STEVE HANLON: Whiting's Cain moves to top of list where he belongs

2011-09-22T22:00:00Z 2012-08-30T23:54:25Z STEVE HANLON: Whiting's Cain moves to top of list where he belongsBy Steve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
September 22, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

When the subject came up, I almost knew what the response would be. I've been interviewing Whiting football coach Jeff Cain for a lot of years.

For a lot of Friday nights.

"All it means is that I'm old and I've been here a long time," Cain said.

Last Friday's 41-3 win over Bishop Noll was impressive for a very young Oilers team. But it wasn't just a win. It was a win that moved Cain into rarefied air.

In his 18 years at the smallest football-playing school in Lake County, Cain's record moved to 119-69. According to Whiting athletic director Paul Laub, Cain moved ahead of Ray Gallivan's career 118 wins.

Cain will be honored tonight on the field named for Gallivan when the Oilers host North Newton.

"This is a great blue-collar community," Cain said, "and the one thing you can say about Whiting kids is they work hard. I'm surrounded by some very good people to work with and that has helped us a lot."

Assistant coaches Rob Segudovic and Brett Jennings were reunited with Jim Verta on Whiting's staff this year. A very strong sophomore class has football spirits high.

There is no doubt Cain has a great staff working with him. And I agree, any of these assistants could be a head coach someplace else.

And yes, Whiting players work just like their fathers, uncles and grandfathers do. They fill up the lunch pail and punch the clock. Then, on Friday nights, they punch the foe in front of them.

But Cain is the reason Whiting football has been good, very good, and sometimes great over the last two decades. He is often overlooked by the suburban fans and players.

In the late 1990s, when he had the Dave Verta and Paul Strabavy team that was just edged out of a state championship by a cold, muddy field and a poor officials' call, Whiting was one of the top Class programs in the state.

Any coach can win when they have great talent. But Cain has won with and without. He's found a way to get his players in a position to win and he's taught them how to finish.

Yes, Whiting was pounded by Wheeler 53-0 in Week 3. That whipping wasn't fun. But it was needed.

"It woke us up," Cain said. "Wheeler has a great team, but I saw a new dedication and work ethic from our kids after that game. We're getting healthier and our young kids are learning how to win. That Wheeler score was probably the best thing that ever happened to us."

Freshman running back Ethan Young got his third 100-yard game against Noll and scored four TDs last Friday, showing that Oilers football is still at the top. Remember, Whiting lost its entire offensive line after last year.

The Xs and Os change. Sometimes the names do and sometimes they remain the same. Jeff Cain is the one constant. As long as he's on the sidelines Whiting will remain a tough out.

This should be noted among fans of the Duneland Athletic Conference and the Northwest Crossroads Conference. Cain is one of the region's best coaches.

And finally he's at the top of the list.

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

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