When Randy Dreiling led Hutchinson High School to the Kansas Class 5A state championship and defeated St. Thomas Aquinas in 2008, he probably would not have predicted he would be on the other sideline five years later.
Nevertheless, on Friday morning Dreiling woke up and decided to leave Hutchinson, where he’d been the head football coach for 17 years. He will be the new football coach at Aquinas.
“I had the best job in my mind in Hutchinson and I realized that we’ve got things going so well here, and maybe I’m not working as hard as I used to and I wanted another opportunity,” Dreiling said. “St. Thomas Aquinas is by no stretch of the imagination anything like Hutch when I got to Hutch. They win and they win regularly at St. Thomas Aquinas, but I am going to go there and take it to the next level.”
Prior to his arrival in Hutchinson, the Salthawks had lost 26 consecutive games. In the next 17 seasons they went 160-39 and won seven state titles, including six straight from 2004-09, the first four in Class 6A and then two in 5A.
“He’s energetic. He’s a program builder. He’s a motivator, but more importantly a man and — in my conversations with him — this guy’s got the best interests of the kids at heart. And that’s all of our students, not just our football players,” Aquinas president Bill Ford said.
The process started about a month ago when Dreiling received an email from a member of the Aquinas faculty asking if he’d be interested in a job. The Saints were coming off a 3-7 season in which they lost in the first round of the Kansas 5A playoffs. Earlier that week, Aquinas coach Mike Thomas announced that he would be leaving after five years at the helm. Dreiling decided to meet with Ford soon after that, and they had been in discussions ever since.
“We set out to get the best football coach and identified who they were, and Randy Dreiling was at the top of our list. We worked extensively to bring him here,” Ford said. “This is more than a football hire. This is more of a community hire. I think Randy will be an asset to the St. Thomas Aquinas community. He is a Benedictine graduate. He understands our mission and his record speaks for itself.”
Since Aquinas opened in 1988, the Saints have gone to the state football playoffs 18 times, the semifinals 12 times and the state championship once, which was the loss to Hutchinson in 2008. In 2012, the Saints went 10-2 and were Eastern Kansas League champions.
Dreiling said he expects big things in the next couple of years, because he already sees the Hutchinson recipe for success at Aquinas.
“What we have at Hutchinson is what it takes to be successful,” Dreiling said. “We have tremendous community support, the parents are so supportive of what we do, and our administration is second to none. They believe in what we’re doing and how we’re helping kids, and the final buy-in is from your football players and your team.
“I was convinced talking to St. Thomas Aquinas people that that is what they wanted to do and that is where they wanted to go. If that truly does stand out — and I firmly believe that or I wouldn’t accept the job — we will have a chance to do some great things there.”