How confident River Forest was heading into its matchup with Whiting is up for debate, considering the Oilers were 7-0 and hadn’t lost a conference game since 2011.

But the Ingots confidence began snowballing in the first half and was a full-blown avalanche by the second half, spearheaded by some big plays from their defense.

Malachi Sala, who had 146 rushing yards in the game, said his confidence grew, “when we kept getting turnovers, whether No. 10 or No. 7 was in,” referring to Whiting’s starting QB AJ Veloz and his injury replacement Stuart Glascow, respectively.

River Forest coach Jeff Bean added: “We stopped them when they were deep in our territory. Two of those turnovers came from making great reads.”

Devils’ dandy ‘D’: Coach Keith Kilmer’s Lowell defense has risen to the occasion and played consistently all season, so their performance in Friday night’s 17-7 Northwest Crossroads Conference win over Munster really isn’t so surprising.

Talk about a stout and stingy defense.

“What can I say about our defense all year?” a pleased Kilmer asked. “Our defense rose to the occasion once again. Our defensive line really played well. They work so hard up front that a lot of times it takes more than one (player) to block them. We’ve been very consistent all year. There are times where we bend, but don’t break.”

After starting the season 0-2, Lowell (6-2, 5-0) has now won six straight games to set up Friday’s huge showdown for the league title against unbeaten Andrean (8-0, 5-0) at The Inferno.

“I’m just so proud of these kids,” Kilmer said. “They’ve worked hard enough to get to this point to play for a conference championship. We told them to believe in yourselves, believe in your skills, and believe in your coaches and teammates. Tonight, they went out and dealt with adversity (star running back George Fields was suspended hours before kickoff) played together and showed us what they’re capable of doing.”

Simmons shines: Lowell senior defensive back Eddie Simmons, who made two of the Red Devils’ three interceptions against Munster Friday night (Josh Bottos had the other), is one of the main reasons the Red Devils entered the game allowing only 12 points and 91 yards rushing per game.

“It’s not just our defensive linemen up front who’ve done a great job,” Simmons said. “We have a great team defense. Our linebackers are good and our secondary is very good, too. This is the best defense we’ve had since I’ve been here. We’re really playing well. We’re going to have to play well (to beat Andrean). I’m looking forward to it — we’re fighting for the conference championship again. I think we’re back.”

Supporting their own: Andrean’s coaching staff wore pink T-shirts on Friday night against Griffith with the slogan: “Fight Like a Girl.”

It was in honor of Mrs. Albomonte whose two boys — John and Joe — play for the 59ers.

And they fought hard all right winning 56-21 on Friday night setting up a winner-take-all game against Lowell next Friday for the conference title.

But this was about Mrs. Albomonte and Breast Cancer Awareness.

“We’ve got boys on our team whose mom is a breast cancer survivor,” Mason said. “Mom makes a big deal about it and she should because she’s strong-willed. We support her and we thought we’d show her a little love and put together these T-shirts for the coaching staff.”

Brickies will ‘keep fighting’: After starting their season at 4-0, Hobart has now lost four straight. But given that those losses were to Andrean, Lowell, Munster and Morton, all of whom are having great seasons, things don’t look quite as bad.

The Brickies catch a breather with Highland this week before starting up postseason play in a wide-open sectional. Russ Radtke’s New Prairie squad is 8-0, but against mostly 1A and 3A schools. Beyond that, only Plymouth is having much of a season. So don’t count out the Brickies.

“We’re going to keep fighting,” said Hobart coach Ryan Turley. “We’ve got a week to get ready for the real season.”

Correspondents Dave Melton, Ryan Haskell, Dennis Churilla and John O’Malley contributed