Fort Wayne – A 31 point second half onslaught by the Fort Wayne Dwenger Saints proved to be too much for the Lowell Red Devils to overcome, as Dwenger (14-0) downed Lowell (13-1) 38-22 in the class 4A northern Semi-State at frigid Zollner Stadium in Fort Wayne.
With the win, Dwenger avenged a 10-7 loss to Lowell in last year’s 4A Semi-State and advance to the 4A State Championship game next weekend at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis.
Playing in bitter cold weather, the two combatants were tied 7-7 at the break after a defensive struggle in the first half before both offenses combined for a 32 point explosion in the third quarter, with the Saints holding a two point, 24-22 margin at the quarter break.
But it was Fort Wayne Dwenger that would add two unanswered fourth quarter scores for the final 16 point margin and the victory to capture the right to take on Indianapolis Cathedral for the 4A state title next weekend.
Faced with poor field position throughout most of the first half, Lowell struggled offensively but came up with some big plays on defense to stop Dwenger drives in Red Devil territory as the Saints came away empty handed in their first three trips into the Lowell red zone.
Under heavy pressure from Lowell defensive end Nathan Cleveland, Dwenger quarterback Trevor Yerrick’s hurried pass was intercepted by Lowell linebacker Justin Juarez on the Saints first trip into the red zone.
On the second drive deep into Lowell territory, defensive tackle Logan Wright recovered a Dwenger fumble at the Lowell ten yard line to end the threat.
And things looked really bleak for Lowell when Cole Midgett’s fumble was recovered by Dwenger at the Red Devil five yard line with 3:23 remaining in the half. But somehow the defense held, and Emerson Ueber’s 25 yard field goal attempt sailed wide left with 1:44 remaining in the half.
Then Lowell’s two minute offense got things going, as Red Devil quarterback Kurt Monix moved the ball downfield through the air, and capped off the drive with a 20 yard touchdown pass to tailback Brandon Grubbe to give Lowell the lead with 33 seconds remaining in the half. Matt Berkos added the PAT and Lowell led 7-0.
In his final game as a Red Devil, Monix completed 6 of 13 passes for 118 yards and one touchdown.
But as was the case all night, Lowell’s lead was short-lived. In a game filled with big plays, Tyler Eifert of Dwenger made what was probably the biggest of the night.
After slipping to the turf before fielding the Lowell kick-off, Eifert regained his footing, scooped up the ball at his own 18 yard line and raced 74 yards down the sidelines before being knocked out of bounds at the Lowell eight yard line.
From there, Saints quarterback Yerrick threw the first of his four touchdown passes for the game as he hooked up with running back Joe Colone for a nine yard scoring strike with five seconds left in the half for a huge momentum boost for Dwenger. Ueber’s PAT knotted the score at seven apiece at the break.
The second half was a dramatic departure from the tempo of the first half as the offenses took over. Ueber opened the scoring for Dwenger with a 29 yard field goal for a 10-7 Saints lead at 9:26 of the third period and the shootout had begun.
Just one minute and nine seconds later, Cody Midgett broke free for a 44 yard touchdown run for Lowell and Berkos’ extra point gave the Red Devils a four point lead at 14-10.
But as was the case all night, Dwenger was able to respond immediately as less than a minute later, Joe Colone broke free for his second TD on the night, this one a 58 yard romp that gave the lead back to Dwenger.
But Midgett blocked the ensuing PAT for Lowell, holding the Dwenger lead to just two points at 16-14 with 7:24 still to play in the period.
Lowell then got right back to work on their ensuing possession as Grubbe scampered 37 yards for a Red Devil score. Grubbe then added the two-point conversion run as well, giving the Devils a six point lead at 22-16 with 2:22 to play in the period. Grubbe rushed 26 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the contest.
But once again Dwenger was able to answer right back, as less than a minute later Yerrick found a wide open Joel Gerardot for a 63 yard score to knot the game back up at 22 apiece.
Tyler Eifert then made a spectacular grab of a two-point conversion pass from Yerrick to give Dwenger a two-point, 24-22 lead at the end of the quarter, a lead they would never relinquish.
The tempo slowed down somewhat in the fourth quarter as Lowell’s offense was unable to find the endzone again, but Dwenger was able to put the game away with two more Yerrick TD passes in the final five minutes of the game. For the game, Yerrick completed 7 of 13 passes for 169 yards and 4 scores with one interception for Dwenger.
First Yerrick hit Eifert with a 19 yard scoring pass at the 5:39 mark. But Lowell’s Justin Juarez blocked the PAT to keep the Devils in the game, trailing by eight points at 30-22.
But the Red Devil offense came up short on their next possession as Lowell turned the ball over on downs and then Yerrick was able to ice the game for Dwenger with a 26 yard TD pass to Geradot with just 57 seconds remaining in the game. Remound Wright then ran in the two point conversion for the Saints’ final margin, 38-22.
“We kind of felt each other out in the first half,” said Lowell Coach Kirk Kennedy. “But they’ve got a lot of weapons and what we saw was their playmakers rise to the fore and make big plays in the second half.”
“It’s disappointing because we made a lot of plays in the game too, but (this is) where plays that you don’t make enter into it. We had a lot of chances to make something happen and didn’t, but I’m proud of our kids and they way they fought.”
Chris Lannin can be E-mailed @ Chris.firstname.lastname@example.org.