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Hutton: Lake Central football trying to climb back to the top

Head coach Brett St. Germawatches over drill during football practice Lake Central St. John Ind. Tuesday September 6 2011.

Head coach Brett St. Germain watches over a drill during football practice at Lake Central in St. John, Ind. Tuesday September 6, 2011. Lake Central is off to an impressive start, having beaten Portage 62-7 last week. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 29, 2013 9:25PM



Brett St. Germain has a few things to unload.

The Lake Central football coach had 10 kids out for a football camp for grades 1-6 last week.

Lake Central is the sixth largest school in the state with a student population of 3,271.

Two years ago, St. Germain had 100 kids out. Portage, the second biggest high school in Northwest Indiana and the ninth largest in the state, had 119 out for a camp earlier this year.

St. Germain is scratching his head, while trying to get through the inconveniences of school and field reconstruction.

He’s not blaming anyone but himself and his coaching staff for the low numbers. They hit every Pop Warner sign up with coaches and flyers, rounding up kids after his first season. They didn’t go that hard this year, thinking that maybe awareness had taken root with potential Indian football players.

He knows now he can’t take a breather when it comes to promoting his program. It’s just that he wonders: Will it always be like this? St. Germain had 83 kids dress last year for the team. Sounds great, right? Portage lists 112 kids on its roster right now. They could still have over 100 when football season actually begins. Eighty-three isn’t enough for the sixth largest school in the state.

The biggest schools should have the biggest advantages when it comes to football. It’s a game of depth and numbers.

The more kids you get on your roster, the better chance you have for quality.

But LC, once a proud football school, is now a struggling, proud football school.

They played admirably last year. They had some studs, such as Gelen Robinson and David Yancey, both current or future Boilermakers. But they were offensively challenged at best and they were hurt by injuries.

What team isn’t hurt injuries, you ask? Well, that’s the point with LC. Their school is big enough and that should be insulated more than others from the injury bug.

Look at Merrillville. When Dylon Collins injured his knee, the Pirates brought in Bryant Isabell and they didn’t miss much.

When Yancey hurt his knee near the end of the season, LC was done.

The frustrating part for St. Germain is that he knows what he wants.

He wants great multi-sport athletes, like Merrillville gets with BJ Jenkins, a basketball player and standout wide receiver, and Jake Raspopovich, who also plays both sports. He wants a nice, new field. That’s coming, but it’s two years from completion.

Until then, he says without hesitating, that “we play on the worst field in America.”

That’s not much of an exaggeration — there were chunks of it coming up last year when I covered the Indians’ game against Chesterton. He called the set up of the training room, locker room and practice field a “logistical nightmare. It’s a struggle to get things done on a daily basis.”

He is not complaining. It’s more like heavy duty venting. He’s in the fourth year of a rebuilding project and he’s made progress. They are 16-5 in the last two seasons after going 5-16 in Bill Melby’s final two seasons.

They will be fine. They will get through the reconstruction. They will find a way to connect with kids and get them out for football in droves.

He just wonders sometimes if it needed to be this hard.

St. Germain finished with the story about James Aldridge and how he got to Merrillville.

Aldridge’s family moved from St. Louis to the region and they were driving down I-65. When they passed the Merrillville athletic complex, with its pristine football field and the softball and baseball field all clustered together, making it look like a cozy, college campus, Aldridge pointed at the school and said, “I want to go there.”

Aldridge’s next stop was the Golden Dome at Notre Dame.

St. Germain knows the importance of a good football program. How it can help create value for the whole school.

He’s waiting for the day when a kid can drive past Lake Central and say, “ I want to go there,” too.



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