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Gorches: ‘It feels like the buzz of old’ in Hobart

Hobart head coach Ryan Turnley walks back sideline from timeout during seasopener against West Side August 19 2011 Hobart High

Hobart head coach Ryan Turnley walks back to the sideline from a timeout during the season opener against West Side August 19, 2011 at Hobart High School. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 27, 2012 11:15AM



Once a Brickie, always a Brickie.

That phrase is hard to miss around Hobart these days, whether it’s at the high school on various athletic fields, or in the downtown area that’s plastered with lots purple and gold these days.

Why so much “Brickie Pride” (which is another phrase displayed in multiple places around town)?

Football is back.

Well, let me clarify that statement since it makes it sound like the sport disappeared.

Competitive football has returned to Hobart, a city that could be described as Northwest Indiana’s most passionate football community without much exaggeration.

At least that’s the vibe you get hanging out at a practice or walking through downtown or hanging out at the End Zone Bar & Grill.

Heck, the sectional semifinal on Friday against Mishawaka at the Brickyard could be sold out. The school has presold tickets this week and they were selling like hotcakes.

“It feels like the buzz of old,” said trainer Mark Leto, a 1984 Hobart grad who played middle linebacker for the Brickies in 1983 when they lost to Penn in the semistate. “It’s fun for that to happen again.”

It’s been a while since anyone could say that in Brickieland. The last time Hobart won a sectional was 1997. Since then, the Brickies have been in sectional finals six times, all losses.

There was a little buzz back in 2006 when Hobart got to one of those finals, only to lose to Lowell 31-28. Under current Portage coach Wally McCormack, the Brickies had three straight seasons of eight wins or more, but it wasn’t the same as it is with this group of Brickies.

No offense to McCormack, who lives in Portage now and did while at Hobart, but he’s not a Brickie.

This Hobart team is all about that Brickie Pride from the head coach on down, and you can bet the Hobart football fanatics love it that way.

Once a Brickie, always a Brickie.

Offensive line coach Craig Osika graduated in 1998, playing for the last sectional champion squad. He can feel the good vibes.

“Absolutely, things are better (in Hobart) when football does well,” he said.

Especially when almost every varsity coach wore the purple and gold when he played.

There’s defensive backs coach Shaun Zoladz, wide receivers coach Jim Johnston Jr., kickers and punters coach Bill Manolopoulos, defensive coordinator Dave Grabczak, defensive line coach Steve Balash and longtime assistant Tom Kerr, who actually started coaching when Balash played in the Indiana North-South game as a senior in 1968.

“We’re getting better,” said Kerr, who chose to look at the big picture. “There’s always room for improvement.”

Balash can’t help but smile when asked about the excitement surrounding the program for the first time in a long time.

“They’re having fun in practice and games,” he said. “It’s like the Brickies of old. The kids have worked their butts off and it’s paying off.”

Once a Brickie, always a Brickie.

Head coach Ryan Turley fits that motto. He graduated in 1991, playing for two state title teams and another that finished runner-up.

The Brickies went 3-8 in his first season at the helm. That’s nothing but a memory now in Year 2 as they are 8-2 with a share of the Northwest Crossroads Conference title under their belts already, and postseason glory in their sights.

I’ll admit I didn’t think he could turn it around that quickly. It seemed to have three-year project written all over it. I was wrong.

“I think this place will be rocking (on Friday night),” Turley said. “The community is fired up, the students are fired up.”

But don’t think this is just a one-year fluke. That wouldn’t be acceptable to Turley or Brickie nation.

“Every decision we make is for the longevity of the program so that year in, year out, Hobart is playing at a high level,” he said.

That includes getting more kids out for football at every level starting at Pop Warner.

Once a Brickie, always a Brickie.

Don’t think Turley’s assistants who are fellow Hobart grads haven’t noticed the job he’s done.

“Turley has done everything the right way, talks to the kids the right way, treats the player the right way,” Balash said.

It’s a perfect combination for hardcore Brickie fanatics who bleed purple and gold since the head coach bleeds purple and gold and his assistants bleed purple and gold.

When the football team does well, everything seems right in the world for Brickies young and old.

Once a Brickie, always a Brickie.



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