Even though the St. Thomas Aquinas High School football season had come to an end mere moments earlier, junior quarterback Karter Odermann already had his eyes on the future.
With first-year coach Randy Dreiling at the helm, the Saints put together one of the most successful football seasons in school history and made it to the Kansas Class 5A state championship game. Although Aquinas lost to Wichita’s Bishop Carroll 39-7, Odermann saw the experience as one the Saints can easily use as a stepping stone for next year.
“Nobody really expected us to be here, but we worked really hard and did all the things we thought were necessary,” Odermann said. “It was a good year, but not good enough.”
He gave most of the credit for the Saints’ success to Dreiling, who won seven state titles in 17 years at Hutchinson before taking over at Aquinas.
The Saints were 3-7 last year and improved to 9-4 with the program’s first state championship game appearance since they fell to Dreiling’s Hutchinson Salthawks in 2008. It was Aquinas’ ninth nine-win season in 27 years.
“He is an incredible coach and he brought a lot of guys with him,” Odermann said. “We lost a lot of key players last year, but we still got to the state championship. He did a great job with us, we worked hard and we bought in.”
Odermann said Dreiling brought a much bigger emphasis on an off-season weight routine and installed a triple-option offense. In the new scheme, the Saints were able to shatter school records for total offense and team rushing yards. They finished with 5,140 total yards and 4,242 on the ground to best the previous records of 4,842 and 2,653, respectively.
Odermann and fullback James Cosentino also climbed the Aquinas single-season rushing ranks. Odermann finished first with 1,268 yards and Cosentino third with 1,074 yards.
Another reason for optimism is the fact that the Saints will return several key players next season, including Cosentino, who missed the playoffs with a lower leg injury. They will also return an experienced offensive line, which started four juniors at the end of the season.
“It’s a great year to build on,” Dreiling said. “They have a lot of guts and kids played hard even when we were losing guys.”