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Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.

Opportunity comes with a price tag often. Even making the right decision isn't always easy.

Just ask Pete Koulianos.

In three seasons of leading the Hanover Central football program, he saw a lot. The first undefeated regular season, the initial Greater South Shore Conference championship along with making the program's first state ranking.

All this in just four years of varsity football since the program restarted Friday night lights.

But then he got a call from Highland athletic director Ryan Harrington. That's when the mind started spinning.

"It wasn't an easy decision at all," Koulianos said. "It was something I agonized over for awhile."

Pete's wife, Amanda, is an English teacher at Highland. Pete was an assistant coach for the Trojans from 2005 through 2012.

And while Hanover will likely be a better job in 10 years, it was a no-brainer for Koulianos, who wanted to work in the district where his kids attend. Being five minutes from home can't be quantified.

"It was a family based decision," he said. "I wanted to come back and teach with my wife. It was too good to pass up. I'm now close to home and I have a great teaching schedule."

A couple of weeks ago, he met with his Wildcats and opened his heart.

He thanked the community for supporting the program almost every day for three-plus years. Remember, there was no grid tradition there. Ten years ago, Hanover was playing boys volleyball in the fall.

It takes time to build a football program. No magic wand can make it happen in a couple of years.

"I gave tribute to the kids and their hard work for creating a program the Region was talking about," Koulianos said. "Hanover will have no problem finding a quality coach, but Highland plays in a competitive conference (Northwest Crossroads) and it will give our kids a better chance to compete in the postseason."

While the GSSC is lopsided competitively in certain sports, just look at what Hanover did last fall. The Wildcats traveled to Andrean in the sectional opener and gave the 59ers all they could handle in a 24-9 loss.

I still believe Hanover Central will end up in the NCC. It's just going to take a few more years of growth first.

Koulianos said the Trojans he's been working with here of late are working harder than any group he's ever coached, including the 2016 Hanover team. They want to win and do it as soon as possible.

Some have suggested the Trojans have underperformed in recent autumns. If true, Koulianos is the perfect pick for this resurrection.

If the Trojans listen to these words like the Wildcats did a few years ago, things will change in Highland.

"If you set high expectations for kids, they will rise up," Koulianos said. "They want to be challenged."

The challenge now is who Hanover picks as its new head coach. I bet both dimes I have many young coaches with a vision for the future are salivating for this gig.

Good luck, Wildcats.

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at