By Mark Schremmer for Kpreps.com
Posted: September 11, 2012 - 10:48 PM
Southeast-Cherokee coach Clint Rider admits it. There were times last season when he started to get discouraged.
That’s what a 1-8 season does to a first-year head coach.
“It was tough watching film at times,” Rider said. “But Coach (Nick) Cheney always reminded me that we were a young team when I would get a little distressed. He’d say, ‘they’re just pups out there.’ We had freshmen and sophomores playing and juniors in new positions. We had new schemes, and it was overload for them.”
Less than a year later, Southeast is starting to reap the benefits from its perseverance and hard work.
The Lancers are 2-0 for the first time since 1992, Rider said, after Class 3A Southeast defeated a pair of 4A schools in Columbus and Frontenac.
“For us, it makes all of it worthwhile,” Rider said. “The kids have bought into the ideals that the coaches have been preaching over and over. And now they’re being rewarded for all of their hard work.”
Southeast is one of the state’s many early-season success stories. In addition to Southeast, Topeka Seaman, Larned, Goddard, Iola, Cimarron, Ell-Saline, Inman, St. Francis, Canton-Galva and Beloit St. Johns-Tipton are all 2-0 after winning two games or fewer last fall.
These turnarounds are the state’s feel-good stories that can be reflected from the pride of the respective schools and the towns they represent.
“Our community is kind of busting at the seams,” Rider said. “The boys have helped bring pride to a community that hasn’t had much to cheer about in football for the past few years. I think this always has been a football-crazy town. They just haven’t had much reason to show it.”
Rider, a former quarterback at Southeast, is well aware of the obstacles the Lancers have faced over the years. That’s why Rider and his coaching staff quickly went to work at getting the team stronger and faster in the offseason.
“We knew there was a huge void in strength and speed as far as what our kids could do and who we were competing against,” Rider said.
The coaching staff started testing Southeast’s players for speed, strength and agility. Rider said the players bought in as they saw improvement. Lancer players increased their maxes by an average of 75 pounds in the squat and by an average of 50 pounds in the bench press.
Rider said the improvements were obvious from the first day of practice. The players who were novices a year ago were now veterans as the Lancers returned 11 starters on each side of the ball.
“It was immediate,” he said. “From the very first day, the mental aspect was there. They could talk in football languages that they couldn’t talk to me in before. On the first day of pads, the Oklahoma drill was electric. The kids were pumped, and I’ve never been part of an Oklahoma drill quite like that.”
Southeast opened the season with a 34-22 win against Columbus and followed it with a 41-14 victory against Frontenac. Lancers senior quarterback Josh Thompson has passed for about 475 yards and four touchdowns in the two games combined.
“We’re able to get into more in-depth dynamic things with the offense this year,” Rider said. “With Josh Thompson at quarterback, it’s like he’s in my brain. He’s thinking what I’m thinking. That’s a blessing to have.”
The Lancers will try to improve to 3-0 as they travel to face winless Baxter Springs, which has been outscored 107-6 in its first two games.
Rider said it will be important for his team to be business-like and not concern itself with what it has accomplished early in the season.
“It’s a special feeling going on right now, but I’ve told them that they got to put the Kool-Aid down during the week and get back to work.”
Topeka Seaman Vikings
The 2011 season was a difficult one for the Vikings. Key injuries to the likes of quarterback Butch Rea and linebacker Nathan Stanley made it difficult for Seaman to click on either side of the ball.
The result was a 2-7 season that saw the Vikings outscored by an average of 26-19.
With Rea and Stanley healthy and others returning with more experience because of the injuries, Seaman has stormed out of the gates with wins against Topeka Hayden and Junction City. The Vikings defeated Hayden 23-6, avenging a 35-0 loss from last season. Seaman followed that with a 35-0 win over Junction City, which beat the Vikings 50-7 in 2011.
The joy was contagious at Seaman High School as the Vikings’ student body chanted, “We want a shutout” in the closing minutes of the win against the Blue Jays. The 2-0 start has been a helpful distraction for a community that suffered a tragedy at the end of the previous school year. Seaman Homecoming queen Brenna Morgart was killed days after graduating with the distinction of magna cum laude.
“This start is huge. We had such a disappointing year last year and had so many things go bad for us and our school and our community,” Seaman head coach Blake Pierce said. “I don’t think it’s going to get us over the hurdle of what happened last year, but it gives our kids something to feel good about.”
Seaman’s strong start has been led by Rea at quarterback and Stanley at linebacker.
Rea has passed for more than 125 yards and rushed for more than 200 and three touchdowns in the two games.
“He’s a smart kid, a great athlete and a great competitor,” Pierce said. “He knows our offense. It’s like having a coach on the field, and I really mean that with him. He is so good at being able to change things on the field, and we give him some freedom with that.”
Stanley has been the leader of the defense, while also providing the difficult yards in between the tackles from the fullback position. He was rewarded with three goal-line touchdowns in the win against Junction City.
The Vikings also have received strong play from its secondary. Seaman picked off Junction City quarterback Cody Devin three times, with Tyler Bushnell intercepting two and Tyler Campbell recording the other.
Sophomore running back Joe Reagan also has given the Vikings a big boost. Reagan, a 5A state sprint champion, returned a punt for an 80-yard TD against Hayden and caught three passes for 83 yards against the Blue Jays. However, Reagan’s most impressive play against Junction City may have been on a simple seven-yard run as the Vikings attempted to run the clock down in the third quarter. Reagan took the ball on a sweep and appeared to be stopped for a loss by two Junction City defenders, but he increased his speed around the corner and picked up a first down.
“He does a lot of things,” Pierce said. “He bounced outside on a play in the third quarter and got a first down for us. He just out-ran their guys. You can’t coach that. That’s just him making a nice play.”
Seaman will try to improve to 3-0, traveling to Manhattan in Week 3.
“It’s a great start,” said Bushnell, the senior defensive back. “Our defensive coaches can’t be more proud of us right now. We just want to build on this momentum.”
The Indians entered the season on a 24-game losing streak.
Now, Larned has started the season on a bit of a winning streak. The Indians are 2-0 with a 27-25 win against Ellsworth, followed by a 29-14 win against Ellinwood. Before the season-opening win, Larned hadn’t won a game since defeating Thomas More Prep 36-26 in September 2009.
The Indians allowed no fewer than 41 points in a game last season, while averaging only 17 points themselves.
However, the Larned players have seemed to buy into the team philosophy of first-year head coach AB Stokes.
“We have to learn to master the basic fundamentals of blocking and tackling,” Stokes told Kansas Pregame Magazine before the start of the season. “The key to success will be doing the little things right. Play fundamental, mistake-free football as much as we can, and let the chips fall where they may.”
Larned will try to keep the winning streak alive as it hosts Thomas More Prep on Friday.
The Lions have started strong after finishing only 2-7 last season.
Goddard opened the season with a 34-14 win at Wellington, then captured a 22-7 victory against Valley Center.
The Lions dropped down to Class 5A after going winless in their 6A district in 2011.
New coach Scott Vang entered the season with several veteran players at his disposal, including senior quarterback Collin Nevil.
This week, the Lions will travel to face Andover Central.
The Mustangs left the Southeast Kansas League for the Pioneer League.
And so far, so good.
After finishing 2-7 last season in a league that includes the likes of Pittsburg, Fort Scott, Chanute and Coffeyville, Class 4A’s Iola has moved to a league that includes Prairie View, Anderson County and Osawatomie, as well as 3A schools Central Heights and Wellsville.
Iola earned a 22-0 win over Cherryvale to open the season, then captured its first league game 40-28 at Osawatomie under the direction of new head coach Doug Kerr.
However, Iola’s schedule will get more difficult as several SEK foes remain. The Mustangs travel to face Coffeyville on Friday and will play in a 4A district that includes Fort Scott and Chanute.
Cimarron has already equaled its win total from last year’s 2-7 season.
The Bluejays not only are 2-0, but they have done so with a display of offensive firepower. Cimarron defeated Leoti-Wichita County 56-30 and beat Syracuse 55-6. The Bluejays didn’t score 50 points in a game last year.
Cimarron will try to keep things rolling against Sublette.
In 2006, the Cardinals finished with a 2-7 record. Ell-Saline followed that mark by making the playoffs the next four years.
After finishing 2-7 in 2011, the Cardinals are hoping for a similar progression.
The early results are promising as Ell-Saline beat Marion 50-27 and Whitewater Remington 45-0 to open the season 2-0.
The Cardinals have a chance to keep cruising as they face winless Moundridge on Friday. Ell-Saline, however, will be in a difficult 2A district that includes Smith Center, Plainville, Bennington, Washington County and Republic County.
“Everything around here will be new,” first-year head coach Mike Vernon told Kansas Pregame Magazine before the start of the season.
With new schemes in place, the Teutons have rolled in their first two games against Moundridge and Bennington, already matching last year’s win total. Inman beat Moundridge 38-20 and Bennington 34-26.
The Teutons will likely be test on Friday at Hutchinson Trinity.
St. Francis Indians
The Indians opened the season with their third new head coach in five seasons. However, first-year coach Kyle Buffington is off to a good start by beating Holyoke (Colo.) 28-15 and Dundy County (Neb.) 48-6 in the first two weeks.
St. Francis finished only 2-7 last year after yielding 40 points or more in four games.
The Indians will have a difficult time improving to 3-0 as they face Class 2-1A’s second-ranked Stanton County Trojans on Friday.
After leading Central Burden to a 9-2 record and the second round of the 8-Man Division I playoffs in 2011, Coach Jeff Savage left to take over a Canton-Galva program that won only two games last year.
The Eagles are a young team with lots of freshmen playing, but they have received a boost from Cody Savage, who starts at quarterback after playing wide receiver at Central Burden last year.
Savage has started to follow the path of his brother Bo Savage, who set several passing records as a quarterback for Central Burden. Cody Savage passed for 294 yards and four touchdowns in Canton-Galva’s 76-56 Week 2 win against Goessel. The Eagles beat Hutchinson Central Christian 50-0 in the opener.
Canton-Galva will face St. John’s Military in Week 3.
Beloit St. John’s-Tipton Blujays
The Bluejays only won two games last year, but they entered the season with the playoffs on their minds as they returned seven of eight starters on each side of the ball.
The 8-Man Division II team has opened the season by beating Pike Valley 40-8 and Southern Cloud 52-6.
The Blujays will try to keep things going this week as they open district competition against Stockton.