Dreiling takes winning formula to St. Thomas Aquinas

Randy Dreiling on the sidelines at Hutchinson. (Photo by Yee Mar)
By: Mark Schremmer for Kpreps.com
Sep 16, 2014

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Make no mistake, longtime coach Randy Dreiling didn’t take a new job as a form of early retirement or to start a lengthy rebuilding process.

Dreiling expects his St. Thomas Aquinas Saints to compete, and he expects them to compete now.

“I think we can compete this year,” Dreiling said. “I think we will be competitive in every game. If we keep getting better, I think we have a chance to be in the mix at the end of the year. I didn’t come here to grow old.”

The former Hutchinson High School coach is no stranger to competing for state titles. Dreiling directed the Salthawks to a 160-38 record with seven state championships over 17 years as the head coach. The height of the success included six consecutive state titles from 2004-2009.

Now, Dreiling hopes his winning formula will translate to Class 5A’s St. Thomas Aquinas. The Saints scrapped the shotgun spread offense that they used under former head coach Michael Thomas for the past four seasons and implemented the flexbone option attack that Dreiling used at Hutchinson.

Dreiling said the players are adapting well.

“I think for the most part kids just want to know whether or not you have a system that works,” he said. “I think they know our system works. They see that we have a plan and how we’re going to get there. They’ve bought in, and I think we’re starting to see the results.”

The Saints are 2-0 after winning at Mill Valley 34-24 and at Blue Valley North 49-20. If the Saints can defeat Blue Valley Northwest in their home opener on Friday, they will have already matched their three-win total from last season.  

St. Thomas Aquinas has rushed for 769 yards on 104 attempts (7.4 ypc) in its first two games.

Still, Dreiling said the Saints still have a lot of room to improve in running the flexbone.

“It’s a process to get them to play at the speed that allows our offense to be successful,” he said. “There’s a little bit of uncertainty in what they’re doing. When you’re hesitant, you tend to play slower, more cautious and try to not make mistakes. This offense functions well when you know what you’re doing and you move at full speed. In the first two games we’ve trying to address that we need to be more aggressive and play faster. Hopefully, we’ll be able to improve on that each week.”

The change in philosophy required some players to change positions, and the Saints moved to a two-platoon system.

So far, the Saints players seem to be flourishing in their roles. Four players – James Cosentino (267), Karter Odermann (180), Kyle Bollig (146) and Jacob Leikam (109) – have rushed for at least 100 yards.

Odermann also has completed 6 of 12 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

While Aquinas’ players are adapting to the new offense, so are the Saints’ opponents who are used to seeing spread offenses week after week.

“People are enamored with the shotgun and throw it all over the place offenses that they see on TV every week,” Dreiling said. “We’re just enamored with trying to win championships.

“I think it is an advantage. It’s a different style of ball. Pretty much every week, we’re getting ready for a gun team and only one week or so are they getting ready for a flexbone team. That’s got to be a little bit of an advantage.”

Aquinas enters the meaty part of its Eastern Kansas League schedule with Blue Valley Northwest followed by Bishop Miege, Gardner-Edgerton, Blue Valley, Blue Valley Southwest and Blue Valley West.

“It’s easy to look at their stats, and see that they’re pretty good,” Dreiling said of Blue Valley Northwest. “They have a lot of talent on offense, and I’m impressed with the physical style of their defense. We’re getting in the heart of our league schedule now, so it’s going to be tough every week.”

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