We heard rumblings about this over the summer.

All over the place.

The numbers of football players at Region schools was down for a variance of reasons.

It was happening in the Duneland Athletic Conference. The Northwest Crossroads Conference. The Great Lakes Athletic Conference. And the Greater South Shore Conference.

But these whispers were theoretical, ghosts of something possible but not yet seen.

Then, the news broke earlier this week that Bishop Noll cancelled its football game with Whiting tonight due to injuries and a lack of numbers.

The GSSC has a grid hitch at the top with Griffith pounding everyone into submission, which isn't good.

And now the league has a dilemma on the bottom with the Warriors, losers of 31 straight games and 37 of their last 38 football games.

Due to this crisis Whiting had to reschedule its senior night.

"I want people to know I'm doing it for the safety of the kids," Noll coach Wayne Racine told The Times. "It killed me. It killed our coaches. Our kids are (upset). I'm proud of them. I'm proud of our coaches. They've worked their (butts) off. As an adult, if I had a son on the team, I would have a serious problem with (playing). I just can't."

After two Warriors were taken to the hospital during the Boone Grove game last Friday, Racine estimated he had 13 healthy players remaining. Five of them were in ninth grade.

"We're a MASH unit," Racine said. "I'm pretty much an optimist and I've never seen anything like this. We go and play, we're two injuries away from (having to stop the game), which would be even more embarrassing. We thought about it and decided there was no way. We're at the point of no return. I can't do that to these freshmen."

Noll is supposed to host Lake Station in Week 9. The Eagles had 23 players in uniform last week against River Forest. With tonight's game at Griffith to be what it is going to be, who knows how many players will be left standing by 10 p.m.?

Noll then plays Roosevelt in the Class 2A sectional opener.

Or maybe they won't?

"It's a fluid situation," Racine said. "It's a day-to-day thing. If I was even practicing, we'd have nine, 10 kids. Honestly, I don't know."

Lake Station was in a similar boat in 2001. The Eagles' titanic season only saw four regular season games played. The program was all but shut down. But the Eagles were able to stay above water.

Lake Station is a public school. Bishop Noll is not.

Like most Region schools, the Warriors have to build the numbers on the football roster, but families will have to pay for that, which isn't easy these days.

The NCC has issues with six schools. The GSSC is leaking water in the basement.

It might be time to look at a resurrection of the old Lake Athletic Conference, at least in football. Expand to 10 to 12 teams and have competitive divisions that make sense.

And for the schools who can't make it work, there is always boys volleyball in the autumn.

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

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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.