HOBART — For 28 years Dave Coyle wore Vikings green on Friday nights.

It was his life, his passion, his love.

But on Friday night at The Brickyard, Coyle was wearing a purple shirt with a gold "H" on the chest.

The former Valparaiso coach was leading Hobart's offense in the scrimmage on Friday night.

"Colors are just colors, and teams are teams," Coyle said. "I'm sure I'll say hello to some of the kids on Valpo, but this is where I am now."

Coyle was the Vikings head coach for six years, rebuilding the program after Mark Hoffman retired.  The cream rose to the top last August as Valpo went 8-1 and won the Duneland Athletic Conference championship.

The week of the sectional opener against Penn, however, Coyle resigned over some internal strife that was never publicly revealed. Valpo played Penn close, falling 13-0 and the Kingsmen went on to the state championship game.

First-year Hobart coach Craig Osika called Coyle and former Valpo assistant Jason Renn came with Coyle to Hobart.

"The kids here are fantastic, the coaching staff is awesome and I feel fortunate to be a part of it," Coyle said of Hobart. "It's been very fun. I've relied on our coaching staff to get to know the kids here better."

After the chaos of last October, Coyle never said a word to the press. And he wanted to keep it that way.

"This is not a do or die scenario," Coyle said. "The kids at Valpo were great. The kids at Hobart are great. The past is the past and I'm excited about the future.

"There's too much to delve into about last year."

Harper leads Valpo's offense: Jesse Harper is a known commodity. The 5-foot-9, 155-pound running back for the Valparaiso Vikings was happy to face someone else in the scrimmage at Hobart.

On several occasions the quick-footed athlete broke into the secondary and gained a lot of yards in the controlled scenario. He had a 57-yard run on the Vikings' first possession of the night.

"It was great to come out against a different team and have someone else tackle me," Harper said. "The feeling of running in the open with people behind me can't be described. I have to give a shout out to the hogs (offensive line) up front and the wide receivers who were blocking downfield.

"This will get us ready for Penn next week."

Valpo coach Bill Marshall credited Osika's Brickies for giving his team a good fight. He said the Brickies have a chance to make a run in Class 4A.

But he also spoke of Harper, with a smile on his face.

"He's a phenomenal athlete," Marshall said. "Our guys up front did a great job, too. He showed his athletic ability tonight and it was great to see."

Strength over size: Hobart's offensive line doesn't look like a varsity group of guys in the trenches. They were in the shadows of the Vikings huge size for much of the night.

Left tackle Dylan Sullivan is 5-foot-10, 220 pounds. Left guard Jay'juan Rodriguez is 5-foot-7, 220 pounds. Center Maximillian Salazar is 5-foot-8, 180 pounds. Right guard Jacob Vode is 5-foot-7, 190 pounds. And right tackle Jacob Gresham is 6-foot, 195 pounds.

"We will never be the biggest team, so I challenged our guys to be the most physical," Osika said. "I was pleased with the way we came off the ball. I thought our guys were very physical."

Hobart's first three games are against Chesterton, LaPorte and Culver Academy, where Osika expects his line to be smaller again.

"That's how it's been the last two years," Salazar said while sitting in an ice tub. "We're one of the smallest teams around. It's not about that but how hard we fight.

"Playing Valpo prepares us to hit. It prepares us for the rest of our season."


Sports Reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.