Week 9 - Football Game of the Week Preview

4A Lowell (5-3) at
4A Hobart (6-2)

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith



Lowell rides the big yellow bus to the 'Friendly City' Friday night for the deciding game in the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) season. (Photo by Mark Smith)

When:  Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.

Where:  Hobart high school, 2211 East 10th Street in Hobart, Ind.

Tickets:  $6.

Kickoff:   7 p.m.
TV/Radio/Internet: All Lowell games can be viewed on the Regional Radio Sports Network (https://rrsn.com/) web site.

Enrollment: LOWELL - 1,128; Hobart 1,284.

WEATHER: Much better than last week. Daytime Friday high temperatures should be in the low 60s with second half temperatures in the mid-50s. The artificial turf at Hobart will be dry and fast and light winds should not be a factor. It will be a bit cold for fans, but perfect for the boys on the field.


PARKING: I don't know how big a crowd shows up for this one. It's a good game with something on the line, but once the weather turns cold, many among us find something else to do. The new Hobart field on 10th street has a good amount of parking north of the field. The old Brickie Bowl (you young folks may have heard your elders talk about that place) was downtown and parking was a nightmare. That was the old days. The new high school is easy to enter and easy to leave.


WHAT's AT STAKE: It's pretty easy now. Hobart wins the Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) championship for 2019 if they beat Lowell Friday. If Lowell wins, Lowell and Hobart share the NCC title. If Lowell beats Hobart and Andrean beats Highland Friday, then Hobart, Lowell and Andrean share the 2019 NCC title. There are no tiebreakers in high school football conference play in these parts. This game decides if there is one champion, two half champs or three co-champs.


HISTORY: The history of Hobart is not the history of Northwest Indiana high school football. But the Hobart Brickies are the greatest football story of our region because of how they once were kings. Hobart began playing varsity football in 1927, but they weren't very good. Until the 1950, Hobart only had two winning seasons.

What happened then began with two coaches and a great stadium. In the 1930s (September 15, 1939 was the first game), a government works project created a 7,000-seat football stadium in downtown Hobart.
I do not know why a program that was just beginning built a stadium so large. Hobart was a losing program in the 30s and 40s. Hobart was 1-8 in 1939. But along came coach Russ Deal and the Brickies came to power. Deal was 115-48-6 from 1948 to 1965. A lineman who played for Deal and at Indiana University, Don Howell, took over as head varsity coach in 1965 and Howell became the standard by which all local coaches are judged.

Don Howell was 314-73 from 1966 and 1998. Howell’s Brickies won four state titles and the Brickie Bowl was filled to capacity for any game of any significance. What happened? The other schools got bigger and bigger. Valparaiso, Chesterton, Merrillville and Portage all became schools with enrollments of over 2,000.

Hobart’s record run of 19 consecutive sectional championship from 1979 to 1997 ended and Hobart switched from the big school Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) to the smaller school Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC), largely because Hobart could not compete in sports other than football with schools twice their size.

Hobart also built a state of the art new school on 10th street, also a good move for the students and athletes.

What happened to the Brickie Bowl? It's still there. It sits behind the Hobart police station on Fourth Street. The press box is gone and the giant home grandstand isn't in great condition. But the field still stands.

As a memorial to a time when Hobart football won 428 games in 50 years and gave a small Indiana town a legacy.

4A State tournament Bracket

CLASS 4A Northern Bracket

Griffith [1-6] at Gavit [2-6]
Gary West Side [2-5] at LOWELL [5-3]
Highland [3-5] at East Chicago [5-3]
Hobart [6-2] at Morton [7-1]

No. 1 New Prairie [8-0] at (South Bend) Riley [4-4]
(South Bend) Clay [1-7] at Culver Academy [4-4]
Logansport [1-7] at (South Bend) St. Joseph [0-8]
Kankakee Valley [3-5] at No. 5 Plymouth [7-1]


No. 3 East Noble [8-0] at Northridge [4-4]
Columbia City [4-4] at DeKalb [7-1]
Wawasee [1-7] at NorthWood [5-3]
Angola [4-4] at Leo [7-1]

Huntington North [2-6] at (Fort Wayne) South [1-7]
No. 10 Delta [7-1] at No. 8 Mississinewa [7-1]
New Haven [3-5] at Jay County [0-8]
(Fort Wayne) Wayne [0-8] at No. 4 Marion [7-1]


ANALYSIS: The power in the 4A bracket is in the north, especially in Sectional 20, which has three top-10 teams. Sectional 18 is almost seeded towards a Plymouth-New Prairie final game. The wide open bracket is our 4A Sectional 17 where the winner of the Hobart-Morton quarterfinals may still have to deal with 5-time defending sectional champ Lowell. It takes a math teacher to figure out how the IHSAA brackets work, but what I see is: If Morton beats Hobart, they would host the winner of the EC-Highland game. If Lowell beats West Side they would host Gavit or travel to Griffith. A Morton-Lowell title game would probably be in Lowell. A Hobart-Lowell game would probably be in Hobart.

2019 (4A) Hobart (6-2)
7-3 (2018), 6-4 (2017), 10-3 (2016), 5-5 (2015)
Coach Craig Osika (2nd year) 13-5; Northwest Crossroads games in CAPS

8-23 (L) 13-21 (6A) Chesterton (6-2)
8-30 (L) 0-21 at (6A) Merrillville (7-1)
9-6 (W) 42-0 (4A) Griffith (1-7)
9-13 (W) 30-27 (3 OT) (4A) Culver Academy (4-4)
9-20 (W) 33-10 at (2A) ANDREAN (5-3)
9-28 (W) 48-10 at (4A) KANKAKEE VALLEY (3-5)
10-4 (W) 35-0 at (4A) HIGHLAND (3-5)
10-11 (W) 65-0 at (4A) MUNSTER (0-8)

10-18 (Fri.) (4A) LOWELL (5-3)

Class 4A Sectional 17
11-1 (Fri) at Morton (8-1)
11-8 (Fri) vs. Highland (3-5) or East Chicago (5-3).


HOBART Update:


HOBART - The Brickies are a well-balanced team that hasn't really had a bad game this fall. They are similar to Andrean in that they rely heavily on one star running back. Senior DJ Litke (5-9, 180) has run the ball 189 times for 952 yards and 15 touchdowns in eight games.

Two-year starting quarterback Riley Johnston is a double threat with 52 of 96 passing for 779 yards (5 TDs and 5 interceptions) and 336 yards rushing on 60 carries. When Johnston throws, it's often to tight end Zack Vode (6-1, 190) who has caught 30 passes for 513 yards. But two-year starter Matthew Benton (5-11, 180) has 18 catches for 217 yards.

In four NCC games, Hobart has allowed a total of 20 points. The Brickie defense has held the opposition scoreless for 10 consecutive quarters since allowing a second quarter field goal against Kankakee Valley.

Hobart’s defense may look a little better than it is because the offense hogs the ball. The halfback has run the ball 189 times in eight games? That’s 23-24 times a game. Johnston can throw (he was 73 of 143 for 824 yards) last season, but the Brickies clearly want to run the ball until you stop it. The matchup of the Hobart offensive line and the Lowell defensive front will be the key Friday.

2019 (4A) LOWELL (5-3)
10-3 (2018), 14-1 (2017) 9-5 (2016), 12-1 (2015)
Coach Keith Kilmer (8 years, 79-36) NCC Conference games in CAPS

8-23 (W) 21-19 vs. (6A) Crown Point (4-4)
8-30 (L) 9-35 at (6A) Portage (1-7)
9-6 (L) 23-35 at (4A) Morton (7-1)
9-13 (W) 42-28 (4A) Griffith (1-7)
9-20 (W) 21-14 at (4A) at KANKAKEE VALLEY (3-5)
9-27 (W) 24-7 at (4A) HIGHLAND (4-4)
10-4 (W) 48-13 at (5A) MUNSTER (0-8)
10-11 (L) 0-13 (2A) ANDREAN (5-3)

10-18 (Fri) at (4A) HOBART (6-2)

Class 4A Sectional 17
10-25 (Fri) Gary West Side (2-6)
11-1 (Fri) vs Gavit (2-6) or at Griffith (1-6).


LOWELL Update:

One of Lowell’s best defensive games of the season was a game where they were shut out 13-0 by Andrean last week. The Devils only had eight possessions in the game and they were held to 116 total yards.

As strange as this may sound for a team that got shut out, I liked the play-calling for the Devils. There was more motion and misdirection than there has been, almost as if Lowell had been wanting
that. With Adam Bank (5-8, 160) and Ryan Marx (5-7, 155) back healthy to go with John Alessia (6-0, 150), Jacob Chandler (5-8, 145) and Jeff Wallis (5-10, 174) the Devils had their full platoon of skill players on the field for the first time, I believe, since August.

The odd thing about the loss to Andrean was that Lowell did not fumble or throw an interception. The Devils didn't consistently get much of a push on the offensive line against a tough Andrean front, which played well.

But the conditions bothered Lowell. For years, a bad field helped Lowell against all comers. This Red Devil team has small, fast skill players and they need a dry track. I would be very surprised if the Devils don't have a good offensive night at Hobart.

Defensively, Lowell allowed 116 yards rushing and 132 yards passing, numbers that win on most nights. The Devils sacked the quarterback four times and got an interception from Reece Ison. Lowell will face a better offense at Hobart than they did against Andrean. The final score Friday won't be 13-0 or anything close to that.


4A LOWELL (5-3) at 4A HOBART (6-2)

At  Hobart's Brickyard: Capacity 5,000 (est.) 

Sagarin computer ratings:  Hobart by 21.

The spread seems high, but Hobart rolled over the same Andrean team that shut out Lowell. The Brickies defeated Munster, Highland and KV by much larger margins than Lowell did. For the record, Andrean was a four-point favorite over Lowell last week and the 59ers won 13-0.


HOBART (10-18-2019) I don't expect Lowell to have the defensive success against Hobart that they did against Andrean, but this game will be close.

Hobart's DJ Lipke scores early for a 7-0 lead and, after a Nate Gard field goal, a TD pass from Riley Johnston to Zach Vode ups the lead to 14-3.

But the Devils rally with on a run by Ryan Marx to cut the lead to 14-10 and a third quarter pass from Cam Stojancevich to Jeffrey Wallis gives the Devils a 17-14 third quarter lead. An interception by John Alessia sets up a Jacob Chandler TD and a 24-14 Lowell lead but Lipke’s second of the game closes the gap to 24-21.

The Lowell defense will be called on to stop Hobart more than once in the final minutes, but the Devils will pull out a close win.

This should be one of the better games of the season, but I’m thinking Lowell got more out of the loss to Andrean last week than Hobart did in the walk over Munster.

LOWELL 24, Hobart 21

Copyright © 2019 USA-365.com and Meyer Multimedia Services, a division of Meyer Broadcasting Corp.  All rights reserved.
Revised: October 17, 2019 .