STEVE HANLON: The long road comes an inch at a time

2011-08-26T22:00:00Z 2012-08-30T23:58:13Z STEVE HANLON: The long road comes an inch at a timeBy Steve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
August 26, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

UNION TWP. | The hardest thing for an "Average Joe" like this one to do after one week of high school football in Indiana is to figure out what scores and results were real and which ones were a mirage.

At halftime of Friday night's Kankakee Valley at Wheeler game, I felt like the notes were being written in pen on a notepad in the Sahara. And these lips were dying for a cold drink of water.

Wheeler led Kankakee Valley 35-0 at the break. The same Kougars who hung with two-time semistate qualifying Rensselaer last week before falling 14-7. So there goes that column idea.

But standing in the middle of a mosquito infested cornfield, first-year Kankakee Valley coach Brad Stewart began to talk. Birds started flying south when he started to speak.

"I told them they were content just competing with a good team like Rensselaer," Stewart said he said. "I told them that even though we're a young team, I never expected them to quit. In the second half they kept fighting."

The final score was 35-12. Stewart said that Wheeler coach Dan Klimczak showed mercy by not throwing deep in the final half. That is true. But it was the way the Kougars finally started to hit somebody that kept the original column idea alive.

In the opening 12 minutes, Kougars sophomore Matt Myers screamed to his teammates, "When are we going to get (mad) and hit someone?"

I was thinking the same thing. It finally started to happen.

Stewart coached three times in "The Dome" at Lowell with Kirk Kennedy. He was also there when the Red Devils were awful. Running clocks kept the scores down. At least under 100. And there was another thing that was there.

"The joke in Northwest Indiana was called the 'Lowell limp,'" Stewart said. "When we got down, many of our players started to limp and come out of the game because of an 'injury.'"

Last year the Kougars went 1-9, so Stewart was brought in. Things are changing.

"Tonight we didn't have as much fire as we did last week," Myers said. "Last week was a big rivalry game. We got up for it. We didn't (against Wheeler)."

Myers later caught a touchdown pass. He had several hard hits. This sophomore defensive end is going to be a player.

So is freshman linebacker Johnny Williams, who was hitting people hard, like the game is supposed to be played. The Kougars just have to keep working.

"Our practices have to be harder, we have to work hard during the week," Williams said. "Our scout team has to go as hard as they can so we're ready. I'm tired of everyone saying we're going to lose."

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was Lowell. Kankakee Valley is better than it was a year ago when it lost to Rensselaer 48-6 and Wheeler 55-0.

Success is hard to gauge week to week and sometimes year to year. In order to win on Friday nights improvement has to be monitered day to day. Kougars your next practice is the most important football you'll ever play. And keep repeating that every day.

"It took awhile for the kids at Lowell to believe," Stewart said. "But they did. Hopefully, we can do that here."

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

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