Hanover football growing as it approaches high school squad in 2014
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent October 29, 2012 10:54PM
Hanover Junior Wildcats pee wee quarterback Jacob Kapers looks to make a handoff as his running back approaches during a practice on Oct. 12 at the Cedar Lake Ministries field. The second-year team went 3-3 on the regular season.
Updated: December 1, 2012 6:22AM
Young athletes, parents and coaches in Hanover Township now count stats such as wins and losses instead of guessing how many years it would be until football was played in Cedar Lake.
As the Hanover Junior Wildcats’ 2012 season wraps up, those same football enthusiasts look to a future that includes recreational and school gridiron just two years after volunteers built a Pop Warner program from scratch.
“We needed something to call our own and build from within,” said Brian Demoff, Hanover Pop Warner president and coach of the organization’s pee-wee team. “This is a feeder program for (Hanover Central) that’s coming up.”
Football at Hanover Central High School was cut in the early 1970s due to declining interest in the small town. Over the years, as the area grew and subdivisions sprouted up in the countryside, ideas were tossed around about rebooting a school team.
Yet Demoff said there wasn’t much to show for all of the talk.
So, with the help of 10 area residents, he launched the Junior Wildcats club. Fundraising commenced and Cedar Lake had a first-year program in 2011 — initially a probationary organization under the wings of Valparaiso Pop Warner.
Hanover Central officials credited the rise of Pop Warner in Cedar Lake as the spark that got decision-makers behind restarting a football program. Hanover Middle School rebooted their team this year and the high school athletic department recently announced an accelerated plan to field a varsity team in 2014.
Rich Greene, Junior Wildcats vice president, treasurer and assistant coach to Demoff, said building a full-fledged PW program takes more than just balancing the books.
“We have 45 coaches between cheerleading and football that help the program grow,” Greene said. “Without the volunteers you’d never have (a successful program); you have to have a good support system.”
As if they had been lined up looking through knotholes in a fence, 78 Cedar Lake area kids virtually all showed up at once when sign-ups were first held. Sixty-five of the boys were football newbies. This season more than 100 youths ages 5 to 15 play for the Wildcats on five teams.
At their practice in Cedar Lake on Oct. 12, the pee-wee (ages 10-12) team was preparing for the first round of the Northern Indiana Pop Warner tournament. The 3-3 squad faced Valparaiso, a team they had lost to by only two points earlier this season.
Junior Wildcats player Joshua Schreiber is one of the more experienced athletes on the team. The sixth grader plays on the offense, defense and special teams and got his start playing for the Crown Point Jr. Bulldogs football program when he was in fourth grade.
“In Pop Warner you play different teams and different sizes of people; in Crown Point you play your own size and age,” Schreiber said. “Here I can get more experience and train more.”
Promoted to a captain in his second year with the Wildcats, Conner Wotherspoon is someone Demoff believes “has come a long way.” The coach said such players have helped the overall program make strides this year: they won 10 games in 2012, after putting just one win on the board last season.
“I didn’t really know anything (at the first practice),” said Wotherspoon, an offensive and defensive lineman. “Now I know a lot more than I did before ... I’ve learned to try (my) best and never give up.”
At Schererville’s Tri-Town Field on Oct. 14, the Wildcats pounced on Valparaiso early. Quarterback Jake Kapers connected with Bobby Nowak for a 40-yard touchdown.
But the Wildcats couldn’t find the end zone again while Valparaiso scored a pair of TDs to advance.
“The weather was bad and it impacted our passing game,” Demoff said about the Wildcats’ season-ending 14-6 loss that, though not a storybook ending, would not dampen their spirits for Hanover football.