Shawnee Mission South’s 0-3 high school football team has lost eight seniors in the past week — all starters — after a rift between players and coaches boiled over.
The Raiders lost 21-14 to Winnetonka last Thursday, but the ripple effects were just beginning. Senior running back Cameron Union was benched during the game, frustrating several teammates who felt that Union gave the team its best chance to win.
After the loss, fellow senior Kamau Kimaru posted a tweet — “out of frustration,” he said — effectively saying he wished he had played for another football program.
When players arrived in the locker room on Friday, head coach Brett Oberzan called Kimaru, Union and senior Cody Corbin into his office individually, kicking each off the team. According to Kimaru and Corbin, reasons for the dismissals were vague, but included “disrespect” to the coaches — and, in Kimaru’s case, the tweet he’d posted on Friday.
By Tuesday, however, the three players dismissed by Oberzan, who refused multiple requests for comment for this story, would amount to less than half the team’s departures.
“Our team was already small enough,” senior linebacker Bremen Scholz said. “So by removing the three seniors, he forced the remaining seniors to have to play alongside a mostly sophomore varsity team, which basically doomed our season to be 0-9. (The dismissals) told me that the coaches did not care about this season or my senior year of football.”
Scholz and fellow seniors Will Choate, Quincie Fischer, Zadkiel Stuart and Christian Murrell gathered in Stuart’s car after practice on Monday to discuss whether continuing to play was worth it.
Those five seniors, all of whom have been starters this season, arrived at the locker room on Tuesday, gathered their equipment and went to Oberzan’s office to tell him they were leaving the team. They cited frustration with how the player dismissals had been handled, Thursday’s coaching decisions and an overall dissatisfaction with how the program was being run.
Before accounting for any injuries the team has had, the eight players who have left the program since Friday would’ve made up about 20 percent of the roster that Shawnee Mission South posted at the beginning of the season.
“Last week, watching us lose to Winnetonka was really a dagger to the heart,” Stuart said. “When Coach kicked my friends off the team, it made us upset. Kicking them off the team and justifying it by saying you’re thinking about the future of the team doesn’t help us in the slightest.”
Oberzan, in his second year with South, led the program to a 1-8 record last year, its only win coming in the final week of the season. This year, after another slow start, tension between the head coach and team began to escalate, according to several players.
“After our sophomore year, we had a coaching change (to Oberzan), and it just went downhill from there,” Kimaru said. “Our players and coaches were not getting along very well.”
Oberzan refused to comment when approached at Shawnee Mission South’s practice on Wednesday afternoon. Shawnee Mission South’s athletic director, John Johnson, also declined comment.
Despite the apparent revolt, Shawnee Mission South plays at Leavenworth on Friday.
Just 24 players were in pads at practice on Wednesday.
“I didn’t want to be done with playing football,” Scholz said. “I even had hopes of playing in college. But I could not play for this team again.
“In all my 12 years of playing football, this was the first time I have ever felt miserable playing the game I love.”