Hanover Central season ends with sectional semifinal loss at Andrean
from Lowell Tribune
(Merrillville) For a second straight season, Hanover Central’s season came to end at Father Eckert Stadium, falling to Andrean 44-12.
Andrean (10-1), ranked #4 in both the state AP and Coaches’ Polls, advanced to face unbeaten West Lafayette in the Class 3A Sectional 25 final Friday night. West Lafayette is ranked #2 in both polls, making Hanover’s sectional one of the toughest in the state.
Earlier this season, the Wildcats played the Niners tougher than many expected, losing 24-0 but holding Andrean to their lowest point total in their current ten game win streak.
In Friday night’s rematch, it appeared early on that HC might be able to trade blows with the perennial state power. The Wildcats held Andrean to a 47 yard JJ Wadas field goal on their opening drive, then took a 6-3 lead at the 3:08 mark of the 1st quarter. Backup QB Blaze Cano, filling in for the injured Tyler Fruehling, found Brandon Demoff for a 14 yard TD strike (XP kick failed), capping a 65-yard drive.
The bear was poked.
Andrean responded by scoring seven touchdowns in their eight remaining first half drives, and the Niner defense held HC to just one first down for the remainder of the 1st half.
“We knew running the ball was going to be difficult to almost impossible,” said Hanover head coach Brian Parker. “Their front seven is big, athletic, explosive. So we knew we had to throw the ball and take some shots.”
Parker said the offense’s inability to sustain drives put his defense in some difficult situations, as did turnovers.
The Niners rested their starters in the 2nd half, and both teams agreed to a running clock.
Andrean QB Zack Merrill had 147 yards and 2 TD’s passing and added a rushing touchdown in just one half of work. Andrew Benton rushed for 126 yards and a TD, and also caught a touchdown from Merrill. The 59ers outgained HC 356-174. The 59ers have won 11 straight home tournament games.
Hanover scored again early in the 4th quarter when Cano threw his second TD pass, an 11 yard strike to Jack Kuiper. Cano finished with 91 yards and 2 touchdowns passing.
Brett Driscoll led the defense in tackles with 7. Senior DB Connor Wotherspoon ended his Wildcat career with 6 tackles and an interception in the end zone that thwarted a Niner scoring drive.
In a postgame speech to his players, Parker encouraged them to take something from the loss.
“I told them this is gonna’ hurt. Harness that hurt, and be better young men because of it. Let it fuel you. Become a better person because of it.”
He thanked his 14 seniors who saw their Wildcat careers come to an end: Adam Anderson, Daniel Austgen, Zach Brouwer, Demoff, Leo Diaz, Max Kocka, John Miller, Evan Momcilovic, Sam Momcililovic, Matteo Montalvo, Ben Sedwick, Avi Vega, Wotherspoon, and Sammy Young.
Wotherspoon, a team captain who has played in Cedar Lake since they started youth football in 2011, was understandably emotional walking off the field.
“I’m really sad right now but they’re my brothers, I’ll always be with them no matter what. Everyone says it’s just a game, but it’s not. It’s about family.”
The 2018 was a season of change for a Wildcat program that adjusted to Parker’s system after the departure of Pete Koulianos, who left for the Highland head coaching job.
“We went through some ups and downs trying to get used to the system,” Wortherspoon said. “We lost some tight games I think we should have won, but all in all I thought it was a pretty good season.”
Demoff, who entered the season as Hanover’s career leader in receptions, yardage, and TD’s, finished his Wildcat career with 1,250 yards and 9 touchdown catches. His 523 yards receiving in 2018 was a team high, but only by eight yards: talented sophomore Adam Graham had 515 yards receiving and 8 total TD’s, and looks to play a big role in his remaining two seasons.
A Parker offense that threw the ball exponentially more than the Wildcats did under Koulianos led to big stats for junior QB Fruehling, who set single season marks for yards (1300) and touchdown passes (16).
Junior Brett Driscoll had a great season on both sides of the ball. As a tailback, Driscoll led the team in rushing yards (498) and TD’s (8). He added three TD catches. At middle linebacker, Driscoll’s 101 tackles established a new season high mark, and also put him atop the school’s career list for tackles at 160.
The team will also return disruptive defensive end Michael Simon, a junior who led the 2018 team in sacks (5) and tackles for loss (12).
Parker is already looking ahead to 2019.
“It’ll be nice to have a nice, full offseason to really implement our system and our culture,” he said.
Wotherspoon’s message for future Wildcats was to start working now for success next fall.
“Stay strong. Always put in the work. Weight room first.”
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Stats courtesy Adam Noel, Hanover Central football statistician