#1StudentNWI: Fall Festivities in full effect at GHS

#1StudentNWI: Fall Festivities in full effect at GHS

What’s recently happened?

Over the past offseason, Griffith High School (GHS) switched coaching staff in hopes of change in the football program. In the past, GHS has had a formidable football team, winning the State Championship in 1997, as well as a couple of Regional Championships some years after that in 2005 and 2006.

Just last year before the coaching switch, the GHS Panthers went 5-6 and were a first-round exit in sectionals against Hanover Central High School. This is a far cry from where the Panthers used to be and where they aspired to be.

For the 2023 season, Head Coach Phil Mason was hired along with his hyper-experienced coaching staff to make changes within the program. Mason has done nothing but win during his extensive tenure in Northwest Indiana football, racking up one State Championship, two Semi-State Championships, five Regional Championships, and eight Sectional Championships, along with a record of 158-93 record (0.626).

The school and community both can already see the impact. The football team has grown in numbers, and the student-athletes are being transformed into young men. It is clear that Mason has already made his mark. His athletes have maintained in the classroom and have been working every day in order to get in the win column this season.

As of September 8, the Panthers were 0-3 in non-conference play, with close losses to crossroad rivals Munster High School and Highland High School, 41-33 and 27-23 respectively. The Panthers season is still alive though. Starting against Whiting High School on September 8, the opportunity to win the Greater South Shore Conference presents itself as the team embarks on a five-game journey to win against the conference. The dominance of the conference would be the first step for this new generation of GHS football.

What’s coming up?

GHS football began its conference play at Whiting on Friday, September 8 with a resounding 41-7 win over the Oilers. This is a great start and a first win for the Panthers this season.

Looking ahead, Griffith plays four more Conference games of their last five. The teams that remain are River Forest High School (9/15), Gary West Side Leadership Academy (9/29), Calumet New Tech High School (10/6), and Wheeler High School (10/13).

The closest game, against River Forest High School, looks to be a tough matchup. The River Forest Ingots are 3-0 led by Wide Receiver Jeremiah Stansil and Running Back Carlos Villagomez. Despite the dominant wins the team has obtained in weeks prior, it has not played competition like the Panthers have so far. Griffith’s strengths lie in its defense, which should provide for a good matchup against a team that has averaged 30 points per game.

Two weeks later, GHS will take on the Cougars of Gary West Side. This West Side team has been very polarizing, with two blowout losses and one blowout win. The Panthers will be working to shut down the 139-yard-per-game Running Back Omarion Youngbor. Once again, the Panthers take a lot of pride in its defense behind Coach Phil Mason, and if the defense holds up, this should fall in favor of GHS.

On the first Friday of October, the Panthers will travel to take on the Calumet Warriors. The Warriors have struggled early, losing two of a possible three. The cross-town rivalry always seems to deliver for both teams, so record and recent performances won’t have too big of an impact, but as of now the results lean in favor of Griffith. Expect a high-scoring game fueled by rivalry and competitiveness.

Griffith ends its regular season campaign on October 13 against the Wheeler Bearcats. The Bearcats opened up 0-3 against some solid opponents, including a dominant Hanover Central team, and a conference opponent, River Forest. Wheeler is in a similar position to Griffith and is looking to prove its ability later in the season. This game will be tough and gritty, especially if either of them is looking to clinch the conference.

Staff spotlight:

Mark Ferrino is a new teacher at GHS and brightens the days of everyone he sees. Ferrino was raised in Orland Park, IL, and played lacrosse at Indiana University during college.

Ferrino decided to teach in order to share his passion with young language learners. He finds a great purpose in what he does.

“I’m enthusiastic to teach because I realized each day that I can invest in my students’ future and developments,” he said.

Currently, Ferrino teaches Spanish 1 and Spanish 2, both graduate requirements at GHS. Teaching Spanish isn’t for all educators, and Ferrino has his reasons behind his love for it. 

“I have enjoyed the culture and exploration that Spanish offers. My time overseas traveling to countries such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Spain have shown me sides of the world that are bigger than my hometown,” Ferrino said. “I’m able to showcase my experiences and knowledge with students to inspire them to embark on their own journeys.”

After school, Ferrino helps coach the middle school cross-country team, a job that aligns with his out-of-school activities. 

“I prepare my athletes with encouragement as well as tough conversations so that they can achieve the goals they have for themselves,” he said.

Ferrino also runs outside of school and currently is in marathon training, allowing him to actually run alongside his athletes and enhance their experience and performance. He puts his time towards church, friends, his business, weightlifting, running, and traveling. 

“Life has been good, and God is too,” Ferrino said.

Student spotlight:

Sarah Issa is a senior and the face of the GHS class of 2024. Throughout high school, Issa has been a leader for many different groups, including being the President of National Honor Society and Class Council and a participant in Drama (Hair & Makeup Manager), Student Council, Basketball, Panther Press, Booster Club, and International Club.

“I want to make school enjoyable for everyone,” Issa said. “I love to get involved in the spirit activities and want to make everyone feel involved with our school because at the end of the day, we as students control our school environment.”

With a complete schedule all throughout the year, Issa faces the challenge of balancing everything she does which comes with ups and downs as it would with anyone. 

“I like to keep busy, but sometimes having to balance club meetings, practices, schoolwork, and a social life gets difficult. I try my best to stay organized throughout it all and make sure I’m putting in 100% in all aspects,” Issa said. “In the end, it has all been worth it. I love being involved with my school, and I hope to inspire underclassmen to do the same when they’re in my position.”

Issa’s next endeavor will be the planning of homecoming balanced with the duties of being on the court. Without Issa, GHS would not function at the level it does, and everyone is grateful for her devotion to everything.

Issa is goal-oriented, which has resulted in her ranking third in her class. Currently, her goal is to maintain her position. Along with her academic prowess, she also wants to make this a year to remember. After high school, Issa plans to attend college in-state and go into nursing. 

“After high school, I plan to attend nursing school and become a travel nurse who flies around the world,” she said. “I want to help people in big or small ways because I know it will make a difference later on whether physically or emotionally.”