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La Porte coach, former Penn star Lowery grateful for his roots

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

Every coach has his starting point, a team or person he played for at a young age who influenced their decision to go into the profession.

For La Porte football's Jeremy Lowery, it was his time at Penn.

"Playing there at a very special time with some very incredible people, it made a huge impact on my life," Lowery said. "There's a reason why people coach football and it's generally because somewhere along the way someone made a serious impact on your life, and there's no doubt those coaches, my experience there, were a big reason. It helped me realize what impact the game of football had on my life. The reason why you become a coach is the positive experiences that other people gave you. My whole goal as a coach is to give kids the same experience I had."

Lowery, whose Slicers host the Kingsmen on Friday, was a star running back for Penn under legendary coach Chris Geesman. Penn was 43-4 during Lowery's four years, reaching the state finals in 1989, his sophomore year.

"He was a heck of a football player, a great running back, a great young man with great parents, a great family," Penn coach Cory Yeoman, the Kingsmen's defensive line coach during Lowery's career. "He was a great teammate. He was one of those guys who would do everything you ask him to do, then do more on own. He wasn't the biggest guy. He was undersized, but he was explosive. He was one of the best blockers on the team. He took great pride in everything he did, not just running the football, but the other intangibles that you bring to a team."

It comes as no surprise to Yeoman that Lowery coaches the same way as he played, with the pedal to the floor board.

"He was very energetic as a player and watching him as a coach, he's a high-energy guy," Yeoman said. "He has an electric personality. He brings a lot of emotion to the group and I'm sure his players love him."

Though it will take time for Lowery to get the program rolling at La Porte, Yeoman has every confidence in him getting it done, and the Penn influence remains strong for Lowery.

"As a new coach, it's the example of what you want your program to be," Lowery said. "It's the mold. They really do it the right way. They're high-quality people. Cory has always been extremely supportive. He's a great guy. I was fortunate to play for him, his brother Trent, his dad Wally, his brother Todd. It's an incredible family, a great football family. They're big role models for me."

While Penn will have the talent edge on the field, Yeoman knows he'll get the Slicers' best, as they did last year, when Penn used a big second half to pull away for a 33-6 win at Freed Field.

"I was so proud of our kids," Lowery said. "It was our second game and the kids came out and played really hard. I expect them to do the same, show up and give it everything they've got. We have an opportunity and that's what it's all about. You always want to be your best, but when you go against people you care about, it's like a pick-up basketball game with your brother. You love them, but you're going to bring it, too."

Nothing can replicate last year's scenario -- the former star returning to his roots to face his former school -- but the Penn game will always be special for Lowery.

"That was the most unique coaching situation I've ever been in," he said. "I never thought in a million years I would return to that field coaching football. So many dominoes have to fall for me to end up up here. The year before, I was happy in Paoli, things were going well, then I show up at Freed Field on a Friday night coaching against mentors, people I care about, with old teammates up in the stands. There were a lot of different feelings jumping around. Thank God the game started because it was pretty emotional going back and seeing all those people. Once the game starts, it's football, and you get after it."

Both teams opened the season last Saturday, La Porte falling 14-0 to New Prairie, while Class 5A No. 2 Valparaiso edged the Kingsmen 17-16 on a last-second field goal by Liam Shepherd.

"I liked how we competed the whole game against a heck of a Valpo team," Yeoman said. "It was a tough game. We just came up a little short at the end. There were a lot of things I liked and a lot of things we need to clean up."

Penn is led by quarterback Ron Powlus, Jr., the son of the former Notre Dame quarterback by the same name. The Kingsmen are experienced at the skill positions with receivers Carson Mumaw and Nick Favilla and running back Kyle Riffel. Oscar Lauer (6-2, 240) and Joe Howley (6-2, 260) are line veterans. On defense, Owen Weisman and Joe Apata, both 6-foot-3, anchor the line, with Zack Messer and Tye Zahner heading the linebacker and secondary groups, respectively.

"They're a really good football team," Lowery said. "They're good at what they do. There's no secret what they want to do, they're just good at it. They're fundamentally sound, extremely well-coached, in all three phases. Their special teams are extremely impressive as always. They had a 99-yard kickoff return against Valpo and were in a position of command until seven minutes left. The quarterback's special, a big-armed kid. They're going to bring their 'A' game and we have to also bring ours. We have to compete in all three phases."

Lowery knows as well as anybody Penn's ability to score in bunches.

"You watch them play, they're going to have a flurry at some point," he said. "You think you're right there, then you blink, and it's over. If we can withstand that, we've got a chance."

After referencing the potential for some lineup changes following the New Prairie game, Lowery affirmed there will be some new names in action for the Slicers. One of them could be quarterback, where Jack McGuire struggled in the opener and sophomore RJ Anglin is waiting in the wings.

La Porte's Jeremiah Ruiz runs the ball in Saturday's game against

New Prairie. The Slicers host Penn on Friday. (Photo by Jay Anglin)

"We've got to keep sharpening the tools," Lowery said. "That was the first real dress rehearsal we've had, so we'll have an opportunity to make a couple changes and see how it affects our play. I expect us to play a lot better. You look at a year ago, the difference from week one to week two was pretty dramatic. We were a lot better in week two and I think we will be again. We've worked hard, put the time in and we're looking forward to another opportunity."

Staff Picks:

Kevin Tran -- Penn 42, La Porte 0

Zach Coulter -- Penn 31, La Porte 7

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