GARY | It wasn't just bad. It was Gawd awful. Pathetic with a capital P.
The way West Side's defense played on Oct. 4 was like a ghost playing the matador. The Cougars couldn't stop Morton at all in a 63-56 loss. All they could say was, "oh la."
"We were terrible," senior linebacker DeAndre Lampley said.
"It was bad," senior defensive back Henry Smith added.
On a night when West Side's leading tackler couldn't have had more than two stops, Cougars coach Jason Johnson knew changes had to be made. There was no way his program could make a postseason run with 11 guys who couldn't tackle.
This Friday, West Side (7-4) will play E.C. Central (9-2) in the Class 4A Sectional 17 championship game at Morton.
"When you get 6, 7, 8 games into the year you can tell that certain guys couldn't do it," Johnson said. "So we made some changes. We put more athletes on the defensive side."
In the four games since the Morton debacle West Side has given up 62 points. The contest that dropped some jaws was the 30-9 win over Lowell in the sectional opener.
"We had to get our athletes on the field," Johnson said.
So Smith, the starting running back, started playing both ways. Lonnie Johnson, the standout wide receiver, brought a physical hitting personality as he, too, started playing both ways.
"In the Lowell game all the seniors stepped up," Lampley said. "We made plays."
For Lampley and Smith this postseason run means more. The two played at Roosevelt before moving over to West Side. Roosevelt hasn't won a sectional game since 2006.
"At Roosevelt we went 1-8, 2-7 every year," Smith said. "The Lowell game was big for me because I didn't want to be one and done again. I don't want this season to end."
E.C. and West Side has not played a game since 2000. The Cougars have not beaten the Cardinals since 1994.
West Side's defense knows it must find and stop Northern Illinois recruit Martavious Carter or else.
"We have to know where No. 2 is at all times," Lonnie Johnson said.
It will have to be a non-Morton-like effort.
Elliot Richard is a freshman defensive lineman at West Side. He's started all year. When his team was losing 21-6 to Highland last week, the tough, small kid in the trenches went off.
He did not stop until the 46-27 win was done.
"I have to keep the sidelines motivated," Richard said. "We have to stay up. We haven't been here in a long time so I don't want to go home. The key is our defensive line. We have to stop the run.
"We have to play good defense."