HAMMOND | Jason Johnson was engulfed in emotion. Sadness. Pride. Everything you'd expect after a breathtaking high school football game.
He had a few tears in his eyes, but when many of his West Side Cougars walked up from behind and picked the head coach up on their shoulders, the stream of tears came down hard.
You could hear his sobs 20 yards away at Morton High School on Friday night.
In the Class 4A Sectional 17 championship game, E.C. Central won 46-44. West Side had the ball at midfield trying to make one more miracle happen.
“This all happened because of him,” West Side senior DeAnthony Hall said. “I don't know where we'd be if not for coach. We fought. We never quit.”
E.C. made the history by winning the school's first sectional championship game. It was the same thing West Side was striving for.
But there was a much more important historical event that occurred in this game.
Jason Wille of the IHSAA said earlier this week that he's 99.9 percent sure this was the first sectional championship game in Indiana history where two African-American head coaches competed.
East Chicago's Stacy Adams thought that might be the case.
“When Jason and I talked last week, we asked who was going to be Lovie Smith and who was going to be Tony Dungy,” Adams said, alluding to the Bears-Colts Super Bowl with the same scenario.
I remember a time when people at the sports bar or Waffle House would openly talk about how blacks couldn't play quarterback or be a head coach.
They were wrong then.
They are even more wrong now.
Adams turned a mediocre Cardinals team into a power. Johnson did the same with the Cougars.
The two teams played a sectional game like these old eyes have never seen before. E.C. Martayveus Carter was a freak, rushing for 291 yards. He had four touchdowns and one interception.
West Side wideout JonVea' Johnson, Jason's son, had more than 300 yards receiving and four scores.
This was like a Saturday game on a Friday night.
Jason Johnson called me back in the mid 1990s, frustrated because he couldn't get a chance to be a head coach. I looked it up, and that time there were only five black coaches in Indiana.
They all blew their whistles in Gary.
The wheels of justice move slower in Indiana than in other places. Coach Johnson got his chance and has shown what is possible.
Adams did the same thing at E.C.
The one difference here is that the city of East Chicago has put its wallet behind the program. A turf field was one way. Bringing Adams back this summer was another.
Gary started too late. The Cougars' field should've been fixed 15 years ago and then again five years ago. But the ball is moving in the right direction.
To those in power, please keep it rolling for these young men.
“This is validation of everything we do,” Jason Johnson said of being picked up on the shoulders of his warriors who'd lost the battle. “The lack of money, the things we have to fight. For my guys to pick me up after a loss, that's the greatest thing that's ever happened in my life.”
Remember, too, he played in the NFL.
“We do things the right way,” he continued. “Stacy does things the right way. We're right there with them. We're that close.”
Yeah, maybe 20 more seconds close.
History can be made winning and losing. Stacy Adams and Jason Johnson did that on Friday night. Take a bow gentlemen. It is deserved.