By STEVE HANLON
Eric Schreiber Jr.’s family is as Griffith Panthers as it gets. Black and Gold have been the colors that served as background for the football clan’s past for decades.
Evan Schreiber, Eric’s uncle, played for Griffith in the 1995 Class 4A regional game at the Brickie Bowl, one of the Region’s greatest postseason games of all-time, where Hobart got the upset win 14-13 in the contest that has been called The Mud Bowl.
But things are changing quickly for Schreiber Jr., who was voted in as Hobart’s new football coach at Thursday night’s school board meeting.
“Even my grandfather is wearing Hobart gear now,” Schreiber Jr. said. “And I’m going to be getting stuff for uncle Evan, too. He said he would wear it.”
Schreiber Jr. said he learned everything about football at The Boneyard watching his father, Eric, coach with legendary Griffith coach Russ Radtke in the late 1990s.
His father’s legacy on the grid is something the 2013 Hammond High graduate wants to continue in his new gig.
Schreiber was the head football coach at Bishop Noll, Greensburg, Michigan City, Hammond, and Hammond Clark, where the Brickies new coach was an assistant for three seasons, and was an assistant for Craig Buzea on Crown Point’s Class 6A state runner-up team in November.
“My dad has had a tremendous impact on my life,” Schreiber Jr. said. “He’s my hero. He’s the reason I grew up to love the game like I do. When we were growing up many of the kids in our neighborhood played Cowboys and Indians.
“We didn’t. We played football.”
As a freshman, Schreiber Jr. played some quarterback at Michigan City when his dad was the Wolves head coach. Then, it was on to Hammond High, where he had the same role for the Wildcats.
After playing football for one year at Anderson College, Schreiber Jr. graduated from Purdue Northwest. He was an assistant for Buzea at Homewood-Flossmoor for two seasons, then was the head coach at Gary West Side in 2020 and 2021.
That is where his friendship with outgoing Brickies coach Craig Osika began. Osika was 52-20 in six seasons as head coach. Osika took his alma mater to the 2019 Class 4A state championship game.
In the 2020 sectional semifinal, Hobart beat West Side 70-0. But Osika was impressed with how hard Schreiber Jr.’s students played, how they stayed together and never quit, no matter what the scoreboard said.
The friendship grew and he brought Schreiber Jr. over to be Hobart’s defensive coordinator the last two seasons.
While in Gary, Schreiber had 40 players his first season. It was up to 70 in Year 2 and an upgrade to the facilities took place, including a turf field, new lights, a Jumbotron, an upgraded weight room among other things.
The Cougars were 6-3 in Schreiber Jr.’s second season and have had two straight winning seasons after the seeds were planted.
“Craig has been the best,” Schreiber Jr. said. “I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me and my family. The last two years I’ve been getting to know the kids in the community. I know the community now. It’s just been amazing what has happened the past two years.”
Schreiber Jr. and his wife Sierra have moved to Hobart with their three young kids.
It’s been a match made in heaven.
Schreiber Jr. befriended Osika’s grandmother, nicknamed “Big Momma,” at a Bingo fundraiser for Hobart’s football program. Schreiber Jr. said her football knowledge was amazing, bringing up plays and players from the West Side-Hobart games through the years.
“That made me fall in love with Hobart even more,” he said. “The community is filled with great people like her.”
Osika remembers that story, along with watching West Side’s overmatched team in the sectional game playing it the right way, which was a reflection of Schreiber Jr.
“I saw a young, up-and-coming coach take a chance on himself by taking the job at West Side,” Osika said. “It can be difficult coaching at a place like that. His team was down 70-0 and his players were helping each other up, helping our kids up, playing hard and giving it everything they had. It is 100 percent accurate that what I saw that night connected me to Eric and the job he was doing there. He changed the culture there and got the kids to buy in.
“And I remember thinking, ‘Imagine if he had the resources Hobart provides.’”
This is only the second time in Hobart history that a coach not from Hobart has been hired to lead the Brickies. Wally McCormack was the other.
Osika is also the school’s co-principal and the hours and duties were getting too much, especially with two young kids at home.
“This is not a complete turnaround,” Osika added. “Most of the staff are staying. We have a solid senior class returning. We don’t have a lot of D-I talent but we’ve got many great athletes. They made every day fun. There are no egos. It’s a great situation for Eric to step into.”
So all the Griffith Schreibers are wearing Purple and Gold. Friday night lights will still burn bright, but “the game” will be taking place 10 miles away.
“Every single day, I am so grateful to be here,” Schreiber Jr. said. “I almost have to pinch myself to be coaching at a program with so much history and success. This is an awesome community and opportunity.”
Now, it’s down to business.
Work. Work. Work.