December 8, 2019

FOOTBALL: Lowell at Griffith Game Preview

Griffith and Lowell square off for possibly the last time – who’s going to come out on top in the last meeting? Check out the game preview to find out!

GAME NOTES: These two have been banging heads since the days of the leather helmet. Eighty-one times in the regular season plus several Class 4A sectional and regional thrillers make up the long and storied history of one of the greatest and most enduring high school sports rivalries in the state.

Without knowing it, Griffith players and their fans took the long ride to the Inferno for the last time last year. This series, which dates back to 1934, is coming to a close. That’s right, Griffith and Lowell will be no more. With the Panthers move to the Greater South Shore Conference next school year, Griffith administrators are looking for other competition on Friday nights in the future, and don’t have room for the Devils in week four or any other week for that matter.

As sad as this may be for Region football purists to accept, the fact is its true, so let’s focus on Friday and enjoy for what it is – the final battle between two of the Region’s proudest programs –  Griffith and Lowell. And around here, that still means something.

BREAKDOWN: Both teams come in at 1-2, but both probably feel they should be 2-1. Lowell is getting used to several new faces, including the starting quarterback and tailback, therefore the offense has been a work in progress, last week’s 35 points against KV not withstanding.

Because of the 0-2 start, many in the Region have already written Lowell off. Big mistake. They lost two close games to improving Duneland Conference schools. Now that they are in the NCC part of the schedule, Lowell could go on a roll.

Griffith is changing more than just their conference. They’re changing their identity. No more are they the Broad Streets Bullies. A kinder, gentler Panther program is the goal of the schools elected officials. Luckily, for long time Panther backers, Ben Geffert is the head coach. His ties to the old way of doing things mean that at least some of what made Griffith football Griffith football will remain – at least in some ways. But for the most part, it’s time to turn the page.

Keys to the Game
This used to be the easiest writing assignment of the season – the keys to success for both teams. You simply took the previous game preview and updated the player names and game location. Simple as that. Not anymore.

The games up north, at the stadium formerly known as the Boneyard, are now played on turf. We’ve seen the effect that’s had on the Griffith game plan since being installed. The question now is will it cause Keith Kilmer to adjust what he likes to do, which is run the ball. The answer to that is NO! It’s called RDP for reason: as in run, don’t pass – get it? And it’s been done that way since Kirk Kennedy came to south Lake County.

So just like all those previous Griffith-Lowell games, the Devils expect this game to be won in the trenches. On offense that means open up holes big enough to gain 3-5 yards at a time and don’t turn the ball over or shoot themselves in the foot with ill-timed penalties.

On defense, it means don’t allow Griffith to do the same. Should the Panthers go to the air, which is likely to happen, the Red Devils defensive line will need to apply pressure and force Griffith QB Fred Winston to throw earlier than he wants to. The Panthers will have the speed edge on the outside so Lowell can’t allow the quarterback time in the pocket. The more of it he has, the more likely his receivers are to get open. Lowell doesn’t want to play catch up, so Kilmer’s defense needs to keep the big plays to absolute minimum.

The Panthers, unlike the Devils, are looking for a high scoring affair on Friday. In the Kennedy-Radtke wars, it was usually the toughest and most physical team that won the game. These Panthers don’t have the beef to go toe-to-toe with Devils and their corn fed muscle heads, so they’ll try to take advantage of what they may perceive as a strength; their speed on the outside.

Quarterback Fred Winston has several capable receivers, including Cameron Crowe, Joey Martoccio, Isaiah Allen, Cole Cervantes and Isaiah Ramirez. Conventional wisdom would tell you to throw the ball early and often, which the Panthers might do. If the passes are complete then all is well. If they aren’t Lowell will dominate time of possession and win easily. That said, Josh Miller and the Griffith ground game will need to be productive, although not spectacular, to keep the Devils honest and to give their defense some rest.

Speaking of the other side of the ball, Griffith knows they have to stop the run. This year that means Jordan Jusevitch. As mentioned earlier, it’s no secret what the Devils will do. The Panthers know what’s coming; old-school between the tackles football run out of the I-formation. Because Lowell’s size gives them an advantage up front, Griffith linebackers will need to be at their best Friday night, because if they don’t lead the team in tackles, the defensive backs will have to, and that’s never a good thing.

Neutralize the running game and you neutralize Lowell. Make them beat you through the air. That’s easier said than done but this is football and no one said winning was easy.

As much as we want this to be another in the long line of rock-em-sock-em, smashmouth classics between these two, it just doesn’t appear likely that the Panthers can hang for a full four quarters. Expect the Devils to do what they do and pull way in the second half. A late score for Griffith will make the score look a little more respectable in the history books.

So long Griffith vs Lowell. Thanks for memories.

FRIDAY NIGHT FORECAST: Lowell 28 Griffith 17

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