Coach Kilmer watches the lineman run drills during practice at Lowell High School on Monday August 5, 2013. | Jim Karczewski~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 7, 2013 6:24AM
LOWELL — Normality is back in the region as the official start of IHSAA football practice began on Monday — especially in a football-crazed community like Lowell.
They live, breath and bleed Red Devil colors — hence the frequent sightings of “RDP” (Red Devil Pride) shirts — so the sounds of late summer on the gridiron are music to their ears.
“We need to have a competing mindset!” exclaimed Lowell’s defensive backs coach Jamie Kirin. “Don’t give them anything!”
That’s the kind of enthusiasm head coach Keith Kilmer is looking for from his assistants and players heading into his fourth year at the helm after being an assistant under Kirk Kennedy, who is back in the region at North Judson after three years at Bloomington South.
In fact, Kilmer was just as intense as his predecessor on the field on Monday — maybe more since this could be a breakthrough season for the Red Devils.
“I think we’ve gotten through the change mentally in taking over for a legend,” said Kilmer, sounding as if he was speaking for a community rather than just a football team.
In the three years since taking over, Kilmer’s teams have hovered around the .500 mark — 6-4 in 2010 and 5-5 the last two seasons — losing in the first round of sectional each time.
“We’re gaining confidence right now,” he said. “If two or three plays go our way last year, it’s a totally different year. Mentally, we need to change those plays for the better. The kids’ attitude and work ethic — they’re buying into this program.”
The numbers prove it, at least on the first day of two-a-days. Kilmer said that at the end of his first year as head coach, there were 39 players on the roster. On Monday, there were 63 signed up to play, most of which are sophomore and juniors.
“Is record a measure of success? Maybe … we’ve improved each year, but we’re not satisfied or happy,” Kilmer said. “We had Andrean (who reached semistate after winning the Northwest Crossroads Conference title) down 19-7 and lost 20-19. Those are games we used to win and we need to get back to that.”
Luckily for Kilmer, he’s got the community behind him for the most part. He’s been loyal to the program and Lowell fans appreciate that since it’s their mantra, too.
Unlike some Northwest Indiana football fan bases that will remain unnamed, Lowell fans seem to be fairly tame. Yes, they rock The Inferno on Friday nights, and have a good following for road games, but there are very few, if any, complaints sent into the Post-Tribune’s popular Quickly column. For some fan bases, that’s become a ritual, but Lowell seems to be an example of normality despite having high expectations after winning a state title in 2005 and finishing runner-up in 2007 and 2009.
“I don’t have a for sale sign up yet,” Kilmer joked. “We’ve beat every team (on the regular season schedule) but Crown Point in my time as head coach.”
That could change in a little less than three weeks when the Bulldogs come to The Inferno to face the Red Devils in the traditional season opener.