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Football: Strange encounter for close friends NJ’s Kirk Kennedy, KV’s Brad Stewart

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Updated: October 28, 2013 7:25AM



North Judson’s Kirk Kennedy has been a head coach 23 years, but he’s never faced a situation quite like the one he’ll encounter this week.

The Bluejays (2-3) travel to Kankakee Valley (2-3) where Kennedy will go up against Brad Stewart, who also happens to be his best friend.

Stewart, Kennedy’s defensive coordinator for 19 years at Lowell, face one another on opposite sidelines for the first time when their teams meet in an intriguing non-conference matchup Friday night.

“Brad and I are awfully close — professionally and personally — he’s like a brother to me,’’ Kennedy said. “Both of us, though, will be doing everything we can to beat the other.

“Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve ever been in this situation before. I’ve coached against a lot of guys in this area for a lot of years — (Munster’s) Leroy Marsh, (Morton’s) Roy Richards, (former Crown Point and Highland coach) Brad Smith, and a lot of others. It seemed almost every week you’d be coaching against a friend or someone you (knew) very well, so there was a lot of built-up respect — but I don’t think I’ve ever coached against anybody as close to me as coach Stewart.’’

So will Kennedy be overly emotional? How strange will it be for him?

“It’s really never been on a level like this before for me,’’ he said. “Right now, it just feels like we’re just getting ready for another team this week, but when I see coach Stewart and we shake hands and have our pregame talk, it’s going to be like coaching against your brother. I don’t think the true magnitude will be felt until I get over there.’’

Kennedy’s team has struggled since a season-opening 25-7 win over John Glenn.

A slew of injuries, including a couple of broken legs, along with some illnesses — two players are out with mononucleosis — have contributed to Judson’s travails.

“We’re probably down eight or nine kids,’’ Kennedy said. “We’re getting pretty far down the depth chart. With our numbers where they are (30 players before the attrition), we really can’t afford that. Those are the circumstances we have to deal with, but we’re not going to allow those circumstances to define us. We’re going to be defined by our reponse to those circumstances.

“We’ll prepare well and do the best we can. We’re not going to accept or play with excuses. We’re going to continue on and keep fighting. We plan to put our best foot forward.’’

Something must give: When Lowell meets Hobart in a key Northwest Crossroads Conference clash, it could be a classic.

The Brickies (4-1, 2-1) have an explosive offense — averaging 34 points per outing — while the Red Devils (3-2, 3-0) are stingy defensively — surrendering only 11 points per game.

“I expect another classic Hobart-Lowell game like the last three years,’’ Red Devils coach Keith Kilmer said. “These are two proud programs with similar types of kids. The two coaches are pretty much the same and think the same way, too. Both of these programs have tradition and coaches who preach to the kids to leave the program better than they found it. I think it’s just a great rivalry where there’s no animosity, and I think that’s because there are such similarities.’’

Kilmer’s concerns about Hobart’s offense center around talented quarterback Andrew Barras, wide receiver Drey Devereaux, tight end Nick Bokun and running back Noah Smith.

“They have a lot of firepower,’’ he said. “How their offense matches up against the strength of our defense is going to be the key to this game. Their defense has also been maligned by the press a little bit, but I think it’s under-rated.’’

Getting back on track: Coach Roy Richards’ Morton Governors (4-1) hope to rebound from last week’s 14-0 loss to Munster with a win over East Chicago Central (4-1) this week.

Richards claims the key to victory could come down to offensive productivity.

“We’re not a well-oiled machine offensively at all,’’ he said. “We’ve been stumbling and tripping over ourselves. We had a delay of game and two motion penalties that killed us last week. The two motion penalties came after we gained 9 yards. But instead of second down-and-one, it was second-and-six. Those things get you into a different play. You’re just not going to beat good teams making mistakes like that.’’

Richards said Morton allowed Munster only 162 yards and nine first downs, yet still lost.

“Offensively, we have to find a way to get some rhythm,’’ he said. “We can’t have turnovers and penalties at bad times. We can’t run the wrong route, miss wide-open guys, block the wrong guy, and expect to win. Until last week, we’d been doing that and getting away with it, but we didn’t get away with it against Munster, because they’re too good.

“We have to sustain some drives. It can’t just be a big play here, or there. We have to function. Third down-and-five, is a play we have to make.’’



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