LOWELL — Lowell is lunch-bucket tough. A blue-collar community where high school football wears a crown. No, "the" crown.

The black and red of RDP is the perfect symbol for Region football.

Our legacy and lore is linked to our steel mill roots, that support our schools that play smash mouth defensive football. Guys that would rather hit you than say hello.

Many fans of the area's top program support this theory, and that helped the Red Devils get to state championship games in 2005, 2007 and 2009.

But the 2017 version of this great program is much different than those of the past. Polar opposites.

In the past Lowell's defensive units were very successful because they weren't on the field all night. Those black and bruise brothers played in the shadows of the long line of powerful, gritty running backs taking piles four yards at a time on 12-minute drives.

Guys like Mike Pickett, Matt Pernick, Nick Holley, Nathan Kersey, Mike French, Sean Anderson, Justin Henley, Toby Goetz, Scott Gray, Steffan Peck and Brandon Grubbe.

Famed public address announcer John Alessia used to need a box of Cepacols for screaming "First down, Red Devils" all night. Now, he quietly sips hot chocolate most Friday nights.

The worm has turned this autumn.

The offense is playing, almost cowering at times, in the shadow of a defensive unit that is, in my un-humble opinion, the best ever assembled on Commercial Avenue.

Every kid on Lowell's defense should be wearing No. 6. Every one.

This talented team reminds so much of the '86 Bears it's frightening. If the defense doesn't set up a couple of scores it turns into a white-knuckle affair.

"No, no," laughed Lowell defensive coordinator Derek Thompson when asked if he ever feels like Buddy Ryan. "We're a team, and what we do here is for the kids and our community."

After the 16-0 domination of Andrean, Thompson's continuing the old defensive notion of stopping the run, controlling the line of scrimmage and playing hard-hitting physical defense has continued.

And this 2017 group has taken it to the highest level.

"I think we're better than we were last year because we've all been together for another year," Lowell senior linebacker Logan Charters said. "We do what we do best. We focus on the run first. Then, we stay in our spots and defend against the pass.

"We just have to keep doing what we're doing as we head into the postseason."

Yep, eight seniors are in their second season of starting together, which is uncommon.

At the half, as Lowell led 3-0, the 59ers had one first down and 36 total yards. It didn't get much better in the final 24, either. The 'Niners finished with 67 yards for the game.

Which is sick.

"We're playing for our brothers," senior defensive back Logan O'Hanlon said. "Our biggest thing is stopping the run, playing physical and playing together. We want to go as far as we can this postseason."

Lowell was giving up 6.86 points per game coming into this game, which is fourth-best in Indiana. And that number just went down.

But there is one number I'm seeing on the spiritual wall that in my eyes pertains to the long-awaited run to Lucas Oil Stadium.

It is 21 or more.

If this Lowell offense can get at least three touchdowns each game heading into Week 10, it will be eating Thanksgiving turkey in Indianapolis.

If not, it's still possible, but it will be a lot more difficult.

Everything has changed in Lowell. This football-loving community is going to have to find a new way to head south.

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

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Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.