MERRILLVILLE | Usually at the end of a tough, blue-collar high school football game there is a lot of chest-thumping, high-fiving and yelling going on out on the field. That did happen on Friday night at Father Eckert Field.
But there was a more salient moment after Andrean's 20-13 win against Griffith.
The 59ers asked coach Phil Mason to give his wife, Dee, a kiss. It wasn't a Hallmark moment, really. It was an intensely driven coach saying "I'm sorry" in front of all present.
"I wasn't a very good husband this week," Mason said after the win and the kiss. "Those guys are really good. They're hard to prepare for. I didn't eat much. I didn't sleep much. I was nasty all week."
Since the IHSAA announced Andrean would drop to Class 2A this season, everyone has been talking about how far the 59ers can go in the smaller class.
But something needs to be said right here. And right now. Griffith has a very tough and talented team. The Panthers are going to be an extremely difficult "out" when sectionals begin in two weeks.
Junior quarterback Austin Brown could play for any team in the state. And the Panthers defense is just the way Mason was all week - downright nasty.
"I think Austin Brown is a great player," Mason said. "That kid is just tough."
This is not your father's Andrean team, filled with Cadillacs all over the field and unbelievable skill on the offensive side of the ball. The 'Niners have a great offensive line and a very solid running game. But unlike their last four weeks of blowouts against lesser teams, it will take a lunch pale and some steel-toed boots for Andrean to get to Indianapolis.
It can be done that way. Winning 20-13 is better than beating someone 48-0.
Griffith gave the 59ers a perfect test run for the postseason, and with Lowell's loss at Munster on Friday night Andrean can win the Northwest Crossroads Conference title outright next Friday at The Inferno.
Last year, under the same scenario, the 'Niners lost their last two games against Griffith and Lowell. This, though, is a different year.
"We can't worry about last year," said Andrean senior Rick Johnston, who scored two touchdowns on the night. "They are a tough team. It's always tough playing them."
Andrean senior standout Mason Zurek had a tough time running the ball against the Panthers. But he didn't expect anything less.
"We came in to last year's game as the favorite on paper and they beat us," Zurek said. "We had to come out and fight to win this one. This was an important game for us to get."
Mason said the most blue-collar part of this squad is his defense. These guys could own union cards and plaid thermoses. Both of Griffith's scores came off of turnovers that gave Griffith short field. From now until the end of November the only team that's going to move the ball against these guys is Fort Wayne Luers.
When Andrean gets to the Class 2A semistate against Luers -- and the 'Niners will -- they will have to play the same way to win as they did on this Friday night.
If all goes well, Dee Mason will probably get another kiss.
"Our defense is full of blue-collar, nasty kids," Mason said. "Those guys get after it. They hit you hard and they never quit."
Keep the Cadillac in the garage for the run that is coming. Get the rusty pickup to 5959 Broadway. But don't you dare take it through a car wash on the way to the next game.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.