HAMMOND | Football used to be a city game.
The best teams, the best players, in the 1940s, '50s and '60s played in the cities.
Football was blue-collar. Now, it is suburban, where million-dollar stadiums are filled with countless players and coaches.
But at a great game on Friday night in Hessville, where Hammond beat Morton 28-14, there was plenty of proof that good coaches can build good programs anywhere on the planet.
Roy Richards has done that at Morton for many years. Eric Schreiber is doing it now at “The High.”
“I knew it was possible,” Schreiber said after the historic win, the Wildcats' first over the Govs since 2007. “I don't care what people think. We've been getting better. We'll continue to get better.
“We just needed to get good football players to believe.”
Hammond senior Jesse Woods-Curtis is such a player. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back and linebacker is a true leader. The kid can play the game with a vengeance. One of the strongest young men in the school, Woods-Curtis has lead this Wildcat resurgence.
“This win means a lot,” said Woods-Curtis. “But I could've done better. Our team could've done better. I think this should've been a blowout.”
With 6.5 second left in the first quarter, Woods-Curtis ran so hard that his No. 14 jersey was ripped off his back. He had to put on No. 31 to finish the game. He ran the ball 21 times for 85 yards with a 2-point conversion run.
He had several thumping hits, along with the Wildcats' defense known as “The Hit Squad.” Whoever came up with the moniker was correct.
His mother, Kenya Curtis, said she kept her only child very busy when he was young. Boy Scouts. Karate. Weight lifting. Basketball. He didn't play football until he was a seventh grader at Eggers Middle School.
He started as a freshman at Hammond High, but that isn't what make his mother most proud.
“He's a very good student,” Kenya Curtis said. “He's taking AP classes. He's on the honor roll.”
Stacy Adams is rebuilding the city football legacy at E.C. Central. It is good when players who want to play football where the asphalt is cracked have a chance. Morton has had it for years.
Hammond has it now.
“In my eyes there's no one better than me,” Woods-Curtis said. “I just go after it. And if I lose, I go after it again. We're getting the athletes to come out for football now. That's been the difference. We have a great coach and we're turning this thing around.
“We have to get ready for the (Lowell) Red Devils now.”
One hurdle down. A big one, a suburban one, is waiting next Friday on Calumet Avenue.