you why Lowell starts games so slowly, but the boys do respond to in-game coaching. The Devils have been very good (a 36-7 edge) in the third quarter through five games and that’s obviously response to what they hear at the break.

The problem is that teams watching Lowell on tape feel they can push them around. The Devils are giving hope to future foes.

The Devils have developed somewhat of a secret weapon in senior Jeff Wallis. Wallis has run 17 times for 112 yards (6.6 per carry) and he has caught 10 passes for 127 yards.

I don't know the situation with sophomore Ryan Marx (68 carries, 251 yards) and junior Adam Bank (41 carries, 133 yards). Neither played last week. Jacob Chandler filled in with 52 yards and a TD on 19 carries.

But it comes down to the offensive line and I can't explain why Lowell starts slowly, but runs the ball better as the night goes on. The first quarter is crucial for Lowell this Friday. If they fall behind quickly.

Here’s a totally meaningless statistic, but it is good trivia. September is when Lowell begins to win the night. Since the beginning of the 2007 season, Lowell is 47-8 in the month of September. The Devils' schedule has changed. Hobart used to be a September game. Now, it is not. The Devils used to play Hammond high in September. Now, they don't play them at all. Lowell always plays Crown Point in August. But 47-8 in September in the last 13 years. It's impressive.

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


Lowell stadium, The Inferno: Capacity 2,500


This rating is close because Highland defeated Morton and Lowell lost to Morton. On the other hand, Lowell topped Crown Point while CP beat Highland 24-0. Highland defeated winless Munster (0-5) while Lowell won over winless Griffith (0-5). Highland’s loss to TF South does not factor in because Illinois teams aren't rated on the Sagarin computer. For the record, Lowell and KV were rated even last week and Lowell won by seven.




LOWELL (09-27-2019) It is difficult to predict Lowell right now because I don't know exactly who is able to play. This will be a good night for Highland’s Christian Rios, who will get 100 yards and two TDs on 20 carries. But the Trojans' difficulty throwing the ball will limit them here. I think that Lowell’s defense gets three turnovers and the Devils win in wet weather without a big offensive show.

Two rushing TDs and two Nate Gard field goals and the Devils win for the third week in a row.



LOWELL 20, Highland 14

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Revised: September 26, 2019 .