Week 8 - Football Game of the Week Preview

Munster (3-4) at Lowell (3-4)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

10-07-2016

The home field has not been kind to the Devils this season. Lowell has won just once and lost twice. The Devils would like to even things up this Friday night against longtime rival Munster. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  7:00 p.m. Friday, October 7, 2016
Where:
 Lowell High School
,Route 2 (Commercial Ave.) & Holtz Road, Lowell, IN (3 miles east of I-65 on Route 2).
Tickets:  $
6
Radio-TV: 
WTMK (88.5) FM live, live updates of all local scores all night on WLPR (89.1) FM. Live Internet audio stream on USA-365.com.

Enrollment: Munster - 1,511; LOWELL - 1,187.

Weather:
We're still in search of a 'Good Friday', not the one we all recognize. Just the one for football players. Good football weather. For players? About 55-60 degrees with no rain. It'll be a little warmer than that this Friday in Lowell and there is a good chance of some game day rain. Hopefully, it'll clear out well before the kickoff. Could be a some very dirty Devils and significantly muddy Mustangs very early in Friday night's game on the natural grass at Lowell. But, as all moms know, most boys love playing in the mud.

Parking:  If it rains, it will hold the crowd down again and that means no problems in finding a place to park. It's an easy drive from Munster down to Route 2, but the Mustangs have dropped their last two games to fall under the .500 mark. With a home game against Kankakee Valley scheduled for week nine, Munster fans may just stay home tonight, especially if some October rain is in the air.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: It's complicated, Munster (3-4, 2-2 NCC) and Lowell (3-4, 2-2 NCC) seem out of the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) race for first place. Griffith (5-2, 4-1 NCC) faces Andrean (4-3, 4-1 NCC) in what looks like the title game. Griffith has a nonconference game against East Chicago next week. If they win Friday, they're 5-1 in the NCC and they are the league champs. But if Andrean hands Griffith a second NCC loss this week, can't Munster or Lowell tie for the NCC title if Lowell hands Andrean a second NCC loss next Friday?
 
In that scenario it would matter greatly who wins this Friday's game in Lowell. A half share of a league title isn't much (especially when both Munster and Lowell lost to Griffith), but it is something to play for.

Also, there is a significant chance that Munster and Lowell could meet again in November in the Class 4A Sectional 17 championship game. That's a long way off, but these two teams will want to save the video of Friday 's game just in case they need it in four weeks.

One more thing: The state tournament draw assures Lowell of a home game on Oct. 21, but they could be on the road for the sectional semifinals and finals. The Devils are just 1-2 at home this fall and that's a subject the senior class might mention to the rest of the team this week.

HISTORY: Munster has been one of the anchor schools in the Northwest Crossroads Conference (2006 to present) plus the Lake Athletic Conference (1993-2005) and the Lake Suburban Conference (1970-1992) before that. Munster began its football program in 1966 and they won the Lake Suburban Conference in 1970 in the first season of the league. The reason for Munster's stability is obviously that they have only had two coaches in school history: John Friend (104-31-4 from 1966-1979) and present coach Leroy Marsh (221-158) from 1980-present).

That means that, for players who were born in Munster and have always lived there, the high school football coach is and has always been Leroy Marsh. Dads who went to Munster and played for coach Marsh can send their sons there to play for him as well. No one else in NW Indiana that I can find has ever coached varsity football for 38 years.

While fans and media pay a lot of attention to coaching changes, I would guess that boys growing up don't want the high school coach to change just before they get old enough to be on the varsity. There is no uncertainty in the Munster program and, while they have not had overwhelming post-season success, the Mustangs have always been an honored opponent, a well-coached team and one you knew could defeat you (35 winning seasons in the last 50 years) if you were not ready for them. Most all of that is due to Marsh, a 2007 Indiana Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer.

The long range future of Munster has suggested that they will join the big school Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) with northern neighbor Lake Central and old Lake Suburban Conference foe Crown Point. That might be a mistake. Munster could compete certainly in sports like tennis and swimming, where they have always excelled. But they would be the DAC's smallest school and would suffer certainly in sports where large numbers are required like track, cross country, wrestling and football.

Another issue is travel. Except for Kankakee Valley, the entire Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) is in Lake County while the DAC spreads out over three counties, something that is a major problem in all 20 sports, especially in the winter months.

Talk that Munster might replace someone like Michigan City in the DAC (driven by football results) has probably cooled since MC's football revival this fall. With Griffith leaving the NCC, the league is down to six teams, but there are six team leagues and league with six team divisions. If the Mustangs can fill that nonconference hole in football they'd be wise to stay in the NCC.


The 'Distant' Replay ...

Lowell rallies to top Mustangs in OT

Team 1 2 3 4 OT F
LOWELL (8-0) 0 0 7 7 6 20
Munster (4-4) 0 0 14 0 3 17

Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 - 55 degrees, clear at MUNSTER, IN

 

1st QtrNo scoring.
2nd QtrNo scoring.
3rd Qtr: LOWELL (7-0) Jordan Jusevitch, 97-yard kickoff return. Robbie Smetana Kick. 11:47 left.
MUNSTER (7-7)
Demitri Fotopoulos, 72-yard pass from Vince Bravo. One play after Jaylon Smith interception. Scott Fischer kick. 6:43 left.
MUNSTER (7-14)
Vince Bravo 1-yard sneak. 73 yard drive, 6 plays. Scott Fischer kick. 2:04 left

4th Qtr: LOWELL (14-14) Jordan Jusevitch , 42-yard pass from Darion Hornickel. 54-yard drive, 3 plays. Robbie Smetana kick. 3:21 left.
OVERTIME: MUNSTER (17-14) Scott Fischer. 24-yard field goal (4th down).
LOWELL (17-20) Ike James 2-yard run (2nd down).

 

RUSHING:
LOWELL (38 carries, 145 yards, TD): Ike James (HB) 29 carries, 129 yards, TD; Darion Hornickel (QB) 7 carries, 8 yards (2 sacks for minus-19); Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 2-8 yards.
MUNSTER (35 carries, 85 yards, one TD, 3 fumbles): Vince Bravo (QB) 7 carries, 13 yards, TD, fumble; Dylan Bullock (HB) 17-54 yards, Justin Gill (HB) 4-9 yards, fumble, Greg Scherzinger (HB) 7-9 yards, fumble.

PASSING:

LOWELL: Darion Hornickel (QB) 3 of 7 77 yards, one TD, one interception; MUNSTER: Vince Bravo (QB) 9 of 13, 173 yards, one TD, no interceptions.

RECEIVERS:
LOWELL: Jordan Jusevitch (HB) 1-42 yards, TD; Trevor Espravnik (WR) 2-35 yards; MUNSTER: Jaylan Scott (WR) 2 catches, 15 yards; Demetri Fotopoulos (WR) 2-83 yards; Milan Obraadovic (TE) 1-15 yards, Logan Armagast (TE) 1 (minus-3); Dylan Bullock (HB) 2-56 yards, Justin Gill (HB) 1-7 yards

TURNOVERS:

LOWELL (2) fumble, interception; MUNSTER (3) all fumbles.
Interceptions: Jaylan Scott (M); Fumble recoveries: Gavin Summers (L), Chris Han (L), Mitch Sacco (L), Milan Obradovic (M)

TOTAL YARDS:
LOWELL 222; MUNSTER - 258.


MUNSTER:
Lowell rolled into Munster with a seven game winning streak 12 months ago, but it was an off-night. Even without starting QB Andrew Jumonville, the Mustangs played an inspired game and led 14-7 late in the fourth quarter.

But a Munster punt gave the Devils one last chance and Darion Hornickel tossed a pass to Jordan Jusevitch, who scored from 42 yards out with 3:31 to go. In overtime, Scott Fischer's field goal gave the Mustangs a 17-14 lead, but Ike James gained eight and then 2 yards to the end zone to let Lowell 'steal' the win. This was arguably the best game anyone played against Lowell all year as the Mustangs outgained the Devils 258-222. Two weeks later, Lowell dominated Munster 31-0 in the opening game of the 2015 state tournament.

Lowell went on to run their winning streak to 12 before a 7-6 loss to (South Bend St Joseph's, a game where Lowell outgained St. Joe 249-188. The 20-17 Lowell win was the only game where they were out-gained all season.

Many of the same players who were in this game will be on the field in Lowell this Friday night. Ike James, who finished the 2015 season with 1,931 yards on 347 carries for Lowell, now has 31 carries for 106 yards after four games (he's returned 10 kickoffs for a 22.8 yard average) at Division II St. Joseph's College.



MUNSTER Update:

MUNSTER -
Munster lost to two Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) teams in Lake Central and Chesterton, but then ran off three wins in a row. I don't know exactly what has happened in the last two weeks when the Mustangs lost close games 24-21 to Griffith (5-2) and 19-14 to Hobart (5-2). It does not sound as if Munster played poorly in those games, they just got beat in the fourth quarter. The first two teams Munster lost to (Chesterton and Lake Central) are now 2-5. The last two teams they lost to are now 5-2. Munster's secret weapon is kicker Scott Fischer, who averages 50 yards a kickoff with six touchbacks in 29 boots. Fischer also averages 35 yards a kick on 20 punts. Fischer is also 18 of 19 on extra points and 2-of-4 on field goals. He was 5-of-6 on field goals last season. If the game comes down to a last second kick, Munster is surely very happy with who they have kicking.

WR - Jaylan Scott (6-3, 185) Senior:
After all of the other Munster players have gone on to other things, I have a feeling Jaylan Scott will still be playing football. Scott has 37 catches for 499 yards and five touchdowns and he's built like a wide receiver. Two weeks ago against Griffith, Scott caught 11 passes for 136 yards. But last year, Jaylan had 50 tackles and three interceptions (he also had 492 yards and four TDs on 43 catches) in the secondary. Scott is listed with just 17 tackles this fall, so I'm guessing he's played most of the time on offense. But Scott is the biggest offensive threat Munster has. You stop him by getting to the quarterback because he's difficult to cover. One more note: Jaylan Scott had a 92-yard kickoff return for a TD in Munster's 20-7 win over Morton last month.

RB - Danny Stanley (5-9, 170) Senior:
Stanley has 100 carries for 581 yards and five TDs this season after gaining 634 yards and eight TDs in 96 carries in 2015. Stanley is a hard runner with good speed. He had 128 yards on 21 carries against Andrean on September 9. Stanley also has 24 solo tackles on defense and, like Jaylon Scott, Danny also runs back kicks, averaging 18.3 yards on kickoff returns. Coach Leroy Marsh called Stanley his best overall athlete in the pre-season. Munster wants to control the ball and Danny Stanley is the number one man in that respect.

QB - Andrew Jumonville (6-0, 175) Senior:
Jumonville is 56 of 98 for 737 (5 TDs and 2 interceptions) yards so far this season after completing 57 of 106 for 693 yards and seven TDs last fall. Against Highland, when Munster was 0-2, Jumonville completed 13 of 18 passes for 279 yards and two TDs. He's a solid veteran leader, something you need against a top defense on the road. Not that it will matter Friday but Andrew also batted .402 (37 of 92) with 21 RBIs on the baseball field last spring. Note here that the three big offensive players for Munster all played regularly last season and this will be their third start against the Devils. The Mustangs are a very experienced offensive team and they are unlikely to be intimidated playing at Lowell.


LOWELL Update:


LOWELL -
It feels like Lowell turned somewhat of a corner with a decisive win last week 33-6 at Morton. Lowell had previously won decisively over Kankakee Valley and Highland, but this game seemed different in that the Devils ran for 300 yards and held Morton under 100 yards rushing. There was only one Lowell turnover, very late in the game. The Devils only punted once. Special teams were good. It seemed like Lowell's best win of the year. That means nothing if they can't do it again this Friday.

Lowell's defense still has not allowed more than two touchdowns in any game this fall. Junior safety Jordan Jusevitch was back on the field and made 14 tackles. Junior kicker Jake Post booted field goals of 25 and 30 yards.

I've always been a big believer that, no matter what coaches say, the boys are either encouraged or worried the moment they see the IHSAA state tournament draw. Lowell's players had to look at a Red Devil quarterfinal game against Gary West Side (0-6) on October 21 and a semifinal against Morton (3-4) or Gavit (3-3) on Oct. 28th and truly believe that a team at 3-4 after seven games can win the sectional championship.

RB - Trevor Espravnick (5-11, 184) Senior:
Espravnik carried 24 times for an official 205 yards and three touchdowns in the rain at Morton. For the season, the Lowell halfback has 101 carries for 735 yards with 11 TDs. The 7.2 yards per carry, a product of some breakaway runs, is a stat that stands out. Espravnik has also been in on 30 tackles on defense, playing part time at linebacker, the position he played (77 tackles) regularly last season. With cooler weather helping players stay strong, you will probably see Espravnik on both sides of the ball in the post-season, but not this Friday night.

WR-CB - Jaeger Gill (5-11, 185) Junior:
Jaeger Gill carried the ball nine times for 67 yards last week, including a 24-yard run. The Lowell junior picked up his first pass interception of the season and was in on three tackles. For the season, 'JG' has gained 274 yards on 23 carries, an 11.7 yard per carry average. Gill also averages 22.4 yards on nine kickoff returns and 18.0 on three punt returns. The issue for Gill is how much to play him. Lowell needs him at cornerback, especially against top receivers like Jaylan Scott of Munster.  Like Jordan Jusevitch, Trevor Espravnik and a couple of others, Lowell's coaches have to worry about how much to play him and still have him at top speed in the fourth quarter. The cooler weather helps, but you have to get Gill off the field sometime.

PK -LB - Jake Post (5-9, 173) Junior:
Jake Post could not have had a better night than he had last week at Morton. Jake was 3-for-4 on extra points, 2-for-2 on field goals and he blocked a punt which led to Lowell's second touchdown. Post was also in on five tackles. He has 27 tackles on the season and is 16 of 19 on extra points with three field goals. A big question mark this season was the kicking position, which is just about making the kicks you are supposed to make. At this level, place kickers aren't often asked to make 50-yard field goals, just boots from 30 yards in and most all extra points. Jake Post has been consistent and reliable.



Munster (3-4) at LOWELL (3-4)

at 'The Inferno'  -  capacity - 2,500

 

Sagarin ratings:  Lowell by 6

The Devils are favored probably because of Lake Central, a team that defeated Munster 35-7. Crown Point topped Lake Central 17-3. Both Lowell and Munster have lost to Griffith and Hobart and both opened the season with losses to Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) schools. Lowell losing 28-27 to Portage (3-4) and 9-3 to Crown Point (2-5). Munster fell 35-7 to LC (2-5) and 25-22 to Chesterton (2-5). Inside the computer, this Friday's game is fairly even.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN...

LOWELL (10-07-2016) This looks like a low-scoring game. The Mustangs get an early field goal from Scott Fischer and that lead holds well into the second quarter. A short pass to Jaeger Gill breaks for a long TD and a 7-3 Lowell halftime lead. The Mustangs get the lead back on a long pass from Andrew Jumonville to Jaylan Scott in the third quarter and Munster's defense holds on downs deep in Mustang territory.

Some first down runs by Trevor Espravnick sets up a short third quarter TD by Austin Giordano and the Devils lead 13-10. Munster ties the game on a long field goal by Fischer midway in the fourth quarter, but Jake Post boots the winning field goal in the final four minutes.

An interception by Jordan Jusevitch seals the victory and Lowell gets back to the .500 mark. This is a game that will be played largely in the center of the field between evenly matched squads.
Lowell makes just a couple more plays than Munster does.

LOWELL 16, Munster 13

 

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Revised: October 07, 2016 .