LOWELL | Although the post-game speech was a mix of praise and admonishment, the eye black on Jake Jatis’ face streaked to a mouth suppressing a wry grin.
Atop the senior quarterback’s head was the Old Leather Helmet, part of the traveling trophy for the state’s oldest rivalry. Lowell and Crown Point have been playing since 1903.
The relic from the trophy was well-kept, lacking mildew or dust.
“I don’t know how people wore this,” Jatis said as he walked to the locker room still wearing the helmet.
“It’s just old-fashioned, and it’s old-school football gear.”
Jatis earned the right to where the helmet for the first time himself as Times No. 3 Crown Point held off host Lowell 16-12 Friday night at The Inferno.
Jatis had two touchdown passes, the first an 80-yarder to Jacob Kocher to open the second quarter, the other a 9-yard laser to Morgan Kral in the third quarter. That and a 29-yard Evan Markowitz field goal were enough for the Bulldogs (1-0) to hold off the fumble-prone Red Devils.
The Bulldogs extended their winning streak in the series to four straight. Lowell had won three in a row before that.
“It’s just a great feeling to finally wear this,” Jatis said. “After 35 practices, this was just an awesome reward.”
Jatis wasn’t flawless as he missed his first four passing attempts and finished 10-for-25 through the air with 193 yards and two interceptions.
Likewise, Lowell’s star had warts as well. Tailback George Fields ran 32 times for 193 yards and two touchdowns, but he surrendered two of Lowell’s four lost fumbles.
After Markowitz’s field goal with 58 seconds left in the third quarter put the ‘Dogs up 16-6, Fields took the handoff on the next play from scrimmage and went 80 yards for his second score.
Fields took seven of nine carries on the Red Devils’ final drive, but several passing plays went awry as Lowell turned it over on downs with 1:35 to go in the game.
“It was a hard-fought football game,” said Crown Point Coach Kevin Enright. “Any time you can come here and make the mistakes we did and come away with a win against a very good football team like Lowell, you have to take that. With Lowell it’s always a grudge match.”