Sticking together

Photo by Robb QuinnLa Porte’s Collin Bergquist sheds a tackle from New Prairie’s Kaleb Lewandowski in the first quarter of Friday’s game at Kiwanis Field.

The challenge for La Porte’s football team truly becomes real now, the buzz that comes with a new coach tempered by a 34-point loss to New Prairie in its opener Friday.

“It’s a process right now,” Slicers coach Jeremy Lowery said. “We all have to get better, starting with the coaching staff. We’ve talked to the kids a lot. We appreciate everything they’ve done. There aren’t going to be any excuses. It was a tough night. It was disappointing to everyone. We’re just going to get back to work. That’s all we can do. We’ve got to keep everything in perspective. We’re at a point where we’re in a learning curve. We have to really believe we can get better every time we take the field. It’s going to turn.”

Lowery said La Porte was not ready for the twists and stunts that New Prairie ran defensively, a credit to the Cougars staff. The score aside, all was not lost in the lopsided outcome.

“The bright spot was we played very well on special teams,” he said. “That’s something we were very worried about going in and coach (Robbie) Schellinger has done a great job with special teams. They stepped up and played very well. We’ll look at the film, try to correct those issues at practice.” 

Now that La Porte has played a game, Lowery will see how they respond to the adversity of Friday’s outcome. Prior to Saturday’s practice, he was optimistic their energy would remain positive.

“I’ve been through struggles at over places,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys who enjoy playing the game and that’s going to have to carry them through a tough time. The kids have been great from the beginning. I’m confident they’ll respond.”

Tough may not be a strong enough adjective to describe La Porte’s opening stretch of games as it will next take on a Penn team hurting after its loss to Valparaiso and then Valparaiso. That would be a tall task for any team.

“I really don’t know if there is anybody in the state who has a tougher stretch than we do, from No. 6 in 4A to No. 6 in 6A and No. 7 in 5,” Lowery said. “It is what it is. The first thing we had to establish was a culture, build relationships. I believe we did that and we’re going to lean on that now.”

More than a potent offense: New Prarie’s inexperienced defense only had three returning starters, but it sure didn’t look that way when head coach Russ Radtke’s unit faced the Slicers. NP’s No. 1s only allowed the Slicers onto its side of the field once in the three quarters they played, and the only LP touchdown in that time period came on a kickoff return.

Radtke said he’s more proud of the way his defense played because it showed the toughness and aggressiveness it needs for the remainder of the season. One reason for it may be is that New Prairie practiced with an extremely talented, gritty Michigan City team several times this summer. Throwing first-time varsity starters into the fire against one of Indiana’s top Class 5A teams forced the defense to learn a lot rather quickly, and so far, it looks like it’s paying big dividends.

— Jack Parodi contributed to this story.

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