STEVE HANLON: Blue-collar color on an autumn night

2012-09-14T22:30:00Z 2012-09-18T17:27:08Z STEVE HANLON: Blue-collar color on an autumn nightSteve Hanlon, (219) 933-4198
September 14, 2012 10:30 pm  • 

WHITING | There's no place like it in “Da Region.” There's no place, for sure, like it in the rest of Indiana.

Power lines buzz behind the heads of the visiting sidelines. The trains rush by more than they used to at Hobart's Brickie Bowl. Lake Michigan's waves can be seen from much of the bleachers.

And the folks following the Whiting Oilers don't need a “how-to” pamphlet when it comes to tailgating. These folks know how to get it done.

Anyone ever see “All the Right Moves?”

Coming into Friday night's GSSC game against Bishop Noll, the Whiting Oilers were taking care of opponents like a street sweeper takes care of gutter trash. It was, for a month, ugly.

Whiting's 3.25 defensive average was fourth in the state overall and No. 1 in Class A. The Oilers' 42.5 scoring average is No. 7 in Class A.

But after a sort-of white knuckle 48-28 win against the Warriors, Oilers coach Jeff Cain wasn't happy. At all.

“Yeah, let's spin it,” Cain said when asked if it was good that his team was “in a game” well into the fourth quarter.

“If we don't get to work (Saturday morning) and get better, it's going to be a long drive to Morocco next Friday,” Cain said of Whiting's game at North Newton.

Noll quarterback Austin Solis was the biggest headache for Whiting. The Crown Point transfer threw for 190 yards, on 10-of-14 passing, and three scores.

The kid is a potential program changer.

I drove to Ray P. Gallivan Field expecting to compare and contrast this Whiting team with the greatest of the modern era, the 1997 Oilers. I wanted to gauge if this squad can make a similar postseason run.

Yes, this Oilers' team has a chance to do some November magic. But this Noll team, if it can learn to pick up the defense, very likely can scare some folks, especially with No. 11 under center.

“It's good that it happened now,” Whiting quarterback A.J. Veloz said of the close, or closer, game. “Our first four games were blowouts. We have to watch film and get better.”

Patrick Petruf, who scored three TDs, was livid with the way the Oilers defense played. And this is why the Oilers will be dangerous in a month and a half.

“We played sloppy,” Petruf said. “The whole season we've had blowouts. Noll's got some good players. We came out flat. Coach (Cain) works too hard with us. I felt like we let him down. We take pride in our defense and we didn't bring very much of it into this game.”

The '97 Oilers had Paul Strabavy and they made it to the regional championship, where a 3-point loss to Pioneer still hurts a very good staff. The fact that Pioneer pounded its next two foes to win the state title is numbing to this day.

Cain and his staff have a built a different — better in my opinion — offense, with many more options than 15 years ago. This Oil Can can explode in many different ways. They are much tougher to stop.

And, they have one of the top coaches in the region. And, for sure, in the state.

“If we go 9-0 and lose our first game in the playoffs this won't mean nothing,” Cain said.

That is a philosophy that will take this program to the top.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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