There were no Friday night lights at Gavit High School this week as the Hammond school had to reschedule its football game against East Chicago Central due to copper wire theft.
Officials said thieves took the copper wiring from the football field's light towers, forcing the school to reschedule their matchup to 2 p.m. Saturday at Gavit.
“It’s sad that people feel the need to take from kids. It’s unfathomable to me,” Gavit football coach Robert Robinson said. “It’s just taking money and just taking the Friday night excitement and stuff out of football games.”
Robinson said the theft had to have occurred last weekend. Athletic faculty noticed power boxes were popped open and benches were moved by the light poles on Monday, when Robinson said the school filed a police report. The Gladiators were supposed to face the Cardinals at 7 p.m. Friday night, but are now left in the dark. Robinson said the East Chicago Central coach Jay Novak responded with good sportsmanship, working with Gavit with moving the game.
“Several electricians have been out here for seven, eight hours a day all week trying to get them repaired,” Robinson said.
Friday evening also marked the date of the Gavit Athletics Alumni Night, which had to be canceled, according to Gavit Athletic Director Doug Friend.
“It was supposed to be a big alumni comeback for us this weekend,” Robinson said. “All of our alumni football players were invited back and there was going to be a big alumni dinner. And we had to cancel all of that because of the movement of the game. It’s a little disheartening for our kids. ... That’s what I’m most upset about, people taking from kids.”
This isn't the first time copper wire theft has caused trouble for the city and its schools.
“I guess it did happen at Hammond High earlier this summer,” Robinson said. “But since they’re getting ready to do construction and everything over there, I think they just moved all their games to Morton High School. So Hammond High School has been playing all their home games at Morton because they, too, were hit and their lights were disabled before the season started.”
On Aug. 17, the Hammond Police Department posted a public notice asking for the community's help catching thieves who were stealing copper wiring from the city's decorative light poles. At the time, police reported more then 10 recent thefts.
Police said many of the thefts happened in the Robertsdale area and northern Hammond, but that incidents had occurred throughout the city. They said the thieves were posing as utility workers to go unnoticed.
"Hammond has experienced a number of copper wire thefts in recent weeks," Lt. Steve Kellogg said. "The Hammond Police Department is thoroughly investigating each of these incidents. These incidents are typically occurring during the night and police are conducting checks regularly."
As for the Gavit Gladiators, Robinson said they will make do until next week.
“It should be ready to go by next Friday night because it’s our senior night,” Robinson said. “That’s my biggest fear is that someone will come along and just do it again. They were pretty good at what they did. They came in and just stripped us clean of all the copper from our wiring and its had to be all replaced.”
This story is ongoing, check back at nwi.com for updates.