CEDAR LAKE | It was like looking down at your Powerball ticket, seeing that all six numbers matched and then starting your happy dance.
Then, sweat dripping down your forehead, noticing that the ticket was from two weeks ago.
That's how Bryon Clouse felt this past summer.
First, after a great run at Lake Station, Clouse was hired at Hanover Central this past summer. All he spoke about was the joy of competing in the Porter County Conference.
“I love the history and tradition of the PCC,” Clouse said. “I've heard about the league all my life. I've been going to (PCC) games all my life. All the fan support, The Keg and The Cup, you can't get much better than that.”
Then, not long after accepting the Wildcats boys basketball job, Hanover joined the Greater South Shore Conference. Initially, it was a two-year wait. But the PCC kicked Hanover out after the only Lake County school in the league joined the GSSC.
On Friday night Clouse coached in his first PCC game at home against Hebron. It is Hanover's last season in the league the 'Cats joined in 1972.
Hanover for years was like the weird uncle with the red beard in the league. Or the Republican in the newsroom. Or the Baptist at the Twisted Sister concert. Yes, they were there. But never a part of the inner circle.
The insurance cost more and the drive to Cedar Lake was from heck. But that doesn't mean there isn't respect among the coaches.
“Clouse is an excellent coach,” Hebron's John Steinhilber said after Hanover pounded the Hawks 60-30. “I would recommend him anywhere. They're only going to get better as they dip into 3A and keep getting bigger.”
Hanover's gym looked like a place where something was happening on Friday night. Wildcats' public address announcer Jason Yurechko is top shelf. A loud and fun shelf. He wears a nice cap, too.
The home student section rocked and dressed for the occasion. Students donned clothing like Santa, Rudolph and Peter Frampton, among others. Plus, the Hanover pep band, I'll buy their album.
Any group that plays “Carry on My Wayward Son” and “Sweet Caroline” in the same gig, four stars.
“Ever since I was little I watched them in the PCC,” said Hanover freshman Trenton Fanta, who played well scoring six points and grabbed six boards. “Next year we'll be in a new conference with new teams. We'll see how it goes.”
Clouse and assistant Bob Punter spoke in the fourth quarter about how fun their first PCC game was. Punter watched the smaller schools from the bleachers when he was at Valparaiso.
He worked with Clouse at Lake Station before committing to drive a little further.
“The drive is getting longer as the season goes on,” Punter said. “But what am I going to do, watch "Judge Judy" all day?”
Just like the Eagles, the Wildcats ran Clouse's open offense very well. The unselfish, fundamental philosophy got a ton of good shots. It's a new day at Hanover Central.
The school hit the lottery with this hire. And this ticket is a winner.
“It's cool to be in this atmosphere, this conference,” Clouse said. “It's going to be hard to leave. I won't think about it until this summer.”
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.