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Timeout Football: Game of the Week

West Side's Lonnie Johnsscores after fumble by Hammond High West Side High School Saturday September 21 2013. | Jim Karczewski\For

West Side's Lonnie Johnson scores after a fumble by Hammond High at West Side High School on Saturday September 21, 2013. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 5, 2013 6:38AM



West Side is coming off three straight wins by a combined score of 194-67, including a 60-0 trouncing of Indianapolis Arlington on Saturday. But almost immediately after that win, Cougars players and coaches were looking ahead to the next game on the schedule — a home meeting against Morton.

The nonconference contest doesn’t have much outside meaning to Morton, other than being a possible sectional preview game. But the Governors have never lost to their Gary neighbor just to the east.

Morton leads the all-time series 11-0, dating back to 1971 with a large gap between games from 1975 to 2007.

But the improving Cougars are pumped up for this game to say the least.

“Someone told me it’s not a rivalry until you win, so we want to start a rivalry,” West Side coach Jason Johnson said. “Our players love this game … it decides our season. They are the sectional champs and this game tells us where we are in the sectional. They beat Lowell, EC, Highland and Griffith — all teams in our sectional. This game tells us just how good we are or how far we have to go in three weeks.”

West Side has gotten closer to beating the Governors. Last year the score was 35-20 — the closest the Cougars ever came to beating Morton.

“I know this game means a great deal to West Side. That’s why this is such a tough game for us,” Morton coach Roydon Richards said. “It has very little meaning to us other than we respect their improvement and hard work and don’t ever want to lose a football game. Lowell, Griffith, Munster, Hobart are all teams that used to be in our conference and since they have left it has meant a lot to us to beat them. EC is the school that both AJ Rodriguez and I were fired from, so that game will always have meaning to us. The Hammond schools are our conference games so we really want to win those. That leaves this game, so you see why I say it’s a tough game for us because it means so much to them.”

Both teams feel like they are playing a better brand of football than expected earlier in the season. Despite a bump in the road two weeks ago (14-0 loss to Munster), Morton has improved on offense and defense.

“Our team is better than I thought we would be at this point,” Richards said. “I did think our offensive line would be further along by now, but our skill on offense is very good and our defense is outstanding. The defense is more advanced because last year our offense had nine seniors and our defense only had three. We have a lot of talented players that played in big games last year so their confidence is very high.”

Johnson, though, thinks his team is playing better now than it has been heading into a Morton game in recent years.

“We are peaking at the right time,” he said. “I can’t wait until Friday night. I hope the game lives up to its billing.”



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