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2006 season recap

Life in the fast lane: 2006 season flew by, but gave us plenty to chew on

It’s almost hard to believe the 2006 season is over with – at least for Northwest Indiana programs. Week 15 is already here and that means it’s Thanksgiving week and state championship weekend at the RCA Dome.

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Just think it was a year ago this week the Lowell Red Devils were wrapping up an unforgettable postseason – with comeback victory after comeback victory – to do the unthinkable and capture the program’s first state title. Lowell came into the 2006 campaign minus a lot of hoopla to go along with an inexperienced team. Still, it gave us something to talk about to start the season because the Red Devils proved you don’t have to be perfect to win state titles. That 1-4 start gave hope to plenty of kids and coaches going into this season.

I’m sure there were plenty of, “Why not us?” speeches flying around the Region during those brutal two-a-days in August.
The 2006 season gave us plenty to talk (and argue) about. I lived for going on the regionsports message board and seeing LCKrazy, JDigz, PantheronCline, Casual Observer, 2cents, JayTrain, S.S. Schneider, convict08, bodaver32, Andrean59er, among others, go off on somebody, show passion for their team, make great points, stir the pot, dig up controversy and provide some great stuff to chew on. I know there were plenty of others out there, too, but it really proved how football crazy some of you are. I’m just worried how some of you guys (and gals) will survive until next fall!

When I look back at the 2006 season I think of the remarkable run by Crown Point and how the Bulldogs stayed atop the regionsports top 10 from start to finish. Over the years I’ve seen plenty of shake-ups among the pollsters from week to week, but CP proved it was the top team in the area with a second straight perfect season in the Duneland. Chip Pettit’s squad played the toughest schedule in the area, without a doubt. When you open with Lowell and Hobart before the brutal stretch of the DAC, nobody’s going to call you out for scheduling cupcakes.

Besides CP, we saw, heard and talked about some great football. Griffith had another outstanding season, Hobart ran the table in the LAC Black, Lowell followed its script from last season and rebounded quite well, and Whiting showed just how tough the little program by the lake is by continuing its LAC Blue winning streak. Kankakee Valley put an end to the Oilers’ 20-game LAC Blue winning streak in Week 9 and finally captured a Blue title. We saw Dave Verta put Clark football back in the category of “respectable” and Wildcat Jason’s Hammond High team never gave up. It’s a credit to the kids and the coaches for sticking together and never rolling over. The Wildcats were 0-9 and nobody would have said a word if they would have put the pads away and got ready for basketball, but they went out and won two games in the sectional. I also witnessed that Hammond squad give Griffith everything it could handle in the sectional championship. With all the off-the-field issues the kids and coaches had to deal with, this team really stuck together and came a long way down the stretch.

Portage, much like Lowell, started out 1-4 but never threw in the towel. There was off-the-field issues the kids couldn’t control. However, they stayed with it and turned things around when they could have folded up the tents. The Indians won five of their last six games and took Crown Point to the wire in the sectional semifinals.

Rensselaer was another team that wouldn’t go down without a fight. Despite playing five weeks without its starting quarterback, battling various injuries, and starting out 1-4 and looking at 2-6 later in the season, the Bombers rallied to win the Class 2A Sectional 25 championship and gave defending state champion Jimtown everything it could handle in a 13-9 regional loss.

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Bishop Noll had one of its best seasons to date with an 8-4 finish. The Warriors advanced to the sectional championship (losing to Rensselaer), but still managed to get as many
wins as any other team in over a decade.

Lake Central finally got over the hump in the Duneland, winning its first (and second) games in the conference this past fall. It was a three-year dry spell and one that had everybody questioning the entire program. The Indians aren’t the class of the DAC by any means, but the program is heading in the right direction after putting an end to the “streak.” Let’s be honest, it was eating at everybody at the school and a big monkey a lot of people were carrying around.

The 2006 football season also marked the end of the Lake Athletic Conference as we know it. The state’s biggest conference is splitting after the 2007 spring season, with schools going their separate ways. Personally, I loved the LAC Black and Blue and thought it worked out well (at least in football), but now we’re going to have to get used to “Northwest Crossroads Conference” and the “the Greater South Shore Conference.” I still can’t say them without laughing, but I guess we don’t have much of a choice. While I feel sorry for the Hammond public schools who were left without a home, I feel even worse for the people who have to watch River Forest-North Newton next fall in GSSC play (OK, that was a cruel joke, but I think you get my point).

Yes, the 2006 season will be memorable for a lot of things (and unpopular for others). On the field we witnessed some great games – Crown Point-LaPorte (twice), Lowell-Hobart (twice), Andrean-Hobart, Hobart-Griffith, Clark-Whiting, Portage-Crown Point, Chesterton-Portage and Griffith-Chesterton, among others.

Off the field we had the controversy at both Hammond High and Portage, and we watched the final season of the LAC unfold before our eyes. I guess you could say the conference fought to the bitter end with both Griffith-Hobart and Whiting-Kankakee Valley, ironically, deciding the champion in the final week of the regular season.

The 2006 season came on quick and blew right by. So we won’t have a Region team playing on the carpet for the first time in three years. We still have Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year to look forward to. Plus, the start of the 2007 season is only about nine months away. That gives most of the diehards plenty of time to talk smack about their teams and just about everything else on the message board.

Some things, as we know, never end.


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