Many people outside the Great Lakes Athletic Conference perceive it to be an athletic group of football teams with high-scoring offenses and sometimes pushover defenses.
On the inside, though, coaches say most of the best athletes either start out, or end up, on defense.
“A couple years ago, we were scoring a lot of points. Morton scores a lot of points. Gavit last year, they scored a lot of points. People think that because we score a lot of points that we don’t really play defense,” Hammond coach Roosevelt Moore said. “We send a lot of kids to college (in this conference) and they mainly play defense.”
This season, outsiders could begin to see the defensive prowess in the GLAC.
“Morton has always had a strong defense. Hammond has always had a strong defense,” Gavit coach Robert Robinson said. “Hammond High and Clark have run into number problems and having to play young kids. I think people forget that these are once-proud teams that may have fallen on a little bit of hard times but they’ve got hard-nosed kids who don’t have a problem playing defense.”
E.C. Central returns eight starters on defense, including the entirety of a linebacking group that helped hold opponents under 100 yards passing on average last year.
Morton sophomore defensive end Dierre Kelly is seeing interest from Toledo, coach Sean Kinsey said.
“We expect our defense to kind of set the tone,” Kinsey said. “We got a lot of takeaways last year and, defensively, we feel like we could be just as good as we were last year, if not maybe even a little bit better.”
Andrew Brown leads Gavit. Robinson believes Brown may be the area’s best defensive lineman.
“It’s huge to have a guy like Andrew Brown,” Robinson said. “We feel like he’s a Division I football player. We’re anticipating huge things from him this season.”
Brown is receiving interest from Northern Illinois, Robinson said. The dearth of players like Brown in northern Lake County only adds to the idea that the best players are receivers and running backs.
“I think (the perception exists) because we have so much speed in our conference and coaches put speed, a lot of times, on offense,” Robinson said. “And, let’s face it, we’re getting smaller. Football players in Hammond are getting smaller. You just don’t see those 250, 260 guys anymore.
“Not that long ago, everybody was 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Now, with the advent of the spread offense, you can get those smaller, faster guys into space and it works.”
West Side coach Colin McCullough believes his most college-ready player is outside linebacker Chase Sims.
Clark coach Nick Testa said Morton’s dominance over the GLAC — especially when it posts high scores on conference opponents — can obscure the quality of the players without the ball.
“The defenses are underrated,” Testa said. “It seems like there are so many high-scoring games but I do feel like there are a lot of good defenses and especially a lot of good defensive players in our conference.”