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First year coaches looking to make their mark

Blake Burns of Columbus is 2-0 in first year. (photo: Carolyn Eddington)
By: Chet Kuplen & Conor Nicholl
Sep 20, 2019

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This update is presented by Kansas Turf, Nex-Tech Wireless, American Implement, Craw-Kan Telephone, Rainbow Commications, Rack Performance, Labette Bank, Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference & Eddy's Toyota of Wichita

We take a look at some (not all) of the head coaches in new positions across the state this season. 

Frazell takes over Chanute

Chanute coach Clete Frazell has already seen changes from the Blue Comets in his first two games as head coach. Frazell is a 1999 Chanute graduate and played at Emporia State. He has been teaching and coaching back at his alma mater since ’05 and took over as head coach from Chris Shields.

Frazell and Shields flip-flopped positions at the high school and elementary school. Shields wanted to cut back on coaching to watch his daughter in junior high sports.

“It’s been a great transition so far,” Frazell said.

In the season opener, Chanute won 24-0 at Towanda-Circle. In Week 2, the Blue Comets played SEK rival Pittsburg, currently ranked No. 5 in 4A.

Pittsburg has won 10 straight and 12 of the past 13 in the series. Most notably from ’14-18, Chanute took big blowout losses: 66-36, 56-13, 44-0, 54-7, and 52-0.

“We had some first game jitters, and had to knock a little bit of rust off,” Frazell said. “We didn’t execute perfectly, but bottom line is, we played hard and won the game, and we talked about all week, Week 2, competing with Pittsburg. And we have kind of been a punching bag for them for the last five years or so. And talked about how important it was to be able to compete each game, and not lay down for people.”

This time, Chanute continued to bounce back after the Purple Dragons scored and kept the gap close entering the fourth quarter. Chanute fell 41-27, a big step for a school that went 4-5 last fall and has not won more than five games since ’13.

Frazell is part of a big group of first-year coaches that have achieved success, including several alums. First-year coaches at K.C. Washington, KC Schlagle, Maur Hill and Belle Plaine are among those with strong seasons.

“The last few years it’s been a mentality that the week we play Pittsburg, we are just going to get beat, and our boys did an awesome job last week of believing in their selves and playing tough,” Frazell said. “And they allowed their self to hang in the game, and have a chance to win going into the fourth quarter, and I was proud of their effort.

“And obviously, we wanted to win the game, and we are not happy about losing,” he added. “But it’s good to see the competition there against a very good football team. I was kind of excited to see that as a sign for what’s going to happen in the future.”

Frazell gave great credit to the Chanute senior class. Senior quarterback Ty Bowman is a four-year starter and has multiple Division II offers. In addition, Chanute returns multiple senior starters: running backs Tyler Davis and Briley Peavy, lineman Jacob McDonald, Nolan Werner, and Collin Hutson, wide receiver Jaden Costin and kicker Jacob Adams.

Additionally, juniors Garrett Almond, Brayden Dillow, Garrin Golay and sophomore Tucker Davis are returning starters at end/line. Bowman leads with 313 passing and 107 rushing yards. Adams has made a 24-yard field goal.

 “We have got some hard-nosed, tough kids that are good football players, too, and I think they’ve bought in, and they’ve helped to kind of change the culture, and just believing in ourselves,” Frazell said. “I give a lot of credit to the senior class. No matter who was the coach, I think this group would be successful, because there’s some awesome kids in here that have a lot of guts, and the work ethic, and they want to do well.”

This week, Chanute plays host to rival Iola (0-2). Iola is 18 miles north of Chanute.

“I went to high school here, and it was the same thing back then,” Frazell said. “Kids from Chanute and Iola used to get in fights at the basketball games, and things like that, so I think they have done a little bit better job of getting along with those kids since those days, but there’s no question still of a pretty strong rivalry.”

The Blue Comets have not lost to Iola since a 21-0 defeat in 1988, according to Kansas Football History. While the teams have not played every year, Chanute is 13-0 against Iola since ’04, including 38-7 and 49-14 victories the last two falls.

“Pressure - we don’t want lose that streak,” Frazell said. “We just focus on the game, and don’t worry about that too much. Just got to focus on the nuts and bolts, and making sure everything is in line, so that we can take care of business and try to go win another ball game.”

Peavy has enjoyed a big season. He returned the season-opening kickoff for a touchdown, had a 78-yard reception, another big catch, and delivered a pick-six last week. Frazell believes “colleges need to open their eyes” on Peavy.

“That kid is special,” Frazell said. “He just has some unbelievable agility and vision on the football field, and he just makes plays, no matter what happens.”

McDonald starts at right guard, and Dillow is the starting right tackle. Frazell was pleased with Dillow’s weight room work. Frazell has looked to increase the weight room numbers. Last school year, Chanute wrestling enjoyed a big season, and the Blue Comets upset Bishop Miege in the sub-state title game.

Frazell mentioned multiple programs, such as Fort Scott, Wellington, Scott City, Hutchinson and Smith Center, that have continually churned out winning seasons and success in football and all sports. Frazell would like a similar run for Chanute. He said Chanute has had weight room buy-in from the current senior class.

“What they’ve done is they do a great job in the weight room, their kids are really motivated, and it seems like when they starts happening, they win in everything,” he said of traditional power.

On the field, Frazell wants to “keep polishing” a team that showed several positive signs last week – and looks to emerge as one of Class 4A’s stronger squads.

“We still have some false starts and penalties that hurt us against Pittsburg, and we want to clean all that stuff up this week, and just execute,” he said. “We put together two drives against Pittsburg last week that were just bam-bam-bam down the field, and we want to try to put together a whole game that way, so really just focusing on ourselves.”

Alum heads up K.C. Washington

Class 5A Kansas City Washington has had a turnstile of one-year coaches with five in the last five years. Washington had not captured a season opener since ’08, according to Kansas Football History. The program has not won more than five games since a 7-2 mark in ’04.

Washington was 4-5 last season. 2004 alum Camron Smith, a former collegiate offensive lineman at Minnesota, has taken over at his alma mater – a position he has wanted for several years, and looks to keep until he retires.

Smith enjoyed his time at Minnesota, though had to cut his career short. He had deaths back home with his uncle and grandfather, and came back to Kansas City.

“The only thing that kind of eats away at me is I didn’t really have an ending to my career,” he said. “So that’s kind of my drive for my boys, to make sure that they get off to school, and they don’t come back until they are done playing the game.”

The Wildcats opened with a 40-14 victory versus Atchison, and then won at K.C. Harmon, 33-12. Washington plays Lincoln College Prep (Mo.) this week. Washington had not defeated Atchison since ’13. Smith first applied and had an interview four years ago. Smith continued to apply each year the position came available. He wasn’t interviewed every time. Smith received the call at the beginning of May.

“For me in my mind, it’s been a long time coming,” Smith said. “I’ve always knew that I’ve wanted to be a head coach one day. It was a dream to be at my alma mater, so for that to happen was absolutely amazing.”

Smith has served in education since he was 21 and started coaching the following year. Smith started out at Northwest Middle School and became a head coach. He also coached at K.C. Wyandotte for three years in varsity basketball and served as offensive coordinator one year. This marks his 11th year coaching.

“Just sharpen my skills for this moment to take the helm at my alma mater,” Smith said of his past.

Once Smith earned the job, he started going to Washington in the summer after he heard some players were playing pickup football. Once he saw the work ethic, Smith said he knew the team had “some special guys.”

“You see a lot of players playing pickup basketball,” Smith said. “But you don’t really see too many players out there playing pickup football. These guys were out there running routes, and not just playing 7 on 7 or playing two-hand touch. They were out there practicing, all on their own, and this was a lot of senior and upper classmen guys, a few of our juniors as well.”

Senior Thomas Anderson leads with 23 carries for 170 yards and four scores. Anderson and junior Cory Macon, with different skill sets, have switched off at quarterback.

Juniors Kyren Angelo and Jason Black, and senior Muestafa Conway all have a rushing score, at least 59 rushing yards and tallied at least 8.4 yards a carry.  Senior Dominic Jacobs has nine tackles. Up front, senior Quincy Spencer starts at center. Seniors Micah Johnson and Romaire Curry and junior Anderson Jones start on the line.

“Really the heart and soul of our o-line,” Smith said of the quartet.

A dual sport athlete, Muturi has already picked off five passes. Smith coached Muturi in junior high and watched him from the stands last season. Smith has seen Muturi’s ball hawking skills through the years. He has returned two INTs for scores.

“Kind of reminds me of him going up on that glass getting that rebound when he picks those passes off,” Smith said. “He seems to always make the right decision of when to jump for a pass. He prides himself on being a lock down defender, and he is one of the most consistent players we have. Every single day he is 100 percent.”

Longtime assistant Wallace takes over Schlagle

Taylor Wallace took over K.C. Schlagle after more than 15 years on staff.

“I have been preparing myself,” he said.

Wallace’s son, Tylen, was a former Schlagle standout and current on the Missouri Western football roster. As well, his son, T.J. Wallace is the Stallions’ offensive line coach. The offensive coordinator is Keith O’Neill. T.J . and assistant Stephan McIntosh have played together since Little League. Reggie Jones ran track for LSU and played in the NFL.

Schlagle had a rare Week 1 bye. Last season, the Stallions opened with a 52-0 loss at Burleson (Tex.). Burleson was expected to come to Kansas City this year, but the school had a change at athletic director, who prevented the game. Schlagle also had a new athletic director and K.C. area AD. Another Texas school wanted to play Schlagle, but it didn’t occur.

“Bad timing on that,” coach Wallace said.

Schlagle went to a jamboree with K.C. Wyandotte and Bonner Springs. On Friday of the normal season opener, the Stallions had a different practice than normal with four quarters and different game situations.

“We practiced harder,” Wallace said.

Last week, Schlagle opened with a home win against Atchison, 33-24. This week, the Stallions face Shawnee Heights (1-1) at home. The Stallions lost, 20-14, at Shawnee Heights last year.

Belle Plaine, Maur Hill have allowed zero points

In Class 2A, Belle Plaine and Maur Hill have both posted consecutive shutouts to start the season. BP opened with home victories versus Inman (14-0) and Kingman (16-0). It marks BP’s first shutout victory since a 68-0 win against Northeast-Arma of Week 4 of 2017.

Belle Plaine, 4-5 last year, has coach Colton Koenigs, a former Andover Central quarterback. This week, BP is favored in a road contest versus Wichita Independent. The Dragons have not posted a winning season since 2011.

Maur Hill has posted seven or eight wins in the last three years, and coach Brandon Wilkes is back with the Ravens in his second stint. When Wilkes was first head coach, he halted a 29-game losing streak and posted a 2-7 and 4-5 records. Maur Hill won at McLouth, 42-0, and versus Oskaloosa, 56-0. This week, MH is at Jackson Heights, 2-0 and ranked third in 1A.

A look at several others in new roles

Colby Hamel has Mankato-Rock Hills off to a 2-0 start this season as they have racked up over 1,100 yards of rushing in two weeks (five quarters). They have a showdown matchup with Hanover tonight as the Wildcats look to make history by winning their 41st consecutive game, an 8-man record. Can Hamel and company stop that?

Steve Tiernan is by far not considered a first-year coach as he has over 160 wins in his career but he is back for his second stint at Osborne after being at Solomon the last several seasons. Osborne has some big-time playmakers that make them a contender once again in 2019 after taking 8M-II runner-up last season.

Northern Valley head coach Marvin Gebhard replaced the legendary Chuck Fessenden who retired after 43 seasons and still looks for his first win as the head coach of NV.

Dean Gengler of Beloit St. Johns Tipton got his first win last week in the 66-42 win over Linn on the road. Gengler replaced Keith Kresin in the off-season for the 8M-II program.

Wichita Southeast head coach Taylor Counts, a former player for Salina Central and Pittsburg State, got his first coaching win as a head coach on Thursday night after they defeated Wichita North.

Logan Pegram, former all-stater at Silver Lake and starter for Northern Illinois, knows how to win. He also picked up his first coaching win as a head coach last week in an impressive road outing against Parsons. Anderson County has some solid players including quarterback Bo Dilliner.

Brent Hoelting, an Olpe native that had a lot of success at Lyndon, transitions as the new head coach at Pratt. Pratt lost a lot of key players like Travis Theis as the school adapts to a new style of play. Hoelting is still looking for his first career win at Pratt but he knows how to win including a 37-15 record at Lyndon.

Brent Schneider of Sterling picked up his first head coaching win at Sterling last week as they knocked off Marion 48-0. They have the tall task of beating Sedgwick on the road this week.

Bryce Paden is in his first year with the Wathena-Riverside program and picked up his first win with the program in week one over Hiawatha (14-13). He should have a solid shot to pick up win number two this week against Royal Valley at home.

Eddie Kearns of Erie picked up his first win at Erie last week in a 34-19 win over Neodesha. Kearns has over 40 years of experience in coaching but is in his first year of the program after spending the last several seasons in the junior high ranks.

Tom Flax is 2-0 in his first year as the head coach at Minneapolis, although its not his first year as a head coach as he has been a head coach six years prior. They have a huge test in week three against Beloit on the road.

Shane Sieben replaced Mike Beam who had been the only coach in Rock Creek history in the off-season. Beam won 140 games at the school in 26 seasons. Sieben picked up his first win last week in a 44-6 road win against St. Mary’s on Friday.

David Pitts begins his first year with the Northeast-Arma program where he picked up the schools first on-field victory in 30 games. The Vikings hadn’t won a game since 2015 as they defeated Pleasanton last week 36-0 to give them a 1-1 start in 2019. There are some winnable games ahead on the schedule for the 2A Vikes.

Mike Schartz has Cimarron off to a 2-0 start and a chance to go 3-0 as they take on Stanton County this week. Schartz replaced Greg Koneig who stepped down in the off-season. Cimarron went 8-2 last season under Koenig who had success at Beloit High School prior.

Mike Berg is no stranger to the sidelines spending several seasons at Baldwin where he won over 100 football games. He is back in action for the first time in three years since taking over the Wellsville program in the offseason. Berg is off to a 2-0 mark this season and has Burlington on the road this week for a shot at 3-0. Wellsville has been a very consistent 3A program over the years.

Troy Black has Wichita Collegiate off to a 2-0 mark this season as his defense has only allowed 21 points through the first two weeks. Black replaces longtime coach Mike Gehrer who retired in the off-season and had three state titles as the head coach.

Jamie Cruce is no first-year head coach but he is with his new program and had a ton of success at Pratt with a state title and state runner-up. He is now the head coach at 6A Campus and still looking for his first win of the season. He got close to getting his first win last week as they loss in two OTs to Newton (27-24).

Blake Burns, long time assistant for the Columbus Titans (3A), took over for Dan Grundy in the off-season who has moved into more of an admin role at the school. Grundy had some very solid Titan teams including a state runner-up (4A-II) in 2014. So far it’s been a great transition as the Titans are looking to go 3-0 after they play Girard this Friday. Columbus had a down year last season at 1-8 but Burns 2-0 start has provided a spark to the 2019 season.

Bo Graham, long time Fort Scott defensive coordinator, took over for legendary coach Bob Campbell in the off-season and got his first win as the Tiger head coach in his first game as the head coach in week one against Coffeyville Field Kindley. Fort Scott lost some key seniors last year and struggled against Paola last week but the program is in good hands with Graham, a former all-state lineman for Coach Campbell and Fort Scott in 2000.

Wes Bell comes to El Dorado from the college ranks where he was a successful defensive coordinator at both Central Missouri and Missouri Western. He got his first win with the program in his first week as they knocked off Indpendence 18-16. It’s no secret they are in the rebuilding stage and have powerful McPherson this week. Also on the El Dorado staff is Brandon Wise who led Osborne to a 8M-II runner-up finish last season.

Derek Tuttle became the second coach in the history of Andover Central when he was hired in the off-season replacing Tom Audley who retired. He also has the Jaguars at 2-0 on the season.

Kevin Stewart took over Bob Lisher to become just the second coach in Free State program history. The Firebirds are off to a 1-1 start this season with Stewart’s first win as a head coach of the program coming in week one over Olathe West (45-19). Free State has SM North this week in a Sunflower League matchup.

Darrin Fischer took over for Marc Marinelli this off-season at 5A Eisenhower and has the Tigers off to a very solid 2-1 start this season. They knocked off a very solid Andover squad last night (20-14) and beat Salina Central (21-14) in week one.