Prep football

Lew Wallace's Templin showed it can be done in the city

2013-08-22T18:30:00Z 2014-06-17T19:33:27Z Lew Wallace's Templin showed it can be done in the citySteve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com

The greatest football players in region history grew up in concrete neighborhoods with cracked asphalt instead of grass and subdivisions. They were city slickers, not suburban hicksters.

Horace Mann's Tom Harmon, Emerson's Alex Karras, Hammond's Irv Cross, Froebel's Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, Roosevelt's Gerold Irons and George Taliaferro are some of the greats from Northwest Indiana.

It wasn't only individual success. E.C. Roosevelt's six mythical state championships in the time before the IHSAA state tournament began was the most by any school. Emerson won four. Mann, Froebel and Hammond won two. Morton, Bishop Noll, Lew Wallace, Whiting and E.C. Washington won one.

In that era high school football was big-city, blue-collar and Democratic. The power programs had never seen a cornfield.

Then, in the 1960s and '70s, society started to change. Urban areas became mostly filled with minorities. When the IHSAA football tournament started in 1973, the lunch bucket and steel-toed boots moved south.

High school football became less blue-collar and more lifestyles of the rich and famous. Million-dollar football stadiums are now commonplace. Coaching staffs that could fill a bus became the norm. The city schools were left wanting.

Individual student-athletes in the city would rise up to play on Saturdays and Sundays. But team success was rare, and still is.

That's what makes what Dave Templin did at Lew Wallace so impressive. He is still the only Gary coach to win a sectional championship when his Hornets did it in 1989. This was the Steel City's, and the region industrial belt's, greatest season.

In the regular season, Wallace beat Hobart. The Brickies would go on to win the Class 4A state championship. The Hornets beat Bishop Noll, the eventual 3A state champions. Then they beat Lake Central and Crown Point to win the sectional trophy.

Former C.P. coach Brad Smith said that Templin ran an inner-city program just like it was a suburban one.

Wallace lost by a point to Valparaiso in the regional that year when an extra point hit the cross bar. Templin, like today, did not have a kicking coach.

It was "Remember the Titans" long before the movie script was ever thought of being written.

"No. 1, we had very good athletes," said Templin, who is retired and living in Arizona. "I only had two losing seasons in 17 seasons. I went to all the coaching clinics. We taught our kids the same techniques as the kids in the suburbs.

"We had to fight every day, but the one thing I tried to do was make football important at our school. And that was rare in Gary."

Templin has followed online the fortunes of city schools, especially E.C. Central, where one of his former players, Stacy Adams, is the coach. Since the heart of the 1966 Emerson grad is in the city, he is happy to see a rise with several urban teams.

Morton won its fourth straight sectional title last year. E.C. set a school record with nine wins. West Side's Lonnie Johnson has verbally committed to Ohio State after leading the Cougars to coach Jason Johnson's first winning season. Hammond is coming off a solid, winning season, too.

"I think it's great," Templin said. "I know those kids have a lot of things that are tougher than kids in other places. But it's great to see those programs come together and make something special happen.

"It sounds like it's going to be an exciting football season back home."

Templin coached for 25 years at Wallace, 17 as a head coach. From 1978 through 1994, his record was 101-63.

While some in Gary were fighting football success in a hoops city, Templin fought that notion all the way to the end line. He opened the weight room in the offseason and never got paid. He had a Christmas party for his players. He bought them T-shirts.

The field was tilted back then, too. In one game, Portage came to Glen Park with 100 kids and Wallace had 45. The Indians had 13 coaches on staff. It was Templin and two helpers.

"We beat 'em," Templin said. "How does that happen? Kids start believing in themselves. We told our kids that they put on their pants the same way we do. We taught our kids to hit them and then hit them harder.

"There are great athletes in the city schools there. But you have to build a program around them."

Templin also did something that Morton coach Roy Richards did in 2005. He did one thing to beat the suburban schools. He built a strong offensive line and the Hornets ran the ball. Period.

"I know a lot of our fans wanted us to throw the ball all over the field," Templin said. "I know some didn't like our hard-nosed style. But we won games by running the ball. That's why we were able to beat those suburban programs."

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