Ask a Porter County Conference athlete or coach about Hanover Central's departure and many of them will give you the same answer.
Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
Unfortunately, Hanover's exit for the Greater South Shore Conference led to some ill will on both sides of the matter, but Randy Roberts is one person you won't hear speaking negatively of the Wildcats.
A lightning rod with his blunt opinions, the Washington Township baseball coach spoke with a tone of disappointment Monday on the subject after his team won the PCC tournament.
"People probably didn't like them because they couldn't beat them," Roberts said. "I'd rather play them than beat somebody 10-0."
Roberts' tenure spans a line of change in the PCC's membership. It has been and continues to be a strong small-school baseball conference, though he believes — rightfully so — it's going to lose a little luster with Hanover's departure.
"I remember when Wheeler left, we took a hit," Roberts said. "We'd play them and there'd be a line of green and orange all the way down the fence, yelling at you. It was great."
Hanover's presence started to be felt a few years later under Jim Nohos, who coached the Wildcats to the PCC tourney title in 2007, its first in 31 years. The program continued its ascent under Nelson, and the coaching advantage that Roberts thought he had over Hanover was gone.
Roberts built his program on toughness, both physical and mental, and Nelson took that philosophy with him to Cedar Lake, buoyed by the three years he spent as an assistant at Washington.
"He's kind of a Mini-Me," Roberts said with a smile.
Nelson would certainly take it as a compliment.
"Kids don't like to be told no, that they're not very good," Nelson said. "A lot of times, they need to hear it."
It's a style that doesn't fly in a lot of places anymore, but it works at Washington and Hanover, and will continue to work as long as Roberts and Nelson are bringing the lineup cards to home plate.
Hanover won the PCC round-robin in its last three years. It was denied a shot at another tourney trophy by the Senators, leaving a lot of smiling faces along Route 2 and Indiana 49.
Washington's title was sweetened by the win over Hanover, but not due to the circumstances. For Roberts, it's not just about victories, it's about the challenges that come with them, and that's what Nelson's Wildcats provided.
"I'm proud that we won after beating Hanover because they were the beat team," Roberts said. "I kept telling our kids they didn't win 22 games for nothing. Traditionally, they play their best against us."
Hanover didn't on that day, which was the most disappointing part for Nelson, coming against his old mentor. With the schools going their separate ways and destined to be in different classes, there will be no more match-ups with anything significant at stake.
Given the mutual respect of the coaches, don't be surprised if they find a way to fit in a game into their non-conference schedule.
"I hope we can keep playing them," Roberts said.