It is a conference forged from the remnants of more historic athletic alliances but the members of the Great Lakes Athletic Conference see a day on the horizon when they will be making plenty of noise in the Region.
“Last season the conference was made up of three strong teams and one that was in a state of transition,” said Hammond High coach Robert Robinson. “Hammond High, Clark, and Morton all were good last year and should be that way again this year. Gavit, with its athletes on hand and the coaching situation straightened out should be back this year. It should be a fun season.”
Hammond won the first GLAC championship last year with a 3-0 record including a pulsating 14-13 win over Morton at the Wildcats field. Robinson inherited a strong group of seniors who also happened to be adept at leadership and the result was a 9-2 record.
“I was fortunate to come into a good situation last year,” Robinson said. “The seniors last year were a good group and we ended up with a great season. Now we have to show people that Hammond High football is back for the long haul.”
Clark also had a good season, going 8-4 and reaching the sectional title game for the first time in nearly 20 years. The Pioneers also achieved success with a fine senior class and Coach Dave Verta said his team is ready for the challenge.
“Everybody is working very hard,” Verta said. “We’re all excited to get going and see if we can build on what we did last year."
Morton finished 6-4 in 2007 and dropped a tough 37-34 game to Griffith in the sectional opener. The Governors are in the enviable position of returning the most talent with two quarterbacks and a host of other holdovers ready to break in a new season and a new field.
“I really the sky is the limit for this team,” said Morton coach Roy Richards. “We have a group that has worked hard to get ready for the season.”
Gavit had a rough ride in 2007, finishing with a 2-8 mark and bowing out with a 52-0 loss in its sectional opener. Coach and athletic director Del Pittman is gone and long time area assistant Scott Oman is now the head coach.
“We have a good group of core guys who want to go and compete,” Oman said. “We want forget about last season and get off to a fresh start.”
Hammond High has to replace QB Louis Wills and the multi-talented David Moore among others but Robinson thinks that receivers Daron Houston and Rob Stone are first-class and that quarterback Antwann McGee is a capable replacement for Willis. The linemen are bigger than last year and the numbers are up so Robinson feels that the road back is now a fast track.
“This year is about getting respect for the program,” Robinson said. “We had a great last year but that was then. Now is what we have to focus on.”
Clark lost the talented quarterback Craig Fruth, running back Chris Ramirez, and receiver Mario Ramirez from last season. Verta thinks that sophomore Cameron Copeland can step in at running back and Mike Rooke can do the job at quarterback with Eric Martinez ready to make an impact at wide receiver.
“I think we’ll be pretty good,” Verta said. “We’ll need to step it up defensively but we’re working hard and I think once the season starts we’ll be ready to compete.”
Morton returns quarterbacks Cory Phillips and Allen Polkington and Richards is enthused about receiver Orlando Lucas. If the offensive line does the job then the Governors will continue to light up area scoreboards.
“We cant’ wait to get started,” Richards said. “We might open things up a little more when we get the ball because that’s’ what our personnel dictates. We should be a fun team to watch. The new field has everyone excited and I think the team should help feed off of that.”
Gavit lost quarterback Royal Donald but Oman thinks running back Mitchell Tipton is ready to shine and that others on the team are ready to put 2007 and the recent coaching change behind them.
“I paid my dues to get this job and I think all of us coaches feel that that this team can be good,” Oman said. “We’re working hard and that’s all I can ask.”