You've got to give the powers of the Greater South Shore Conference credit.
It's not easy being a small fish swimming in the big pond that is Northwest Indiana, yet the league of largely Class A and 2A schools has not only found a way to survive, it has found a way to prosper.
Spearheaded by the efforts and vision of Wheeler athletic director Randy Stelter, the GSSC is poised to become the largest conference, football or otherwise, in the region in a couple years, with the additions of Boone Grove and Hanover Central.
"It's worked out great," Stelter said. "It keeps the conference together and helps the new football schools getting started."
Knowing a 10-team conference schedule would consume the entire regular season, Stelter devised a slate in which teams will play the other four teams in its GSSC division and three from the other. That will enable schools to maintain natural rivalries like Whiting vs. Clark, North Newton vs. South Newton and Noll vs. Andrean for the first two weeks of the season.
Stelter spent countless hours coming up with alignments that would result in competitive crossover match-ups. Future success formulas will be used to maintain a balance in scheduling. After a few years, the conference will assess the results and tweak as necessary.The division pairings also ensures that games such as Lake Station vs. River Forest and Wheeler vs. Boone will take place annually.
"I like it," Boone coach Tony Tinkel said. "It has a little PCC feel. There's no way we wanted out of the PCC, so it's kind of actually reinforcing it. Hanover, South Central and Wheeler all have real ties here."
Count South Central among the schools who are smiling about the developments. S.C. was positioned to be left out on Independent Island when Hanover came aboard. Now the Satellites' place in the GSSC is secure.
Tinkel is happy to be headed to a conference, whether it's 2014 or 2015. It eliminates plenty of scheduling headaches, gives the team something tangible to strive for, and allows players an opportunity to earn individual accolades.
"The next thing is to work on who we want to try to keep playing," Tinkel said.
Boone's arrival is linked to that of Hanover Central, which currently plans to take the varsity step in 2015, though it sounds as if there's at least a chance that could move up.
Hanover is 3-1 this season at the middle school/junior high level with solid numbers there and in Pop Warner. Hanover athletic director Jeff Brooks has three JV games scheduled for 2013 with a fourth pending. Can they make the leap in one year? Brooks wouldn't rule it out, but he also doesn't want to jump the gun after it took this long to get football off the ground in Cedar Lake.
"Things are moving along," Brooks said. "The community wanted football five years ago. It would start, stop, start again, stop again. Now that we have it, it's really going to take off. I think (the conference) is going to be great. I'm a planner, too, so I like looking ahead. It's exciting to see."
This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org