The Greater South Shore Conference promises to be a good show this year. It’s an eclectic mix of the familiar and new and the race should be one to interest area football fans.
“This is going to be a tough conference this year,” said Mike Juscik, who is entering his second season at Bishop Noll. Wheeler has a lot of people back from last year and probably is the favorite. Calumet will have an exciting team and there are teams with new coaches which is always interesting. I think we’ll be pretty good but you never really know until you start the season and play a team with a different jersey.”
Wheeler is the defending champion, running the table last year with a 7-0 record. Bearcats coach Dan Klimczak likes his teams chances but knows that the conference promises weekly threats to his conference dominance.
“The conference will definitely be competitive this year,” Klimczak said. “Calumet has two of the biggest playmakers (Darcel Ballentine, George Ezell) returning. Coach (Jeff) Cain is always impressive at Whiting and Mike Juscik is doing a great job at Bishop Noll and I expect them to continually improve under his leadership.”
There are game-breakers all over the conference landscape. Ezell averaged around 10 yards per rush while Ballentine had around nine yards per run for the Warriors who return 90 percent of their dangerous offense.
Wheeler returns 15 starters. Hard-nosed quarterback Mike DeSimone is back as is hard charging running back Clay Duarte who shredded area defenses for 1,200 yards while also excelling as a defensive back. The Bearcats won their first ever sectional last season and Klimczak is excited about the upcoming season.
“We’ll be fine. We know that we achieved a lot last season but we also remember how the season ended (41-0 loss to Cass in 2A Regional) so we know there’s room for improvement,” Klimczak said. “The conference will be very good and each game will present a different test.”
Whiting, which had thee forfeit losses in 2007, has Dan Macon stepping in at Quarterback for the graduated Will Dumezich. Juan Torres scored 21 touchdowns and returns for an encore this season. The Oilers are always exciting with the ball and this year should be no different with Cain having a strong group of receivers to replace the graduated Brock Vale. Eddie Galavis and Alex Leddesma will be two of the weapons at Macon’s disposal.
Bishop Noll was 5-2 in conference play and will come in with its entire offensive line intact. Tony Hollingsworth and Ben Jones graduated with their big game potential but with the line coming back Juscik is optimistic for a good season.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” Juscik said. “We lost a couple of big play guys with Ben and Tony graduating but we feel we’ll be able to move the ball.”
New coaches will take the reigns at conference runner-up South Central, North Newton, and Lake Station which should just add to the intrigue of the conference. River Forest, with former Calumet coach Jeff Bean at the helm, should be improved.
“With new coaches at South Central, North Newton, and Lake Station I am sure that a new energy will emerge,” Klimczak said. “And, with Jeff Bean working as hard as he is at River Forest they will surely improve every year.”
“The conference should be good from top to bottom,” Juscik said. “We know that each week will be a challenge.”