Prep Football

Hanover Central has first football practice in 42 years

2013-08-05T15:15:00Z 2013-09-16T18:37:11Z Hanover Central has first football practice in 42 yearsSteve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com

CEDAR LAKE | The sounds were similar to others all around the state on Monday morning. At many places the first day of football is routine.

Cleats crunching on asphalt, young men's voices talking about great expectations, a handful of youngsters who forgot to take their physicals and coaches barking with a fresh breath.

But at 7:56 a.m. behind Hanover Central High School, history was made as the Wildcats walked out for their first football practice in 42 years. The Wildcats will play a junior varsity schedule this fall before picking up varsity in 2014.

There was no despair, though, as 55 players walked onto the field underneath the water tower as the first whistle since 1971 could be heard.

First-year coach Robert Harrison still has the piece of paper from 2011 when he wrote down a blueprint for what it would take for football to arrive in Cedar Lake. Middle school football was first. The facilities were next.

The players looked at the new bleachers that went up this summer as they walked to their first practice.

"The kids have been saying all summer that they could not wait for this day," Harrison said. "There is a real excitement in the air. It's going to be great the first time this community feels the joy that football brings on a Friday night, or Saturday morning."

Unlike most other schools, Hanover will have two seniors who will only playing one year of football and it will be at the JV level. That did not wipe the smile off the faces of Zak Belin or Sam Bokodi.

Belin played football in Crete and Lansing before moving to Cedar Lake. Bokodi grew up in St. John before heading south. The rumbling of football returning were bouncing off the walls their freshman year. But it takes time to get something like a football program up and running.

"I love football, I've played it my whole life," Belin said. "It doesn't matter to me that I'm playing JV as a senior. It's better than nothing."

"I have a passion for football and this is my only chance so I'm going to take it," Bokodi said. "It's exciting that we're the first team bringing it back, it's history. We want to come out and show that we're a good program."

Last year's eighth grade team went 7-1. So a foundation has been built. Each player stepped over a painted sign in the grass that read, "Practice like you play."

That is the mantra that Harrison and his staff want to bring.

Assistant coach Jake Viehman is a hulk of a man. He graduated from Hanover in 1999. He wished that his school had football in those days. There was always talk but it never came to fruition. Until now.

Viehman's uncle, Jim Kiechle, was an assistant coach at Hanover in 1971 when 24 players and a long run of whippings caused the school to shut down the football program.

Before class football was introduced, there were not a lot of small schools playing the sport so Hanover was facing the big boys and it wasn't pretty.

"I wish we would've had it when I went here," Viehman said. "We had a lot of big guys and I think we would've been pretty good. But this is cool for these kids. It's been a long time coming. There is a lot of excitement.

"It's cool to see these guys running around out here in the grass."

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