EAST CHICAGO | In the middle of September an old buddy called and laughed about The Times Football Preview Section. The guy said we had it all wrong.
Our “Urban Renewal” section talked about how the city football was coming back. Friday night was proved maybe we were right.
West Side shocked the state by beating Lowell 30-9. And the Cougars did it on E.C. Central's field due to having poor field conditions in Gary.
As these words are being typed the Cardinals returned from beating Morton, a first-time affair. The horns could be heard beeping halfway down Indianapolis Boulevard.
Urban renewal is alive and well in “Da Region.”
“We practiced, we practiced real hard all week,” West Side senior DeAnthony Hall said after recovering three Red Devils fumbles. “Our defense stepped up. I'm so proud of them.”
I saw West Side score 55 against Morton and lose. On that night they couldn't have tackled a bean bag. They couldn't have caught a cold.
But something happened between then and now. The Cougars defense looked really good at Pete Rucinski Field.
Much of that was schematic. West Side put 10 in the box against Lowell's power-run plan. The Cougars didn't make all the stops, but they made enough.
“Defense,” junior quarterback Ramone Atkins said of what won the game.
Atkins is being heavily recruited by Illinois and others. He threw for 191 yards and one score and carried in two more TDs. Lonnie Johnson is going to Ohio State. He didn't have a catch, but played great on defense.
And JonVea Johnson caught seven passes for 131 yards and had a 76-yard scoring run. Indiana is all over him.
For those who want to take pot shots at Lowell, remember this. There wasn't a field in Indiana as the 41st IHSAA state tournament kicked off that had this much talent on one team.
“Jason's doing a great job,” Lowell coach Keith Kilmer said. “Their offense is explosive.”
Let's hope this win gets some people with big W2s to start working to help the football teams in Gary. This shouldn't be a one-and-done thing.
Expect urban football to continue its growth. But it takes a village as they say.
“This was a great win,” Lonnie Johnson said. “We executed what we practiced. Wow, we held Lowell to nine points. We're getting stronger every game.”
“We came together as a team,” said his cousin, JonVea Johnson. “Our defense stepped up. This is huge.”
Last year West Side won its sectional opener then lost to Highland in the semifinals. The Cougars said they all got a “big head” after the win.
“That won't happen this time,” Lonnie Johnson said.
“It's my job to make sure that doesn't happen,” West Side coach Jason Johnson said.
Usually, typically, annually, it's basketball season in our area's cities. It isn't this year.
Gosh, I love it when we're right.