Pride, Hustle, Desire fuel Caldwell to 3-0 start

Artwork by Joe Wachter
By: Conor Nicholl for
Sep 20, 2016

Share This Story:

Randy Sawyer has more than 40 years of teaching at Kinsley, Wellington and Caldwell. He had served as Blue Jay head football coach and helped with the best football run in Caldwell school annals.

The Blue Jays had state semifinal appearances in 1985 and ’93 and quarterfinal showings in ’90 and ’91. Caldwell also reached the playoffs three other times from ’86-’92.

Sawyer has served on staff since sixth-year coach Sean Blosser took over the Caldwell program.

During Sawyer’s head coaching years, Caldwell had a motto of PHD – Pride, Hustle and Desire. The Blue Jays returned to the saying for the 2016 season.

Blosser, with the Twitter account @coachblosser, will often use the #PHD hashtag. The team’s Hudl account has #PHD before showing highlights.

“They had a lot of success,” Blosser said. “They had a lot of great athletes, and he coached them really well, and we brought that back this year. The kids wanted to bring it back from that time, and it’s an exciting thing to see the kids want to hold that tradition.”

After three weeks, Caldwell is among the teams just outside the top-five in Eight-Man, Division II. Last season, the Blue Jays had another challenging schedule and opened 1-4 with multiple early injuries versus big, physical teams. A win against Pretty Prairie, that included a key successful onside kick, helped Caldwell finish 5-6 and win a postseason contest.

“There were a couple of games in there that we weren’t mentally strong enough to get where we needed to be, and that Pretty Prairie game kind of lifted us past that,” Blosser said.

Since ’09, Caldwell has reached the second round of the playoffs four times and also has a first-round exit two seasons ago. From ’12-15, Caldwell has had a top-nine strength of schedule in the classification, according to Prep Power Index.

This season, the Blue Jays returned six offensive and five defensive starters and opened 3-0 behind its fast-paced, read option offense. Caldwell is the state’s highest scoring offense for all classes at 65.3 points per contest, and has permitted 20 points per game. Senior Colten Ward, a four-year starter who tallied 2,517 total yards and accounted for 46 scores as a junior, returns under center.

Ward has 31 carries for 487 yards and seven scores, along with 277 passing yards and six touchdowns. In addition, Ward has scored on a kickoff, punt and interception.

Junior running back Dakota Volavka has 30 carries for 323 yards and six touchdowns. Senior Dilyn Volavka has caught eight passes for 203 yards and five scores.

“Dakota gives us a good little counter to Colten in the backfield, and he does a great job with that,” Blosser said. “We are still looking for him to improve this year, and he is going to be able to show people that he is just as a big of a threat hopefully with what he can do, and Dilyn Valovka is just a special athlete when it comes to being on the outside, and he does a great job.”

The offensive line features sophomore Jalen Risley and senior Andrew Dent at ends. Senior Dylan Weers started at center, though broke his hand and will miss several games. Junior Jacob Dick stepped in at center last week. Sophomore Dylan Schmidt is at guard along with junior Zeke McCormick.

“We have a bunch of guys up front that are getting a lot better,” Blosser said. “This is the best cohesive group we’ve had, just wanting to work every day, and that has a lot to do with (Ward’s) success and Dakota Volavka’s success.”

Last season, Caldwell tallied 42.2 points a contest but allowed 42.6. Blosser, 30-23 at Caldwell, has seen scoring offense improvement the last four seasons. But he knows the Blue Jays need significant defensive improvement to move deep into the playoffs. In the five postseason games under Blosser, Caldwell has allowed an average of 53 points a contest.

“We are off to a pretty good start, especially offensively,” Blosser said. “We would like to see ourselves be in a better situation defensively.”

Last week, Caldwell defeated Central-Burden, 54-6, after a key 90-48 victory against Argonia-Attica in Week 2, and a season-opening 52-6 win against Udall.

Ward accounted for 460 total yards and nine touchdowns as the Blue Jays’ ended A&A’s 21-game regular season game winning streak. As well, Caldwell had lost to Central Burden last season, 66-42, in Week 1.

Blosser, a Perry, Kan. Native, played football at Ottawa University and then took his first job in Caldwell, a place he called “a great community.” He had the triple option/veer in high school and has incorporated the read option at Caldwell.

“We have about seven base plays that we run, and we read on six of them,” Blosser said. “It’s just a different read every time, so hopefully we can get one of their better players in a situation where they have to make a choice.”

Blosser said the team has three different speeds and has operated at the fastest pace nearly all season. Caldwell practices the blur-esque offense daily and tries to get around 85 reps a practice.

“We usually like to get the ball and run the next play, and that’s how we practice it,” Blosser said.

In every game, the opponents have run more plays than Caldwell.

“At this level especially, you have got to coach the kids that you have,” Blosser said. “This is just the type of kids that we have. We are quick. We are not real big, but we have got bigger size than we have got in the past.”

In the season opener, the Blue Jays ran 19 plays for 281 yards, while Udall had 47 snaps for 119 yards.

In the A&A victory, Caldwell collected 48 plays for 575 yards, while the Titans finished with 67 snaps for 407 yards.

Last week, the Blue Jays finished with 24 plays for 305 yards and Central Burden tallied 31 snaps for 75 yards.

Through the first three games last season, A&A – which reached Newton for the second straight year – averaged 8.8 yards per play and 39 snaps versus similar competition to Caldwell. The Blue Jays have averaged 30.3 snaps and 12.8 yards per play.

“If you can’t play defense, you are not going to win very many games,” Blosser said. “We also understand that time of possession is a big thing with our team. We go fast.

“It’s all no-huddle, and we go,” he added. “Our kids are out on that defensive side of the field for a longer time, and we score very quickly or we have in the past couple three weeks, and that puts a lot of stress on your defense just because of the exhaustion, but everybody is going through that, but we are hoping to be mentally tough and fight through that.”

Caldwell, which has winless Flinthills this week, plays in District 2 with road games versus Hartford (2-1) and Hutchinson Central Christian (3-0). Of the last 28 teams to reach an eight-man final, just five permitted more than 21 points a contest the previous season, according to PPI archives.

A&A is the best example of a massive one-season defensive improvement in that span. Last year, the Titans permitted 8.5 points per game after it allowed 28 in 2014, a drop of 19.5 points per contest.

The Blue Jays, along with Hartford, Dighton and No. 5 South Barber, all are trying to buck this trend. Thus far, Caldwell has improved its points allowed by 22.2 points per contest.

Dighton has yet to allow a point after it permitted 29 a contest in 2015. South Barber has allowed six total points and permitted 33 points a game in 2015. Hartford, which permitted 27 a game last fall, has allowed 35 per contest this year.

“We feel like we are in a pretty good spot with our offense,” Blosser said. “We are giving our quarterback a choice on what they are doing, and if he makes the right choice, we should be right if we block it correctly. “

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have a kid there that can do it really well,” he added. “Our second-string quarterback (Corbin Rice) goes in, and he does a really good job at it, too. We are excited about the offense, and the kids do a great job with it. Now hopefully we can get to the same point defensively and put ourselves in a better situation.”

Even with the victories, Blosser has reminded his team to keep focusing each week. Following the A&A win, Blosser tweeted: “So proud of our young men today. We came out and did what we needed to do. Best part is we get to go again next week. #PHD.”

“If we take pride in what we do, and we hustle, and we have the desire to get it done, then we should be able to put ourselves in an opportunity to find success, and so far it has been that way, and we just hope that we can keep doing that,” Blosser said.

“It’s just Week 3,” he added. “We are nowhere near the team we can be. We don’t know how good we are. That’s what we are trying to tell our kids, and it’s the truth. So we just have to continue to have that pride, that hustle, and that desire each time each week and get better.”


Use your Facebook account to add a comment or start a discussion. Posts are subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment.