It would be difficult to find a more understated football coach than Shawnee Mission East’s Dustin Delaney.
His 24-2 record in his first two years with the Lancers and back-to-back Kansas Class 6A state title game appearances speak for themselves, but he is quick to pass off the credit to his players who won the program’s first state championship last year with a 13-0 record.
“It really starts with our kids,” Delaney said. “They are fantastic kids, and they are smart. We have a fantastic community here, and it is a joy to coach these kids every day.”
Delaney and the Lancers show no signs of slowing down this season, despite losing starting quarterback Gunnar Englund. Junior Luke Kaiser will take over for him and get a lot of help from senior running back Wyatt Edmisten, who rushed for 1,523 yards and 32 touchdowns a year ago.
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Kaiser and Edmisten will also have the benefit of an experienced offensive line in front of them, featuring seniors Stephen Gill, Jeff Heath and Will Kost.
Defensively, the Lancers bring back seven starters, including three linebackers and two linemen.
However, Delaney is quick to remind his players that they have to create their own path this season and cannot dwell on the last two years.
“The championship year was last year, and this is a different team,” Delaney said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year, and the past is the past. We are looking to keep building for the future.”
The Lancers will start the season on Friday when they host Gardner Edgerton at the Shawnee Mission South district stadium.
The Olathe School District has always held a special place in Jesse Owen’s heart.
He grew up there, played high school football for Olathe North, student taught at Olathe East and was an assistant coach for Olathe North before branching out to coach Eudora to a 5-4 record last year.
Naturally, when the opportunity to coach at Olathe East presented itself, Owen jumped on it.
“I’ve been really familiar with the program the last several years and when I left the district, you kind of appreciate things a little more when you don’t have them,” Owen said. “It made me realize what a special place the Olathe school district was, so to have the opportunity to come back was a no-brainer.”
Owen takes over at an interesting juncture for the Hawks, who are coming off their first losing season in 13 years. He follows Jeff Meyers, who had coached at Olathe East since the school opened in 1992.
“They’ve had so much sustained success over the years, and I feel like the guys we have back are hungry and motivated to turn the page,” Owen said. “We really don’t bring up last year, because we are talking about moving forward, but they have a positive attitude, and we aren’t dwelling on the past. We’re focused on doing positive things this season.”
Zac Cahill, who was a second-team All-Sunflower League selection at wide receiver, should help ease the transition. He also plays defense in the secondary, along with Kameron Barnes. Linebacker Nick Zinn will be another team leader.
The Hawks will start the season on Friday at Garden City, Kan., in the second year of their home-and-away series.
Though the players and head coaches have changed during the last 19 years, Chris McCartney added stability to the Olathe North sideline.
Now, after nearly two decades as a defensive coordinator, McCartney takes over the reins as head coach and inherits a team that lost its only game last season in the Kansas Class 6A state semifinals.
“I’ve been at North for a long time, and I have always kind of shied away from it, but I felt like the timing was good for me, because my kids are grown up and so I finally have some time,” McCartney said. “I’m really excited, and the transition was easy.”
McCartney said the loss to Shawnee Mission East last season has served as a motivation for both players and coaches as they prepare for this year. Both teams entered last year’s state semifinal with perfect records, but SM East used a crafty two-point conversion to beat Olathe North. The Lancers went on to win the state title.
“We’ve talked about it quite a bit, and we try to finish everything the correct way, whether it is our workouts in the weight room or stuff out on the practice field,” McCartney said. “Hopefully, it will help us out.”
Although Olathe North lost seven starters on offense and nine on defense, the Eagles return a few reliable playmakers such as safety Isaiah Simmons. He had 66 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two blocked punts last season. He also had three receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown.
The Eagles will start their season by playing host to Rogers Heritage (Ark.) on Friday in the second year of a home-and-away series.
For the first time in the short history of Olathe Northwest, the Ravens are coming into the football season with the confidence and momentum that comes with a winning season on their resume
The Ravens just barely made the cut, finishing 5-4 with a 4-1 record in league play. Coach Chip Sherman said the difference has been clear during summer workouts and the first two weeks of practice.
Olathe Northwest went 3-6 and 2-7 during the two previous years of Sherman’s tenure as head coach.
“They took that into the offseason, and it has kept everyone positive and upbeat going forward,” Sherman said. “They’re working hard and doing all the right things.”
The team’s top returner is senior linebacker David Burton, who was a first-team All-Sunflower League selection last season. He led the league with 128 tackles in the regular season, including eight tackles for a loss, six hurries and a sack in nine games. His 83 solo tackles were 38 more than the next best player.
“In my 37 years of coaching, he is one of the best I’ve ever coached at that position,” Sherman said. “He has great instincts and is an amazing team player. He is doing well.”
Wide receiver Jesse Rose and running back Darius Henderson will bring experience on the offensive side of the ball. Olathe East transfer Chris Diddle will anchor the special teams. He was five-for-seven on field goals last year, with a season-best of 47 yards. He also was 14-of-15 on points after touchdowns.
The Ravens will start their season on Friday in Hays, Kan., in the second installment of their home-and-away series which started last season.
For the first time in his coaching career, Olathe South’s Jeff Gourley will let a freshman loose on the field during Week 1 of the season.
When you talk to Gourley, though, it sounds like he is putting his trust in the more than capable hands of a young Peyton Wiggs at outside linebacker.
“He looks like Braveheart with dark skin and blue eyes, and when he looks at you ...,” Gourley said with a laugh. “He understands the process already as a freshman, and that is really cool. I see good things coming in the next couple of years.”
Wiggs’ rise has partially been sped up by the team’s lack of returning talent after graduating 30 seniors, but Gourley said the team has made up for the lack of veterans with their effort during the first two weeks of practice.
“They have worked as well as any team I have ever had,” Gourley said. “It has been a phenomenal start to the year. They have played hard, they have worked hard, and they have had a great attitude, so I am excited about this year.”
The Falcons return some experience on each side of the line, with Devin Brown anchoring the offense and defensive ends Jack Murphy and Jared Hester controlling the other side of the ball.
Running back DaeVonte’ Nance and wide receiver Matt Burton will serve as the team’s two biggest offensive threats. Nance ranked ninth in the league last season with 566 yards and six touchdowns in 94 carries.
The Falcons start the season on Friday at home against Class 6A finalist Hutchinson, Kan., at the College Boulevard Activity Center.
SHAWNEE MISSION NORTH
From start to finish last season, Ben Bartlett’s first year leading his alma mater’s football team was a bit of a whirlwind.
It started in July, when he learned he would be serving as interim coach. The season started, and then on Oct. 17 the Indians snapped a 25-game losing streak with a victory. SM North went on to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Factor in that SM North was winless during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, and you get a better sense of the improved atmosphere.
“I feel a lot more prepared this season,” Bartlett said. “I’ve got my coaching staff in place, and they’ve been doing some great things for these boys.”
The team’s top returner will be junior Will Schneider, who is starting his third season at quarterback for the Indians. He led the Sunflower League with 1,786 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. He loses his top target, but gets to keep Tyler Burnett. Schneider connected with Burnett 17 times for 292 yards and three touchdowns last season.
“In addition to being athletically gifted and being further along than the average freshman, (Schneider) definitely has a great work ethic and ability to lead,” Bartlett said. “As one of the most experienced guys on the team, I don’t think they look at his age or year in school as much as what he has accomplished.”
Schneider’s experience will be especially valuable behind an inexperienced offensive line that lost five of its six main starters. Junior Danny Jackson is the only returner. The defensive line also has no returners.
Linebackers Cesar Salgado and Marcos Garcia will anchor the Indians’ defense.
SM North will start the season on Friday at home against SM South.
SHAWNEE MISSION NORTHWEST
After just one year in Hays, Kan., Bo Black decided to hit the road again for an opportunity to raise his kids in a good community and take on a rebuilding job with the Shawnee Mission Northwest football team.
Black said he was tipped off about the job by former SM Northwest coach Aaron Barnett.
The Cougars went 7-21 in three seasons under the previous coaches and return just one offensive and one defensive starter from a year ago. The team will be largely dependent on sophomore and junior classes that were winless during their freshman campaigns. The varsity team’s last winning season was in 2010, with a 6-5 record under Barnett.
“There hasn’t been much success in the win column with the kids who have been here, so we have to establish the fact that we can be successful by setting some realistic goals we can achieve and move forward with that every day,” Black said.
Black, on the other hand, has been no stranger to success. He led Hays to a 7-2 record in his only season as head coach, and he posted an 82-47 mark during 13 years at Great Bend, Kan. In 2006, he led Great Bend to the state championship game.
“I’ve taken over jobs before where I really knew the coach that was leaving and tried to keep some things the same, but this time we’ve been coming in and changing everything, some just for the fun of changing,” Black said. “We think the kids have responded well.”
The Cougars will look to veterans such as cornerback and wide receiver combos Robert Strain and Gerrit Prince. Jason Barnhart will anchor the offensive and defensive lines.
SM Northwest will start its season on Friday on the road against Class 6A state quarterfinalist Blue Valley.
SHAWNEE MISSION SOUTH
With five head coaching jobs up for grabs during the offseason, Brett Oberzan could not pass up the opportunity to take over a team in the Sunflower League, a conference he has called home for more than a decade as a defensive coordinator at Lawrence Free State.
Now he’s the new head coach at Shawnee Mission South.
“I’ve spent the last 11 years in the Sunflower League, and I know the competition here, so it should be a great place to jump in and get started,” Oberzan said. “There are some great coaches and great programs here, and being familiar with them has been a plus because you know the ins and outs of what’s going on.”
That could end up being Oberzan’s greatest asset, as he essentially enters the season with a blank slate. The Raiders don’t return any starters on either side of the ball. Oberzan said he will turn to quarterback Zach McQueen for leadership, along with offensive guard Steven Erbacher and defensive end Kamau Kimaru.
Oberzan said his situation has its benefits as well, since he can start fresh with his own attitudes and methods.
“You’re always looking for the leadership and getting the kids to develop the attitude that you want to instill in the program,” Oberzan said. “Sometimes that’s tough to change with the way things are handled going forward.”
The Raiders’ scheduling could work in their favor. They only face one non-Sunflower League opponent in Oberzan’s first year. They start the season on the road against SM North on Friday, then face his former team — Lawrence Free State — on Oct. 9.
SHAWNEE MISSION WEST
If Shawnee Mission West coach Tim Callaghan could get his team to start the season the way they played opponents last October and November, he’d be thrilled.
During those two months, the Vikings won five consecutive games, including all three in district play to advance to the Class 6A state tournament. SM West won its first playoff games against Olathe South, but were shut out in the quarterfinals by rival and eventual state champion SM East. They finished the year with a 6-5 record.
Gone from that team are a few big playmakers, but Callaghan said the Vikings should be able to get back to that level pretty quickly.
“Last year we were kind of spinning at this time of the year, so it’s nice to feel like we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Callaghan said.
The Vikings return seven offensive starters, including fullback Korey Belcher, tailback Jason Meeker and wide receivers Isreal Watson and Ben Karlin. Veteran quarterback Adam Rellihan also returns, after throwing for 544 yards and six touchdowns last year.
On the defensive side, Jared Green and Tre Carter will anchor the line, with a flurry of experienced linebackers behind them. Jose Montoya, DJ Turner, Josh Compton, Christian Perez and Montel Madlock all return at linebacker.
“I don’t have one leader or one star, but they all want to get Shawnee Mission West back to a state championship,” said Callaghan, referring to the Vikings’ state title victory in 2012.
SM West hits the road for its season opener on Friday at Lawrence Free State.