Gold needs some time to retool Morgan Park041309 studio
Tim Cronin sports columnist southtownstar (Carol Dorsett Southtownstar newspapers)
Updated: September 6, 2011 8:42PM
Jeremy Gold has a website, a good reputation and an opportunity to make an impact as the new coach of Morgan Park’s football team.
He also has a 0-2 record, and his team’s been outscored 52-6.
Welcome to football in Chicago, coach.
The Mustangs hadn’t started a season with back-to-back losses since 2006, when they rallied to tie for the title in the Public League’s Illini Prairie State bracket and finished with an 8-4 record, advancing to the Class 7A quarterfinals before falling to St. Rita.
It was one of 11 state playoff appearances and 12 shared or outright league titles in Lexie Spurlock’s 16-year career as Morgan Park’s coach. Spurlock’s teams compiled a 137-59 record. His 2005 squad beat Brother Rice in overtime to win the Prep Bowl, the only Public League team to do so in this millennium. Spurlock sent countless players to Division I, and a half-dozen to the NFL.
The Mustangs were a beacon of excellence. They should continue to be a beacon, but changing coaches often causes the beacon to flicker. Richards found that out after Gary Korhonen’s retirement after the 2007 season. The Bulldogs were 4-5 in Tony Sheehan’s first season, and since have returned to their winning ways, with 17 victories the last two years.
Gold had to know this was possible when he took the job, especially because Spurlock didn’t retire. He planned to coach one more season, then hang it up. It came as a surprise, both to him and to outsiders, when Morgan Park principal Beryl Shingles told him a change of direction was necessary.
Spurlock was told he would be out as the football and track coach, never mind piling up 38 wins against 14 losses the previous four seasons in football and coaching the Mustangs trackmen to a slew of medals in recent years.
A search committee decided on Gold, a Central Michigan grad who cut his coaching teeth as an assistant at a quartet of schools and was 23-17 in his four years at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, with three playoff appearances. Those who have been to a football game at Michigan might recognize Pioneer as the school cater-corner from the Big House.
A glance at Gold’s website — www.jeremygold.com — shows Gold can motivate with the best of them. One of the videos on the website, titled “Hit ’em in the Mouth,” shows his players clobbering opposing players before Gold tells his players, “How do you respond when you’re hit in the mouth?”
An 0-2 start, even with Providence and Mount Carmel as the opponents, is the scoreboard equivalent of that question. It is not the way he expected to start, never mind the getting-to-know-you summer camp and the two-plus weeks of formal practice leading up to the opener against the rebounding Celtics.
Or expected starting quarterback Dae’Shaun Hurley transferring to Julian. Gold’s used Andre Newall in his place, but Newall was put in his place by a ferocious Mount Carmel defense Friday at refurbished Gately Stadium, held to six completions in 20 attempts. At least Newall’s 123 yards computed to a healthy average of 20.5 yards per completion.
There have been other bright spots. If not for Providence defensive back Jack Fordon stealing a touchdown pass out of the hands of Mustangs receiver Shaquille Eason, that game would have been within a point-after kick of being tied. Then Providence pulled away. And defender Kemet Baxter picked off Providence quarterback Chris Salazar twice in the opener.
Overall, though, the Mustangs have been hit in the mouth. That 0-2 start in 2006 came via losses to Carmel and Richards. Outscored 52-21 in those contests, Morgan Park went 6-1 the rest of the regular season, then beat Thornton and Plainfield South in the playoffs before running up against those other Mustangs from St. Rita, which administered a 20-0 defeat en route to a Class 7A championship.
This year’s team has a similar opportunity to rebound, beginning with Friday’s game against Simeon, likewise 0-2 after losses to Mount Carmel and Jefferson City, Mo.
“You can really evaluate your team based on who’s going to hit,” Gold, who could not be reached by phone on Tuesday, said in one of his videos. “This is a game for hitters.”
The sooner his Mustangs buy in, the sooner they’ll win again.