There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles when it comes to Mel Hay’s approach to football.
The Lake Central sophomore and son of a former coach has a quiet personality and a workmanlike approach to his craft. All that goes out the window on Friday nights — or in the case of last weekend, Saturday mornings — when Hay takes the field.
Hay is a hitting machine who leads Lake Central with 64 tackles this season. The linebacker's defensive prowess is a big reason why the Indians were able to knock off Michigan City 13-7 in a Duneland Athletic Conference game on Saturday.
“Everyone on the defense was just focused on doing their job,” Hay said. “The defensive line gave us great pressure up front and that allowed me to wait for my opportunities.”
Hay has taken advantage of every opportunity that has come before him since arriving at Lake Central last year. The son of former Clark and South Central coach by the same name, Hay joined varsity midway through the year last season when injuries depleted Lake Central’s depth. Hay made an immediate impact, piling up 23 solo tackles in just five games.
“You never want to see injuries, but Mel got a lot of valuable experience as a freshman,” Lake Central coach Tony Bartolomeo said. “He’s a real football player. He’s only a sophomore, but we treat Mel like a senior.”
Hay figured to be in the mix at linebacker this season, but his role was elevated when leading returning Sam Long tore his ACL on the first play of the season against Munster. Hay has been a mainstay in the Lake Central lineup ever since and he’s averaging 10.7 tackles per game, including 14 against the Wolves on Saturday.
“Mel has just seized the opportunity,” Bartolomeo said. “His best attribute is that he’s smart. The defensive line got pressure on Saturday and he was able to scrape down the middle and find the open holes.”
Walton’s funeral held
The Calumet football team attended the funeral of freshman Curtis Walton Jr. on Saturday, more than two weeks after the 14-year-old died after being found unresponsive in the Calumet High School pool.
Calumet was set to play Griffith on Friday night, but the game was postponed because of weather. Knowing the team was attending the funeral on Saturday, Calumet coach Rich Good tried to come up with a solution to play on Monday.
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“Griffith athletic director Neil Dimos was being proactive and calling downstate to ask if we could push the game back,” Good said. “We couldn’t get a waiver to play on Monday, so both teams will just go forward with eight games. Griffith was great about everything.”
Good never gave it a second thought to skip Walton’s funeral and to try and play on Saturday. Walton's funeral was held at True Light International Ministries in Griffith.
“Once it was clear we weren’t going to play on Friday, we looked ahead to Monday,” Good said. “Saturday was all about being together with each other and being there for Curtis’ family.”
Brickies hit rewind button
Hobart honored its 1979 state runner-up football team with throwback uniforms in its 49-10 victory over Kankakee Valley on Saturday night, but wearing them wasn’t always in the plans.
Brickies coach Craig Osika said his players were supposed to wear their regular jerseys and pants. However, a couple days before their Northwest Crossroads Conference game with the Kougars, his athletes came up with the idea to further recognize the school’s first football team to reach the state championship by wearing their old uniforms.
All they needed was Osika’s permission, and perhaps a washing machine.
“They called me at 10 o’clock Thursday night, and then I had a couple guys that started texting me,” Osika said with a laugh. “It started with one guy, and then next thing I know I’m getting texts from damn near the whole team, and I’m like, ‘All right guys, stop texting me. I’m going to the stadium to see if we still have them.’”
Osika said he was at Brickyard Stadium with one of his assistant coaches until about 11 p.m. Thursday night making sure they had enough uniforms — with the proper numbers — to go around. One of the few exceptions was starting quarterback Riley Johnston, who had to wear No. 1 instead of his usual No. 3, but Osika believes that was a small inconvenience in order to remember a legendary team.
“I told them, ‘If you want to wear these Purple and Whites, you gotta represent the ’79 team,’” Osika said. “We had great teams before that, but the ’79 team was the start of the domination of Hobart Brickie football.”