By Mark Schremmer for Kpreps.com
Posted: December 19, 2011 - 10:22 AM
The Pittsburg State Gorillas are the NCAA Division II National Champions.
In order to build a team that can win a national championship, you must take talent from wherever you can get it.
The Pittsburg State Gorillas, who closed out a 35-21 victory over Wayne State on Saturday for the Division II national championship in Florence, Ala., are sprinkled with talent from all over the country. Sensational wide receiver and return man John Brown hails from Homestead, Fla., and two-year team captain Spencer Worthington was an All-State linebacker at Carlisle High School in Iowa. Other key players come from Texas, California, Idaho, Georgia, New Jersey, Missouri and Oklahoma.
But make no mistake, the 2011 Pittsburg State Gorillas were largely built with Kansas roots. Out of the 79 players listed on Pitt State’s roster, more than half of them played high school ball in Kansas. Many of them were All-State selections who helped their teams to state championships, and many of them are big contributors to a Gorillas squad that has brought home its first national title since 1991.
On offense, it all starts with quarterback Zac Dickey. The dual-threat signal caller, who has passed for 2,100 yards and 16 TDs and has rushed for 1,097 yards and 10 TDs, is not only a Kansan, but he is a hometown boy. Dickey grew up in Pittsburg, attending St. Mary’s Colgan High School, where he was a first-team All-2-1A selection at quarterback.
Dickey took the long road back home as he attended Oklahoma State his freshman year. He then went to Fort Scott Community College and helped the Greyhounds to a Heart of Texas Bowl win in 2008. In 2009, he transferred to Pitt State and played wide receiver. Dickey split time at quarterback in 2010, then claimed the starting role this season.
It has been a long journey, but Dickey has definitely earned the title of offensive leader.
He received second-team All-MIAA honors and set a Pitt State single-game playoff record for total offense with 413 yards in the Gorillas’ quarterfinal win against Northwest Missouri State.
Offensive linemen Aaron Kolich, of Olathe South, and Ty Henry, of Olathe North, have helped the Gorillas rush for 263.5 yards per game this season. Kolich, a junior, was a first-team All-6A selection as a senior in 2007. Henry, a senior who transferred from Butler Community College in 2010, was an all-conference pick as a senior at Olathe North.
Other Kansas play who have contributed on offense for the Gorillas this season include Louisburg’s Jason Spradling, Blue Valley’s Luke Rampy, Olathe North’s Ollie Veneges, Scott City’s Levi Kuntzsh and Olpe’s Bradley Argabright.
Pitt State’s defense also is led by a Kansan.
Sophomore linebacker Nate Dreiling has earned All-America honors in each of his first two seasons and was named the 2011 MIAA Defensive Player of the Year. The Hutchinson High School product, who played for his father Randy Dreiling, has made 124 tackles on the season with 17 tackles for loss, three sacks and seven interceptions.
Dreiling fuels a Pitt State defense that ranks among the top 25 in Division II in numerous statistical categories. In the playoffs, Dreiling and the Gorilla defense have been particularly good at holding offenses on third and fourth downs.
He was a two-time Kansas Top 11 pick in 2007 and 2008 and was a three-year starter for a Salthawks team that won state championship all four of his years in high school. In Dreiling’s senior season, he broke the school’s single-season tackle record.
Other Kansas products are sprinkled throughout the defense. Topeka Hayden’s Luke Stringer and Smith Center’s Joe Windscheffel join Dreiling as linebackers. Stringer, a senior captain, had compiled 66 tackles on the season before sitting out the past two games with an injury. Windscheffel, a sophomore, has played well the past two games as Stringer’s replacement. Stringer and Windscheffel were both all-state selections in high school and both captured state championships. Windscheffel, in particular, helped the Redmen to four consecutive unbeaten state championship seasons.
Columbus’ Cody Moore, Salina Central’s Taylor Counts, Olathe North’s Jake Catloth and Jason Peete, Olathe Northwest’s Bryant Sanchez, Blue Valley’s Tyler Disney and Colgan’s Chas Smith also have made significant contributions to the defense this season. Punter Jake Craig, of Lyons, and long snapper Billy Ewy, of Louisburg, have contributed on special teams.
However, the Kansas connections don’t even end with the players. Most of the coaches have a direct tie to Kansas high schools. Most notably, head coach Tim Beck is a Ness City native, while offensive coordinator Steve Rampy led Blue Valley to four state championships in 25 seasons, and defensive coordinator Dave Wiemers was an all-state quarterback at Clay Center.
Players from Kansas
Jason Peete, S, Fr., Olathe North
Zac Dickey, QB, Sr., St. Mary’s Colgan
Bryant Sanchez, S, Jr., Olathe Northwest
Nate Dreiling, LB, So., Hutchinson
Anthony Abenoja, QB, Fr., Blue Valley
Josh Heimerman, CB, Sr., Andale
Justin Woods, CB, Jr., Mill Valley
Jake Catloth, S, Jr., Olathe North
Levi Kuntzsch, WR, So., Scott City
Aaron Sawyer, WR, Sr., Shawnee Mission North
Chas Smith, S, Jr., St. Mary’s Colgan
Tyler Disney, S., Fr., Blue Valley
Jason Spradling, RB, Jr., Louisburg
Joe Windscheffel, LB, So., Smith Center
Jake Craig, PK/P, So., Lyons
Jared Vinoverski, S, So., Lawrence
Billy Ewy, LS, Sr., Louisburg
Daniel Rank, WR, So., Cherokee-Southeast
Austin Leake, S, So., Independence
Chris Heffern, S., Fr., Iola
Taylor Counts, LB, So., Salina Central
Kyler Thompson, LB, Fr., Iola
Luke Stringer, LB, Sr., Topeka Hayden
T.J. Davis, RB, So., Pleasanton
Hal Rivard, DE, Jr., Wamego
Joey Zdeb, DL, Jr., Shawnee Mission Northwest
Derek Jackson, DL, Sr., Northern Heights
Shea Miller, LB, So., Mill Valley
Jeremiah Fleming, OL, Jr., St. Mary’s Colgan
Tank Burns, DL, Fr., Columbus
Cale Karigan, OL, Fr., Paola
Aaron Kolich, OL, Jr., Olathe South
Ollie Venegas, OL, Fr., Olathe North
Calin Archer, OL, Sr., Andale
Ty Henry, OL, Sr., Olathe North
Luke Rampy, WR, Fr., Blue Valley
Bradley Argabright, WR, Fr., Olpe
Conner Combes, TE, Jr., Blue Valley
Derek Fisher, WR, Sr., Garden Plain
Cody Moore, DL, Sr., Columbus
Dallas Shalz, DE, Fr., Bishop Ward
Additional squad members from Kansas
Gaige Adkins, CB, Jr., Neodesha
Connor Askren, OL, Fr., Shawnee Mission West
Luke Catloth, WR, So., Olathe North
David Frey, DE, Fr., Shawnee Mission West
Trent Kinen, S, Jr., St. Francis
Ryan Lundgren, QB, Fr., Olathe Northwest
Gage McKinnis, S, Sr., Hutchinson
Herman Ming, S, Fr., Kansas City Harmon
Mike Noble, TE, Jr., Dodge City
Preston Page, S, Fr., Erie
Dalton Schoonover, WR, Fr., Pittsburg
Kyle Swartz, LB, Fr., Olathe North
Trezz Tillman, WR, Sr., Wichita
Dominick Wilson, CB, Fr., Olathe North
Coaches from Kansas
Tim Beck, head coach, Ness City
Steve Rampy, offensive coordinator, (coached 25 years at Blue Valley)
Dave Wiemers, defensive coordinator, Clay Center
Lance Cullen, secondary, Dodge City
John Pierce, running backs, Manhattan
Steve Wells, offensive line, Riverton
Ryan Hellwig, defensive line, Chetopa
Larry Garman, tight ends, (coached 34 years at Pittsburg High)
Frank Naccarato, wide receivers, Frontenac
Neal Philpot, assistant strength coach, Norton
Travis Greer, graduate assistant, Olathe
Alex Kuhlman, graduate assistant, Ness City
Chris Swartz, graduate assistant, Cherokee
Luke Miller, student assistant, Claflin