MISHAWAKA — Entering Friday’s Class 4A regional championship, Lowell running back Tyler Wildman hadn’t lost much in his career.
The senior was part of four Red Devils sectional championships and two regional titles. And with a chance to win Lowell’s third straight regional championship and ninth in school history, he continued his standout campaign with another strong performance.
Wildman totaled 15 carries for 85 yards and two touchdowns. But it wasn’t enough to lift the Red Devils over the Cavemen. Mishawaka rode senior running back Chris Harness to a 28-14 victory and remained unbeaten at Steele Stadium.
“It was a great run, and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else,” Wildman said. “I think everyone gave it their all. We fought, we battled, we never quit. We played a good football team, and they made fewer mistakes. But what a blessing it is to play for a regional championship three years in a row with dudes I love.”
Trailing 21-14 with just under three minutes to play, the Red Devils had a chance to tie the game but couldn’t capitalize. Wildman and senior quarterback Ethan Igras led the Red Devils to the Cavemen’s 21-yard line. But after a few penalties, Lowell faced fourth-and-13 and Igras came up seven yards short of a first down on a quarterback scramble.
Just three plays later, Harness broke several tackles — eluding the Red Devils' first wave of defenders — to score the final touchdown of the game. The 77-yard run capped off a huge night for the Cavemen’s leading rusher, who notched his eighth 200-yard rushing game of the season and third in a row. Harness finished the game with 33 carries for 226 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s third-and-2,” Lowell coach Keith Kilmer said about Harness’ game-clinching run. “You got a timeout. So if you stop them for a loss, you’re gonna get the ball back with two minutes left to go and a chance to tie it. So you put everybody on the line. It’s either we’re going to stop them or they’re going to score. We sold out, and they had the right play call.”
But before the Red Devils even had an opportunity to knot the score, they first had to find an offensive rhythm. In the first half, Harness logged 20 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown — helping Mishawaka dominate the time of possession and take a 7-0 lead. The Cavemen had the ball for nearly 17 of the half’s 24 minutes, while Lowell managed just 13 plays and one first down.
Wildman had only two carries for -2 yards at the break but jumpstarted Lowell’s offense with runs of 6 and 7 yards on the team’s first two offensive plays of the second half. He ended the Red Devils’ first scoring drive with a 12-yard diving touchdown run up the middle, and scored again early in the fourth quarter on a 21-yard quarterback option to help even the game at 14-14.
“He called that option touchdown," Kilmer said. “He called it during a timeout. He said it was open. I said, ‘Alright, let’s roll with it,’ and he took it to the house. That’s the growth of Tyler Wildman as a football player, from a kid who’s just playing to a kid who’s a student of the game.”
But even with the witty decision leading to a score, Lowell was never able to take the lead. On the ensuing drive, Mishawaka quarterback Sam Shively completed his only pass of the game — a 34-yard touchdown to running back Brad Taylor to push the lead back to seven. And Harness was able to put the game out of reach with the longest play of the night.
After the game, Wildman emerged from the locker room still in his uniform while wiping tears from his eyes.
“I think it’s all sinking in right now,” Wildman said. “And I think it’ll be really bad on the bus ride home, knowing that I have to take these shoulder pads off and I won’t ever put them back on.”