CEDAR LAKE | During his postgame chat with the media, Hanover Central head coach Robert Harrison stopped in mid-sentence as his eyes averted.
"Uh, oh," he said.
Uh, oh was right.
For some reason, Harrison was bone dry a good 20 minutes after his Wildcats defeated Rensselaer 20-8 on Oct. 18, capping an undefeated junior varsity season -- the first football campaign at Hanover Central in more than 40 years.
Call it a rookie mistake, but the Wildcats had failed to douse Harrison with the traditional Gatorade bath, befitting to the immediate conclusion of a successful season.
Not for long, however, as a pair of Wildcats toting an orange bucket tip-toed along the back of the end zone with their head coach in their sights. Problem was Harrison saw them coming from a mile away and nearly got away if it weren't for some gang tackling of the type the Wildcats employed while containing the visiting Bombers.
The Wildcats will have the whole offseason to work the kinks out of their Gatorade celebration. As for the other stuff, they seem to be ahead of schedule.
"I can't really say I expected us to go undefeated," said Harrison, who has been teaching at Hanover Central for the past three years. "We really didn't know what to expect.
"It was a long building process starting with the Junior Wildcats and Pop Warner programs. We knew the interest was there, we knew we had good kids. We just worked hard ... the kids worked hard ... and hoped for the best."
Against the Bombers, the Wildcats were led by Dustin Lindley, who had 67 yards on 15 carries, including a 15-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter to cap the scoring.
A.J. Georders had a rushing touchdown, and Jeremy Szutenbach caught a 43-yard TD pass from junior quarterback Luke Pedersen. Pedersen, like many of the Wildcat players, had never played organized football until this season.
Szutenbach also led Hanover Central's defense with seven tackles. Linebacker Cody Johnson had six tackles, and D.J. Fezler had a fumble recovery for Hanover Central.
The school will include a varsity schedule next year.
"That's why the success of this team was so important," Harrison said. "We had a lot of doubters going into this season. Now that people see that we are competitive, it's going to help attract more kids to come out for the team."
The Wildcats started the season with 63 players. Injuries and other factors whittled the roster to 45.
"We've had to sit a number of players due to concussions," Harrison said. "Concussions have become a big time concern, especially in Indiana, so you always got to look out for them and do the right thing when one has been detected."