There were no pads popping or coaches barking orders Monday at Olathe South’s practice field.
That’s partly because the Kansas State High School Activities Association doesn’t allow football teams to begin practicing in pads until the fourth day, but it was also a bit by design for Falcons coach Jeff Gourley.
It took a few years for Gourley, who crossed the state line to take over the program in 2008 after helping Belton reach the Missouri Class 5 state final in 2007, to establish his system .
Now, coming off the first Kansas 6A state title in program history, the Falcons, who went 12-1 last season and also won their first outright Sunflower League championship, are confident that everyone is flying in formation already.
“I feel comfortable not worrying about getting on the field too fast,” Gourley said. “We’re getting all the paperwork done and all that headache stuff out of the way, because we picked up right where we left off with these kids (during summer workouts).”
There were physical forms to collect as well as substance-abuse agreements for the players among other state and district requirements.
And while there are plenty of holes for the Falcons to fill from last year’s state-title breakthrough, there isn’t the same urgency to put the players through the paces anymore.
“There are new pieces, but the concepts and mentality are already there,” Gourley said. “That’s important, because at the high school level, the game is as much about mentality as it about physicality.”
Don’t confuse Gourley’s patience with laziness.
“Last year, we were trying to get something we’d never got before,” South senior quarterback Frankie Seurer Jr. said. “Now, we’re state champs, and last year we found out what an awesome feeling that was. We want that feeling again. It’s such an awesome thing that that’s all the motivation we need to go out there and work hard every day.”
The seniors went to Gourley during the summer and requested longer practices and more intense drills.
In other words, the Falcons understand that making a run at another 6A crown probably will be harder than reaching the summit the first time – and they welcome the challenge.
“We still feel like we have something to prove, because we don’t want people to think last year was a one-and-done thing for Olathe South,” said senior linebacker Remington Whitley, who led South in tackles as a junior. “We want South to be a force to be reckoned with for a long time to come. This is the year to prove we didn’t hit our peak and now we’re going downhill again.”
While Monday represented a remarkably easygoing start to the season, it would be a mistake to assume the Falcons are going to lean on last year’s accomplishments.
Like the 31 other teams in 6A who didn’t win state titles and hundreds more squads who pulled on practice jerseys for the first time Monday, the Falcons are as eager as anyone to get back into action.
“Playing (Olathe) East our first game, the anticipation has been building so much and I’m just eager to get out there and play,” Seurer said. “We’re relaxed, but we also have the right mind-set and we know it’s going to be hard work.”