Morton football coach Sean Kinsey graduated from Merrillville in 2005. His position coach with the Pirates was Tony Bartolomeo, now the head coach at Lake Central.
The Governors played at Plymouth last season for a Week 2 game. This year in the second week of the season, Morton will host Lake Central in a game where two old friends will go toe-to-toe.
It will be the first time Morton and Lake Central play in football.
"I like to play up early," Kinsey said of his 4A program playing against the 6A Indians. "It's good for our kids to see where they're at against a bigger school, a bigger program. Our kids are excited about the opportunity.
"I have nothing but respect for Coach Bart and what he's doing at Lake Central."
Morton went 8-3 last season and lost to Griffith in the sectional semifinals.
Kinsey has a lot of standouts returning from last year's team and a couple of newcomers.
Wideout Kashon Prather injured his ankle is Week 3 game against Lowell last year and did not play again. Koebe Clopton, a transfer from Hammond, played junior varsity last year because of transfer rules but the tight end had a great summer, Kinsey said.
And athletic sophomore JoJo Johnson also was hampered by an injury last season.
"JoJo's going to be a breakout player for us," Kinsey said. "He was so good he was invited to the Louisville camp."
New blood on Broadway
Usually a Duneland Athletic Conference power, the Merrillville Pirates went 1-9 last year. After the season, two longtime assistant coaches — Brian Parker (Hanover Central) and Joe O'Connell (River Forest) — took their first head coaching jobs.
So Merrillville head coach Brad Seiss had some work to do filling his staff.
Ray Hines, Merrillville's new linebackers coach, was the defensive coordinator at Florida power Kissimmee Osceola before moving back to the Midwest. And the Pirates new offensive coordinator, Josh Wissing, was the offensive coordinator at Valparaiso University when Stacy Adams was the Crusaders head coach.
"The kids are excited about this season," Seiss said. "They really want to turn this around."
Changes in black and gold
Ben Geffert's Griffith Panthers had a remarkable season last fall. The program went 10-2 and rolled through its first season in the Greater South Shore Conference.
But Griffith had a senior-laden team last year, and most expected this would be a season of change.
Long-time head coach Eric Schreiber, who played at Griffith then was a head coach at Bishop Noll, Greensburg, Michigan City, Hammond and Clark before taking a few years off, has been added to the Panthers' staff.
Schreiber played for legendary coach Les Thornton at Griffith before graduating in 1992 and Schreiber was an assistant at Griffith from 1998 through 2000 under Russ Radtke, who Geffert played for.
Schreiber will coach linebackers for the Panthers this season and his son, Payton Schreiber, is in position battles at quarterback and linebacker.
"Every day is about making progress," Geffert said. "We've had some dudes that were the face of our program the last three years and they're gone now. We had some seasoned vets that were taking charge and picking people up every day.
"Now, we've got kids who played JV the last year or two stepping onto the varsity field for the first time. They're excited but we're working hard at getting better every day right now."