Penn at Valparaiso football

Valparaiso's Zach Holmes tries to stop Penn's Paul Moala from reaching the end zone Friday night in Valparaiso.

John Luke, The Times

VALPARAISO — A big national sports story sort of filtered into the Region on a freezing Friday night.

It isn't the Houston Texans who have a problem. Some suggest the issue is in Valparaiso.

A report said that Texans owner Bob McNair made the statement, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison," in regards to NFL players' and ownership' relations on many sensitive issues.

Many have suggested the same thing happened in Valpo's football program when head coach Dave Coyle "resigned" after some inner turmoil that has still gone unexplained.

This crazy soap opera drama is hard for those outside the fold to understand. Few are saying anything. On the record.

That opens the door for crazy speculation on message boards and other unsocial media outlets. Some of these words remind me of the barber shop scene in "Hoosiers." At least a little bit.

There is one main speculation as to what happened at Viking Field this week. A group of players got upset with Coyle and went in and said they wouldn't play for him because he was too tough on them. Old-timers thought they were being soft. You could almost hear them screaming, "Kids these days," while taking a swig of some truck-stop coffee.

That's where the "inmates" and "prison" sentence comes in.

But in Valpo there is something like this in recent history. At least that's what the outsiders believe.

In 2014-15, Matt Thomas led the Vikings boys basketball team to 18 wins. They didn't win the sectional. And Thomas "left" the program because the style of play wasn't liked by many.

Barak Coolman came in and has won 41 games in two seasons, and Valpo hasn't won a sectional title. Not because the Vikes weren't very good. It's because they're not playing Washington Township or Morgan Township for the championship anymore.

What I saw in Penn's 13-0 win over Valparaiso in Class 6A Sectional 2 play wasn't soft. It wasn't a bunch of cry babies. It was a group of young men who gave it everything they had against a very powerful Kingsmen team.

"I've got a lot of emotions right now," said Valpo junior Reece Crossin, with freezing tears running down his red face. "I love this team. I feel sick to my stomach right now. We never gave up. I love everyone in this program. We just gave a hell of an effort."

This is what we know. Junior varsity coach Bill Marshall ran practices with the remaining staff all week. Coyle was never there and then "resigned."

So taking pot shots at teenagers or adult coaches is dumb for those who do not know what happened. For sure.

Here is something else we know. Valpo football is going to be very good for the next five years at least. The junior varsity went 9-0. The freshmen went 7-2. And the incoming eighth-graders from Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson are also talented.

But who will be leading this program? I would imagine a lot of very good high school leaders would be jumping for a shot at this program.

Marshall, however, said he hadn't thought about anything beyond this morning's team breakfast where the underlings will thank the seniors who led the Vikes to an 8-1 regular season and the Duneland Athletic Conference championship.

"When we heard about the decision I told the kids I was going to bring some normalcy to them this week," Marshall said. "And that's what we had. Whoever takes over the program next year, we will continue the Viking tradition like we always have. We will have a community that supports us and kids who work very hard."

For Crossin, his heart is ready to move on from the drama.

"We need some stability," he said. "Whoever the coach is, we will work hard and we will be back."

Doesn't sound like a whiner to me.

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

6
3
3
1
4

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.