Timeout Football: Game of the Week — Hobart at Andrean
By Steve T. Gorches 314-3797 or firstname.lastname@example.org September 19, 2013 10:12PM
Hobart head coach Ryan Turley during the second quarter against West Side at Hobart High School in Hobart, Ind., Friday, August 23, 2013. | Guy Rhodes/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 21, 2013 2:21PM
Tradition. It’s something the two football programs facing off at 5959 Broadway on Friday night know a lot about.
One of the schools has been trying to get its program back to the winning tradition its fans knew — some might think those fans are obsessed about it — more than 15 years ago.
The other would like to keep building on a tradition that seemingly started around the time the other school’s tradition began to fade.
It’s Hobart at Andrean. Enough said.
The Northwest Crossroads Conference foes are each 4-0 — it’s the first time they have met this late in the season while both are still undefeated. Then again, before the NCC was started in 2007, the two teams met much earlier. For several years it was the season opener. Before that it was the third game of the season. In 1992, both teams were 2-0 before the Brickies won in the midst of their glory years.
Could those glory years be returning? Hobart won a share of the NCC title last year (Andrean was one of the other two sharing that crown) and it’s winning games in improbable fashion so far this season.
The Brickies have trailed in every game, from the opener against West Side to being down 14 points in the second half to LaPorte before rallying, then forcing a fumble in overtime to facilitate the victory, to being down multiple times to Griffith, to needing a late comeback against KV.
Those old Brickies fans might think it’s nothing like the days of Don Howell because those Hobart teams drove the bus over opponents, then backed it up to make sure they were dead. But those teams also had a squeaker or two during the regular season. The 1996 state runner-up squad lost to Valparaiso 13-10 in Week 2. The 1991 state champs edged Lew Wallace 20-13 in the opener and lost 13-12 to Merrillville, while the 1989 state champs lost to Lew Wallace 19-14 in the opener. Yes, that last team did win 13 straight after that loss with seven of them shutout wins, but it’s better to win close games than lose them. And this current Hobart team has learned how to do that.
Coach Ryan Turley, who played on some of those great teams, likes his team’s intestinal fortitude.
“Our staff has been happy with how our team has responded in some tough, not-so-ideal situations,” he said. “We believe it is a positive trait for a team to have — knowing that they will not quit whatever position they are put in. That’s a trait that they will carry for life. However, our goal is not to be in that position. We know we need to play 48 minutes of football to continue to be successful the second half of this season.”
And some think the Brickies’ luck could run out this week since Andrean remembers last year’s 37-28 loss that helped Hobart earn a share of the NCC title.
Yes, the 59ers went on to win a regional title — with a couple close ones similar to Hobart’s wins this year. They won 20-19 over Lowell in the regular-season finale, 28-21 over Rensselaer in the sectional final, and let’s not forget one of the greatest games in region football history, the 67-66, five-overtime thriller over Lewis Cass in the regional. But that loss to Hobart is the only conference setback for Andrean in the last 13 NCC contests.
Coach Phil Mason is saying the right things.
“We are just trying to focus on ourselves, getting better on special teams, eliminating penalties and executing better on both sides of the ball,” he said. “Any NCC game is a big game for us — we want to win (the conference) outright. This is an experienced group and they have big-time goals, so the focus is there.”
Blah, blah, blah. You know this is a huge game and whoever wins will do plenty of celebrating on its side of the field. Dare I say, this is the biggest Northwest Indiana football game of the season so far?
Since winning its last sectional title in 1997 — before losing to Griffith in the regional — Hobart has reached a sectional final six times, all losses. In that same time frame, Andrean has won 10 sectional titles, five regionals, three semistates and one state title (2004).
In fact, 1997 could be considered the turning point for both of these programs. It was Howell’s second-to-last season with the Brickies, who had six straight years of six wins or less after 1997. It was the year Andrean reached the state final for the first time and the 59ers have been an area power since, with only one season with a losing record — and that was still a successful season in 2008 when they went 6-7, but won a sectional title in Mason’s first year as head coach.
This could be another key season for both programs. The Brickies are trying to recapture the old glory while Andrean is looking for one more big postseason run with this group of talented seniors.
It shouldn’t be a boring game, that’s for sure.