Loyalty to teammates runs deep in high school football, sometimes even deeper than loyalty to school.
Six Penn football alums who played on the same Kingsmen team as La Porte coach Jeremy Lowery sat on the Slicers' side of Freed Field for Friday's game in support of their long-time friend.
"Before the game, they said, coach, we just want you to know this is the first time we've ever sat over here and this is the first time we've ever rooted against Penn," Lowery said after chatting with a couple more former teammates following Saturday's JV game at Kiwanis Field. "My mom came up for the game and they sat with her."
The Kingsmen's current coaching staff also includes a pair of Lowery's former teammates and Chris Geesman, Penn's coach at the time, was in the press box doing radio commentary.
"It's been a long time," he said. "We're talking 25-plus years. Once the game started, it was all football, but I had to take a couple steps back in pre-game. I ran up to visit with coach Geesman. I wasn't going to get out of there without seeing him."
While Penn won the game 33-6, Lowery was buoyed by his team's execution, effort and energy.
"I'm glad we played better," he said. "We competed throughout the game. It was 14-6 for a long time, 7-6 for a long time. They wore us down as the game went on, but our posture on the field was better. I've seen a lot of teams lay down on that field and our kids really showed up. We made huge improvements from week one and I believe we will continue to make those improvements."
Lowery's message after the game was: better days are on the horizon.
"We're 0-2, but we've got a ton of low-hanging fruit. That's encouraging," he said. "We've got some easy gains. Some things are a little harder, but it's all part of the process we're trying to get them to figure out. We've got to grind now, stick together. I really think we have the foundation of a great culture. We've got a bunch of people who care about each other."
The rugged start that now brings Valparaiso to Kiwanis on Friday hasn't dampened Lowery's sense of humor.
"Nobody can say we took the easy route," he said. "In the long run, that will make us better. Last weekend, people were like, coach, are you OK? I told them, if it makes you feel any better, my first game at Paoli was worse than that. It was 56-12 and we turned out pretty good. The only thing that hurts is if you get too beat up."
The Slicers took some dings Friday that hampered the game plan in the second half, but Lowery gets six suspended starters back in the second quarter of the Valpo game.
"We get a little deeper, which will help," he said. We got a little thin as the night went on. I don't care if you're the Bears, if you have 30 percent of your starters out, it's tough. We really hurt them on the perimeter in the first half, so we knew they were going to adjust. (Robbie) Kiner played well in the first half, I thought we would have some quarterback runs available, but we had to get away from that. (Collin) Bergquist looked good, he looked strong. That sophomore class is very encouraging. At some point, we need some rotation. It will work out well."
Sticking with Mike: Turnovers, both fumbles and interceptions, continued to plague Michigan City quarterback Michael Bradford in his second varsity game behind center.
"For some reason, he's underthrowing the ball," Wolves coach Phil Mason said Friday following the a 20-19 loss to Warsaw. "It's a little puzzling right now as to why he's doing that. He doesn't do it in practice. We know what he is as a quarterback. We just have to work to get better at some things. We can't have turnovers."
Mason said there was no inclination to go to sophomore Gio Laurent.
"It wasn't the right time," he said. "There was no flow."
Laurent did play on one goal line snap, handing off to Jonathon Flemings for the go-ahead touchdown.