Week 9 - Football Game of the Week Preview

4A Lowell (4-4)
at Andrean (4-4)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

10-13-2016

Andrean is in Class 4A this season because they reached the Class 3A state championship game in 2013 and 2014. The 59ers and Lowell have played the final game of the regular season 10 years in a row. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When: 7:00 p.m. Friday, October 14, 2016
Where:
  Andrean High School  - 5959 Broadway, Merrillville, IN 46410.
Tickets:  $6
TV/Radio/Internet: 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: ANDREAN - 576; LOWELL - 1,187.

Weather:
Looks like another good weather night. Rain should clear out Thursday and temperatures Friday will be in the mid-50s. Andrean has natural turf so the field could be a little muddy. But mid-50s is perfect for football. Good for the players and not too chilly for the fans.

PARKING: Parking is always an issue at Andrean, which is a very small school in an old neighborhood. You have to show up early to get a spot near the field. Otherwise you will end up in the school parking lot, which requires a 100-200 yard walk to the field. You've got to get to Andrean early and get a spot close to the field, especially with temperatures in the 50s.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: Nothing. The Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) race has been won by Griffith (6-2, 5-1 NCC), which has a nonconference game in week nine against East Chicago, and Hobart (6-2, 4-1). Lowell (4-4, 3-2) and Andrean (4-4, 3-2) are playing for a tie for third place. Hobart can actually tie Griffith for the NCC title with a win Friday over Highland.

Griffith and Hobart tie for the NCC title if Hobart beats Highland. It is my understanding that there are no tiebreakers in Indiana high school football. If Hobart and Griffith both finish at 5-1 in the NCC, they are co-champs.

The HISTORY: Andrean is the 57-year old Catholic school named after the first arch bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Gary, Andrew Grutka. As I've said before here, I am not sure if Andrean teams are called the '59ers' because of the address of the school: 5959 Broadway ... or if, because of when the school opened in 1959, if they nicknamed Andrean athletes after the 49ers, the classic gold rush adventurers of the mid-1800s, for whom the National Football League's San Francisco 49ers were named in the late 1940s.

I've always thought that Andrean's address was probably not 5959 Broadway when the school opened (some recall there being nothing else on the street at the time) and 61st Street is a main road. Why would the address be 5959 if they were no other homes on the block? Not sure. Also, next time you are at Andrean, try to find 60th and Broadway.
So the 5959 seems odd. It's a small point.

In the 1960s and 70s, word is that most Andrean students came from Gary. Now, I am guessing that most come from the Tri-Town (Schererville, Dyer and St. John area), Hobart and Crown Point.
The school's enrollment has dropped in recent years. In 1986, Andrean was officially listed by the IHSAA as having 1,083 students. In 2006, Andrean had 691 boys and girls. This season, Andrean is listed as having 576 teenagers.

Why the drop off? Bad economy has made it tougher to pay for high school, but part of the decline is Merrillville, Lake Central and Crown Point, who have all renovated their public school campuses in the last quarter century. When you go inside those schools and look at where your kid can go for free, to me, it's harder and harder to justify paying tuition, no matter how good an academic school Andrean is. Charter schools like Gary's Lighthouse Academy, which are basically private schools using public funding, have probably also cut into the enrollment of faith-based schools.

The answer in my mind would be a 'new' Andrean high school. A renovated or rebuilt building (in Schererville or Crown Point) that would attract students to a school with a very high college placement rate and fine athletic teams.

One of which is the football team, which will change its location somewhat in 2017. Andrean is playing in Class 4A this season due to back-to-back state finals appearances in 2013 and 2014. But that two year 'bump' ends this fall no matter what they do. At 576 students, Andrean is barely larger Class 2A Cardinal Ritter (542), an Indianapolis private school. That's apparently how close Andrean is to being a Class 2A school and all schools are reclassified after next spring.

If Andrean drops to Class 2A in football, the same class as Bishop Noll (525), Andrean will be significant sectional and regional favorites every year unless they choose (Mishawaka chose to play in the 6A tourney when they were Class 5A by enrollment three years ago) to stay in 3A.

Lowell facing Andrean in football is not a match that has a long history. The 59ers lead the 22-game series 15-7, but it's a highlight for both. This will be the 10th consecutive season that the Devils and 59ers have closed the season against each other.

Lowell and Andrean could meet in the regional this year, but beyond 2016 (when the 59ers drop in class), the game will revert to what it was before, a matchup of two often evenly matched teams that will then embark on different playoff paths.

CLASS 4A Sectional 17

Gary West Side (1-7) at LOWELL (4-4)
Gavit (4-3) at Morton (3-5)
East Chicago (6-1) at Munster (3-5)
Clark (0-8) at Highland (4-4)

CLASS 4A Sectional 18

(South Bend) Clay (0-8) at Kankakee Valley (2-6)
(South Bend) Washington (3-5) at Hobart (6-2)
ANDREAN (4-4) at (South Bend) St. Joseph's (2-6)
New Prairie (6-2) at (South Bend) Riley (1-7)

REGIONAL OUTLOOK: Okay, so it's not a good year for high school football in South Bend. All four South Bend schools in Sectional 18 are under .500 and all of them could be eliminated on opening night of the state tournament.

Who got the best draw here?

Looks like New Prairie. Why? The Cougars, led by junior quarterback Nick Wilson (166 caries, 1,205 yards, 14 TDs, 35 of 71 passing, 671 yards, 7 TDs) open on the road against Riley, a team they defeated 70-14 (that is the correct score) on Sept. 23.

A New Prairie win would put them at home in New Carlisle against St. Joseph's, or more likely Andrean, another team they have already defeated this fall. Two Cougar wins would probably put them at home again for the Sectional 18 championship game against probably Hobart. That's not an easy path, but the home games become more important as the tourney goes on.

What about Lowell?

They are a big favorite over West Side and then they would face Gavit or Morton (3-5), a team they have already beaten. If Morton beats Gavit, Lowell goes to Morton where they Devils won 33-6 last month. If Lowell gets to the title game in Sectional 17, they would see Highland or Munster, two teams they have already defeated or East Chicago, the team Lowell defeated in the Sectional 17 championship game in 2015.

No matter who wins the Gavit-Morton game, Lowell is on the road for the Sectional 17 semifinals. I'm a little shaky on home site rules, but I believe that if East Chicago defeats Munster and Highland, Lowell would also travel to East Chicago for the Sectional 17 final game. Gavit also plays Morton this Friday in the final regular season game.

You want to be on the road early in the post-season so you can get home games later when the travel and the opposition are tougher. Most of the highly rated 4A schools are in the southern half of the Class 4A tournament bracket. But if a Northwest Indiana team gets to the semistate, I hope the foe is Northwood (8-0).

The Panthers feature one of the state's marquee players in Trey Bilinski (6-3, 190), who has completed 121 of 187 passes for 2,068 yards, 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions in his teams eight wins.

Indiana Football Coaches Association (IFCA)
High School Football weekly poll

1. (Indianapolis) Roncalli (8-0)
2. Northwood (8-0)
3. New Haven (7-0)
4. (Evansville) Reitz (7-1
5. East Central (7-1)
6. Evansville Central (7-1)
7. (Fort Wayne) Bishop Dwenger (5-3)
8. New Prairie (6-2)
9. Mississinewa (8-0)
10. Hobart (6-2)
11. East Noble (5-2)
12. East Chicago (6-1)
13. Shelbyville (6-2)
14. Angola (6-2)
15. LOWELL (4-4)


ANDREAN Update:

MERRILLVILLE -
It has been an up and down year for Andrean, the 2012 state Class 3A champ. The 59ers started the season 1-3 and then won three in a row before last week's 28-13 loss at Griffith. Despite a 35-7 season-opening loss to Merrillville, the 59ers average 30 points a game, highlighted by 52 against Highland, 55 against Hobart and 56 against Bishop Noll. It's what they are. Last season, Andrean scored 30 or more six times in 11 games.

Andrean trends toward high-scoring games. With an experienced quarterback, they play a spread offense that either scores quickly or gives the ball up fast. It suits them as the 59ers are not as big a team physically as they usually are.

The 59ers gave up 294 yards on 31 carries against New Prairie and 225 yards rushing on 40 carries against Griffith. They've given up a lot of big plays, 12 TDs of 30 yards or more, not that surprising on a defense with only two returning starters from 2015. Lowell defeated Andrean 14-6 last season but Reardon was injured and did not play.

The 59er losses are to Merrillville (3-5), Munster (3-5), New Prairie (6-2) and Griffith (6-2) but they have won three of their last four. Niner seniors may be playing their final home game against Lowell. The state tournament draw almost certainly has the 59ers on the road the first two weeks in 4A Sectional 18.


QB - Patrick Reardon (6-2, 185) Senior :

Patrick Reardon keeps the 59ers in every game. He has completed 74 of 131 passes for 812 yards and 8 TDs after a 2015 season when he was 36 of 54 for 609 yards. The Niners run a spread option attack, which I believe means three or four wide receivers on every play with a running back (Teely Rhyne) along side the QB. Reardon did throw three interceptions last week in the 28-13 loss at Griffith. Patrick is a runner, a passer, a scrambler. This offense requires a better than average quarterback and that's Reardon. The 59ers are good in the hurry-up offense and, with Reardon, Andrean is a good come-from-behind team.

HB - Teely Rhyne (6-0, 170) Junior:
I didn't know where Teely Rhyne was last season, but this year he's near 1,000 yards. Unoffically, Rhyne, a tall, slashing tailback has gained 920 yards and nine TDs on 135 carries. In the 59ers, 4-wide-receiver attack, Rhyne is your biggest problem because he's standing next to QB Patrick Reardon where he can take a handoff and run against the 6-man front you pretty much have to play against a spread offense. Sometimes the 59ers shift a receiver or a tight end into the backfield in front of Rhyne, a long strider who can run and hide. On October 3, Rhyne gained 309 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries in a 52-28 win over Highland.

WR - Emilio Starks (5-10, 165) Senior:
Emilio Starks is a dangerous runner and pass catcher. The 59ers line him up as slot receiver on some plays. They split him out wide and run the 'jet sweep' with him going in motion before the quarterback takes the snap. Starks is quick-footed with good change of direction skills. Against New Prairie in September, Starks caught five passes for 28 yards and ran five times for 19 yards. In a 52-28 win over Hobart, Starks caught six passes for 138 yards. Against Highland he ran three times for 44 yards. The ball goes to Teely Rhyne a lot, but when they 'counter' with Starks, he gets a lot of room to run.


LOWELL Update:

LOWELL -
The Devils have won back-to-back games for the first time all season, 33-6 over Morton and 41-10 over Munster. Lowell has lost every close game they've played: 9-3 to Crown Point (3-5), 28-27 to Portage (5-3), 18-12 to Hobart (6-2) and 17-9 to Griffith (6-2). That's not good. But the Devils have won four games where they dominated: Kankakee Valley 35-0, Highland 41-14, Morton 33-6 and Munster 41-10. It's true that good teams don't lose close games, but really good teams don't play a lot of close games. I'd guess the Devils are pretty happy with the last two weeks. This Friday's game matches the high-powered Andrean offense against a very good Lowell defense that has allowed just 102 points (12.7 per game) all season. Lowell's strength has been pass defense where they have allowed just 578 yards and two TDs in eight games. Overall, Lowell has allowed just 187 total yards per game and only 11 TDs have been scored on the Red Devil defense all year. Since the beginning of the 2003 season, the Red Devils are the 'boys of October'. Now I know some of this is the schedule and sometimes Lowell gets an easy sectional draw, but in 14 seasons, Lowell is 44-12 in October.


LB-FB - Austin Gordano (5-10, 197) Senior:
Austin Giordano was in on 10 tackles last week in the Devils' 41-10 win over Munster and he's taken part in 62 tackles this fall. But he is also the surprise team leader in receptions with 11. Okay, so Lowell doesn't pass that much. Austin has also run the ball 19 times for 97 yards, a 5.1 yard average. Every year Lowell (and most other teams) try to have enough depth to have as close to 22 starters as they can: Meaning they want boys to play only offense or defense, not both. It's a noble thought. It makes sense on paper. But at the end of every year, there's about a half dozen Red Devils, usually the older and more experienced ones, who seem to be on the field all the time. This year, Austin Giordano is one of those players.


TE-LB - Mitch Wildman (6-1, 182) Junior:
Mitchell Wildman has caught three TD passes in Lowell's last three games. Last week, he caught a 17-yard TD from senior QB Dayton Hornickel and a 31-yard TD pass from sophomore QB Ethan Igras - both in the second quarter. In the last 25 years, I can't find any Lowell player who has caught TD passes from two different quarterbacks in the same game, much less the same quarter. Lowell doesn't need to complete many passes and Wildman has shown the ability to 'get lost' in the secondary and catch the ball. For the season Mitch has nine catches for 184 yards and three TDs. On defense, he has been in on 65 tackles (No. 1 on the team), including two quarterback sacks. Mitch Wildman has clearly been a big factor on both sides of the ball.

RB - Trevor Espravnik (5-11, 184) Senior:
With 30 carries and 157 yards last week, Trevor Espravnik ran his season totals to 131 carries, 884 yards and 13 touchdowns, moving him close to 'the list'. 'The list' is Lowell's 1,000-yard rushers over the last 25 years. I like to show this list every year for a lot of reasons. One is: I wonder how hard it is to get on this list. To be that guy who carries the ball 20 or 30 times a game, is the focus of every team's defense. The guy who takes the hits and pushes for the first downs that make Lowell's offense go. And to get ready the next week to do it all again. Friday's Lowell-Andrean game should be fairly high scoring and offensive-minded. Lots of possessions for both sides. It could be time to update 'the list.'

In the state tournament era (1973-present)

1. Brandon Grubbe (2009) 403 carries, 2,417 yards
2. Ike James (2014) 319-2,411 yards
3. Scott Gray (2005) 323-2,336 yards
4. Michael Pickett (1994) 339-2,256 yards
5. Toby Goetz (2004) 276-1,939 yards
6. Ike James (2-15) 347-1,931 yards
7. Matt Pernick (1996) 229-1,827 yards
8. George Fields (2012) 277-1,811 yards
9. Michael Pickett (1993) 273-1,687 yards
10. Brandon Grubbe (2007) 281-1,675 yards
11. Justin Henley (2002) 167, 1.552 yards
12. Cole Midgett (2010) 195-1,481 yards
13. Justin Henley (2003) 227-1,447 yards
14. Mike French (2000) 2000-1,382 yards
15. George Fields (2013) 209-1,377 yards
16. Matt Pernick (1995) 175-1,349 yards
17. Max Znika (2006) 224-1,302 yards
18. Mike French (1999) 226 carries, 1,280 yards
19. Sean Anderson (2001) 242-1,048 yards
20. Nick Holley (1997) 131-1,014 yards

Trevor Espravnik (2016) 131 carries, 884 yards (still active)


4A No. 15 Lowell (4-4) at ANDREAN (4-4)


at Father Eckert Stadium  -  capacity - 2,500
    

Sagarin ratings: Lowell by 6.

These teams have walked similar paths this season. Lowell lost to 6A schools Portage and Crown Point early, while the 59ers lost 35-7 to Merrillville and 38-28 to 4A power New Prairie. Andrean defeated Griffith and lost to Munster. Lowell defeated Munster and lost at Griffith. Andrean's win over Bishop Noll (0-8) probably lowers their overall rank. Lowell is 4-1 against Class 4A schools. Andrean is 3-2. For the record, last week's 'cyber' spread was also 'Lowell by 6' and the Devils won by 31 points.

 

WHAT WILL HAPPEN:

 

MERRILLVILLE (10-14-2016) I know that Lowell has only allowed 102 points (12.7 per game) and 1,498 yards (187.3 per game), but I think the 59ers get Lowell into a high-scoring game. Andrean starts fast in this game with Emilio Starks scoring on a run from the wide receiver position. Lowell gets on the board with a long drive and a short TD from Trevor Espravnik.

But Andrean comes back down the field for a TD run from junior Teely Thyne to take a 14-7 lead. Lowell gets a long kickoff return from Jaeger Gill and ties the game on a slant pass from Ethan Igras to Jordan Jusevitch to tie the game at the half.

A 59er fumble puts Lowell in position for a second Espravnik TD, but Patrick Reardon ties the game with a short run midway in the third quarter.

Andrean has had problems stopping the run all year and a long Devil drive ends with Austin Giordano scoring his first TD of the season. Jusevitch gets a second interception and runs it back deep in 59er territory where Espravnik's third TD ups the lead to 14.

Lowell runs the ball better and will wear Andrean down in the late going. The 59ers will move the ball, but three turnovers doom them on this night. Andrean has been better the second half of the season, but Lowell has shown a lot of group confidence on offense. The Devils win for the third week in a row.

 

 

LOWELL 35, ANDREAN 21

 

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Revised: October 13, 2016 .