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By KRIS MILLS - kmills@shelbynews.com

Michael Clevenger has nothing but respect for the Hoosier Heritage Conference. It certainly made the Shelbyville head coaching position an attractive job.

After serving as an assistant at Warren Central, Lawrence Central and Marian University, Clevenger received his first head coaching position at Class A Clinton Prairie two seasons ago. He finished with an 11-10 record as the Gophers head man and found the opening in Shelby County, which is much closer to his home in Indianapolis, as a perfect fit.

“As far as 4A and 5A football go, I think it (the HHC) is the best football conference in the state of Indiana,” Clevenger said. “The conference definitely attracted me to this position, but Shelbyville was the main attraction. I think Shelbyville is a sleeping giant. There are great football kids here, just from what I have seen on tape and learned from other coaches. I think this could be something really special here.”

Clevenger replaces former Shelbyville head coach Pat Parks, who was 126-120 in 23 seasons with the Golden Bears.

“Shelbyville High School is very excited about new head football coach Mike Clevenger,” said Shelbyville Athletic Director Jenny DeMuth. “He is the type of coach that will recruit our athletes to play football and get them excited about Friday nights. His passion, energy and knowledge for the sport is contagious, and we look forward to continuing the excellence of Shelbyville football.”

Contrary to the start of his career at Clinton Prairie, the Shelbyville football program, thanks to Parks and other longtime assistant coaches in both the middle and high school ranks, is not in shambles. A tradition is in place.

“We got the numbers up at Clinton Prairie, the thing I am most proud of is we had 32 kids on the roster when I started,” Clevenger said.

“We ended that year with 49. That is the goal here in a football heavy conference. We should be having 75-80 kids on the roster. Coach Parks did an excellent job of bringing excitement to the program.

Being somewhere for over 20 years, I am hoping to do the same.”

Clevenger said that two years prior to him taking over the Clinton Prairie program, a group of players actually walked out on the team. Four years later, with Clevenger in command, the program set over 65 individual and team records.

Prior to leading the Gophers the last two seasons, Clevenger, who was an offensive lineman during his playing days at Warren Central (2003 graduate) and The University of Indianapolis, was an assistant at Warren Central from 2007 to 2012.

After that, he was with Marian for a season before becoming Lawrence Central’s Offensive Coordinator in 2014.

Clevenger, who will run a power spread offense (like Auburn or Clemson), knows the Golden Bears will return their quarterback from last season -- sophomore Landon Watson, who finished with 1,587 passing yards and 20 touchdowns.

It will be a new era of Shelbyville football, however.

Despite Watson and a few other familiar names on the roster, the Golden Bears said farewell to a deep and a talented senior class.

Clevenger is ready for the new challenge.

“It is a very up-tempo offense, and I think the kids enjoy seeing an offense they see on Saturdays (during college football),” Clevenger said. “I would say we were one of the fastest, if not the fastest, tempoed offenses in the state last season. I am definitely excited (about Landon). (The quarterback) is the No. 1 piece to the team. He had an impressive sophomore campaign. He also has a little wiggle to him in the running game.”

Clevenger will also serve as the high school’s physical education teacher.

Notes: The Clinton Prairie offense finished with 2,152 passing yards and 2,684 rushing yards last season.

The team’s quarterback helped three different receivers total over 400 yards through the air (leader was over 800), while the Gophers leading rusher finished with 1,878 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Kris Mills is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Kris Mills on Twitter @KrisMills37.