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Looking at longtime active football coaches in Kansas

C.J. Hamilton of Silver Lake is the states all-time wins leader. (photo courtesy of Silver Lake HS)
By: Chet Kuplen & Conor Nicholl
Sep 26, 2019

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 This update is presented by Kansas Turf, Nex-Tech Wireless, American Implement and Rack Performance.

We would consider 10 years as a head coach in one place a long time in this day and age, so we take a look at some (not all) of those coaches that have been somewhere 10 or more years, some of those being at multiple places. And some like C.J. Hamilton that have records that almost sound made up. 

Dave Foster and Dodge City shining in 10th year

Dodge City graduated defensive linemen Evan Darville and Marcos Fisher off a 6-4 squad that allowed 26.8 points per contest. Darville is playing for Division I Southeast Missouri State, and Fisher is on Fort Hays’ roster. In December, Ricky Coon, a Newton native and former co-defensive coordinator at Southeast Missouri, took over as Dodge City Community College head football coach.

Longtime Dodge City High School coach Dave Foster had an introductory meeting with Coon. Then, Coon spent a significant time with Foster and the Red Demon staff. Coon is a proponent of the three-front, and DCHS elected to switch to a 3-4 look. Foster and his coaches watched the Conquistadors’ practices on the offensive and defensive sides once collegiate fall camps opened.

“They were a tremendous resource for us early on in believing in the ability of this package, and because it married with our thought process, we feel in love with it,” Foster said.

Darville stood at 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, and Fisher was 6-1, 205. Both were two-gap players. Dodge City currently has 5-11 sophomore Santonio Turner at nose guard. Senior Jashon Taylor (5-7, 175) was a first team all-WAC linebacker in ’18 and has started multiple years.

He switched to defensive end, and plays across from Junior Josh Bertholf (5-10, 150). Foster said the three front is “a little unorthodox” but said the defense has “played extremely well.”

Taylor, one of the four team captains, has more than 170 career tackles. He is a two-time state wrestling qualifier who took fifth at 160 pounds at the Class 6A meet last winter.

“He’s tough to block, and it doesn’t come down to his pounds, it comes down to toughness, his strength per pound of body weight,” Foster said. “The kid can move.”

Dodge City has opened 3-0 with a 34-12 road versus Haysville Campus, and a 45-7 home victory against Salina South. Last week, Jose Valverde made a 49-yard field goal with 16 seconds left to tie the contest versus Wichita Heights.

Then, DC senior quarterback Beau Foster, the coach’s son, scored from five yards out in overtime for a 26-23 overtime road win. It marked the first win at Heights since ’90, according to DC broadcaster Sean Boston.

After three weeks last season, DCHS stood 2-1 and had allowed 91 points. The Red Demons have its first 3-0 start since 2010, a season that yielded an 11-1 record, Foster’s first year with the program.

Foster is in his 10th year at Dodge City and has 50 career wins. He has more than 120 in a career that spans 23 head coach seasons and includes stops at Ness City, Haven and Oklahoma. Foster is still the last coach to lead Haven to a winning record with a 6-3 mark in ’01, according to KS Football History.

He is one of several longtime coaches having early success this year. This week, Dodge City plays host to WAC foe Great Bend (2-1). Dodge City has lost three straight to GB.

Turner leads Dodge City and ranks third in the Western Athletic Conference with 30 tackles, according to league statistician/Hays High broadcaster Dustin Armbruster.

“We’ve played really well up front, and in saying that, I think everything starts up front,” Foster said.

Bertholf stands second with 27 stops, while senior Tommy Bermudez has 26, senior John Johnson with 25 and Taylor has 24. Seniors Cedric Rosales and Alden Knedler each have 23. Knedler has picked off three passes. Foster has told Taylor, normally a ‘B’ gap player, to “blitz every snap.”

Against Salina South, Dodge City’s defense recorded 13 tackles for loss and limited the Cougars to 3.7 yards per play. Turner, Bertholf and Bermudez all recorded two TFLs, while Taylor had one.

“You get to line up on the line of scrimmage,” Foster said. “And that’s honestly our mentality with all three of those guys. We don’t give ourselves up on double teams for anybody. Our objective is to make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage, and those guys can run sideline to sideline.”

Johnson, Knedler and Taylor are among those who play both ways, rare for a 6A school. Junior Matt Friess leads the conference with 282 receiving yards and four receiving scores. Johnson is on all three phases, rarely comes off the field and has 124 receiving yards.

Knedler has delivered 245 on the ground. Foster said Johnson “might be our best football player,” the squad’s fastest player, and is solid blocker. He had a key catch last week and is an excellent tackler.

“I’m just not big on having good football players standing on the sideline,” Foster said. “High school football, you play 48 minutes, and if you are not exhausted at the end of it, there’s probably a problem with that. …There were years where we had very few, if any kids, play both ways, but to me, that’s an annual decision based on depth, and quality of that depth.”

Beau Foster, Dave’s only son, returns at quarterback. A three-year starter, Beau has immersed himself in Dodge City’s program since he was young. He is one of several key quarterbacks who play for their father this fall, including combinations at Southeast of Saline, Troy, Norton, Maranatha Academy and Shawnee Mission West. Last year, he completed 55 percent of his passes for 997 yards and a 10/10 TD/INT ratio with 601 rushing yards and nine scores.

This season, he has improved in every category. Foster, a team captain, leads the WAC with 57 percent completion, 600 passing yards and a 6/2 TD/INT ratio. He ranks fourth in the conference with 263 rushing yards. Coach Foster has kept reminding Beau that he is no longer 165 pounds. Beau is now up to 185-190 pounds and is a strong downhill runner, notably against Heights.

The offensive line features senior tackle Aaron Nelson, a returning first team all-league player. Foster said junior guard Juan Lopez has been a pleasant surprise. Senior Bryan Holz is a returner at tackle.

“You get one shot at it when you only have one son,” coach Foster said. “Obviously, all eyes are on you and how you handle situations, and I coach my kid same as anybody else’s kid out there. He’s the first to say there’s been no favoritism. If anything, you try to keep yourself from being tougher on your own kid. But we have a great relationship, and away from the football practice field or game field, we spend our time doing other things and talking about other things.”

Beau served as a ballboy in 2010 when DC lost in the final minute of the state semifinals to Heights, 42-38. It’s still the program’s best finish since ’94. Both Heights’ game-winning score in ’10, and Beau’s walk-off run last Friday came in the same corner of the end zone at the Falcons’ field.

Coach Foster said the DCHS’ coaching staff has talked about the 2010 season to “a lot of different groups.” He finds similarities between this year and ’10. This fall’s leaders have been together for a long time.

“There’s a fine line between getting over the hump and winning some of those close games and not able to get over the hump,” coach Foster said. “We’ve had several teams that had comparable talent, comparable leadership. Maybe all the pieces don’t fall into place. The verdict is still out on this one. We are not trying to put pressure on this group of kids any different than any other group that we’ve had, but sky’s the limit.”

Other longtime coaches having success

Hanover coach Matt Heuer, in his 15th season at his alma mater, led the Wildcats to a 66-16 road victory against Mankato-Rock Hills last week. Hanover won its 41st straight contest and tied Almena-Northern Valley (’85-88) for the most eight-man consecutive victories in the KSHSAA era. This week, Hanover goes for the record at home versus Blue Valley Randolph. Heuer is 143-25 in 15 years.

Victoria coach Doug Oberle is in his 14th year as Knights head coach. Oberle carries a 118-30 record. The Knights, unranked in the preseason with just two returning starters and two seniors, have vaulted to No. 5 in Eight-Man, Division I behind three big wins against Otis-Bison, Central Plains and Macksville. Victoria is at home behind 2-1 Lincoln this week.

Derby coach Brandon Clark stands at 120-36 in his 14th year. The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in 6A, have a key game against Bishop Carroll, No. 3 in 5A. Derby has won 16 straight contests.

Randall Zimmerman is one of the state’s longest tenured coaches at Junction City. JC opened 4-2 in ’18, including a big win against rival Manhattan, though lost its last three to finish 4-5. Junction City, led by quarterback Andrew Khoury, has opened 3-0 and plays Topeka High at Hummer Park on Thursday. Topeka High is ranked third in 6A. Zimmerman has a career mark of 154-93 in 26 years. Walt Alexander is 81-48 in his 14th year with Topeka.

Shawnee Mission West endured back-to-back 0-9 seasons, though ended a 20-game losing streak with a 21-7 victory against Shawnee Mission South in Week 2. SMW coach Tim Callaghan is 104-65 in 17 years.

J.B. Covington has a 186-66 record in 22 years as a head coach with a 144-43 record in his 17th year at Phillipsburg. Phillipsburg has won two state titles (2015, 2018). Very impressive record playing in one of, if not the best small school league in Kansas in the MCL.

Tony Trimble has spent 15 years at Valley Heights where he has racked up 76 wins. VH is a contender this season in 1A with a 3-0 start. Trimble has also coached in a state title game at Neodesha as the Bluestreaks took second in 3A in 2001 with him as the head coach.

Steve Wagner is one of the longest tenured coaches in Kansas with 36 years at Riley County with a 243-120 record at the school that included a state championship appearance last season. He also coached a couple of NFL players in Jordy Nelson (2003) and Jon McGraw (1997).

Otis-Bison coach Travis Starr, currently in his 15th season, has helped the Cougars to a 2-1 start, including a 2-0 mark in Eight-Man, Division II, District 8. O-B has bounced back from a Week 1 loss to Victoria with big victories against Bucklin and Stafford in district action. The Cougars have not lost a district game since Week 7 of ’16.

Wichita West’s Weston Schartz is one of Kansas’ longest tenured coaches for all classes. He has helped the Pioneers open 2-1, including a key Week 2 victory versus Kapaun. Schartz, in his second stint at West, is 118-95 overall, and 191-124 in his 36th year of coaching. West is at 3-0 Northwest, ranked second in 5A.

Bo Black is in his fifth year at SM Northwest and has a 14-26 record at the school, however the program is going in the right direction with a 3-0 start this season. Black is 104-75 overall that has included being at Great Bend, Hays, and SM Northwest. His son Ty is one of the top quarterbacks in the state this season and has also found a top receiver in 6A this season in Ty Lindenman.

Maize South coach Brent Pfeifer has led the Mavericks to a 3-0 start after an 0-3 opening in ’18. Pfeifer is the only coach in the program’s 10-year history and is 73-31. Maize South, just outside the 5A rankings, is at Arkansas City (0-3).

Gary Guzman is in his 28th year of coaching with a 149-120 record. He has been at Maize for nine years where he has a 49-33 program, taking the program to new heights last year in a 5A semfinal appearance. The Eagles are currently 3-0 and a team to keep an eye on in the 5A West.

Kent Teeter has had a lot of success in Western Kansas as a coach at multiple programs. In his sixth year at Holcomb he has a 50-12 record with two state titles (2015, 2017). Teeter has a 118-74 record as a head coach that has also included head jobs at Goodland and Hays.

What Brooks Barta has done at Holton is pretty incredible. There wasn’t a lot of success at all before him and now in his 24th year he has a 221-52 record as the head coach. Holton had one playoff appearance before Barta and now they have had 21 under him in 23 seasons. The former Kansas State Wildcat linebacker learned from one of the best in his father, Roger Barta, who built the Smith Center dynasty. Brooks has three state titles at Holton with four runner-up finishes.

Steve Rampy may be in his second year at Lawrence High School after several years as the offensive coordinator at Pittsburg State but he is the coach that built the Blue Valley program for 25 years prior. Rampy, who las Lawrence at 3-0, one year after going 1-8, has a 180-92 all-time record with four state titles at Blue Valley. Lawrence had a big upset win over Gardner Edgerton this year already and do remember, the Chesty Lions go to the West Bracket in week nine despite being in the Sunflower League.

Randy Dreiling is one of the most decorated high school football coaches in Kansas history with eight state titles, with the first seven coming at Hutchinson and last year at Aquinas. Dreiling has a 52-13 record at Aquians over six seasons and in 30 years of coaching has accumulated 237 victories with a 237-90 record.

Matt Fowler is in his 11th year as a head coach and second year at Oswego. Fowler has the Indians off to a 3-0 mark this year and are a team to watch in 8M-I. Fowler is 71-35 in his career as a head coach with a state title to his name at Spearville.

Kevin Ayers is in his first year with the program as head coach at Little River but had a 158-39 record as a head coach entering the season with state titles at Jetmore (2) and Hodgeman County.

Brent Pfeifer has been a head coach for 10 years at Maize South High School, the only coach in school history with a 73-31 record. This years team is off to a 3-0 mark.

Matt Housman has been a head coach for 11 years, 10 of those years with Jetmore-Hodgeman County (8M-I) where he has a 74-22 record and 80-25 overall record. The Longhorns are off to a 2-1 mark so far in 2019.

Chris Haag enters his 19th season at West Elk. Last year was a bit of a down year with a 108 record but the team is off to a 2-1 mark this year.

The Wichita North program has struggled but Scott Moshier, now in his third year, is trying to change that after going 2-7 last season. The program sits at 0-3 but Moshier knows how to win as he has racked up 160 wins and 125 losses in his career that included two state titles at 2-1A Meade (2010, 2012).

Steve Buhler has been at it for a long time in 22 years as a head coach at Washburn Rural and Rossville. Although this season has been tough with a 0-3 mark to start the year, Buhler has a 139-82 career record as a head coach.

Chris Steiner may not be considered a longtime coach but he’s been around as a head coach for 10 years. He has had some of the best 8-man teams in recent memory for 8M-II Central Plains. Although it may be a down year this year so far after the 2018 8M-I title team, he has gotten it done with a 76-14 record in nine years at the school and is 77-22 all-time.

Russ Steinbrock entered the year with a 113-72 record for Clifton Clyde after going 9-1 last season in 8M-I.

Beau Sarwinski has been one of the most successful coaches in Southeast Kansas over the last decade and a half. The head coach at Galena has a 102-32 record as the head coach in 13 years. He also has the schools only two semifinal appearances in 3A (2009, 2018). The Bulldogs were 22-2 combined in 2017 and 2018. They sit at 2-1 entering district play.

Walt Alexander is in his 14th year with a 82-48 record as the Topeka High Trojans have a perfect 3-0 record. Many think this could be the year that Topeka could get to a title game. Can they get past Derby? They have a big one with Junction City tonight in Topeka.

Chris Schmidt has been at Olpe for 13 years as the head coach and has a 3-0 record in 2019. The Eagles, who have played in three title games under Schmidt with one title (2014), are 111-32 under him.

Although Joel Applebee is still considered a young coach he has been with the Mill Valley program for 10 years with a 72-31 record as the head man. That also includes two 5A state titles in 2015 and 2016.

Mike Dumpert has been one of the most successful 4A coaches in the last 20 years out of the Frontier League with a 164-52 record in 19 seasons. The Panthers (4A) are undefeated at 3-0 in 2019.

Jeff Werner has won 93 games at Sedgwick with a 92-35 record at the school. Sedgwick has had very solid play at quarterback in that time frame with multiple all-state quarterbacks.

Steve Tiernen is in his second stint with Osborne and has been one of the better 8-man coaches in the last 20 years. He is 164-32 all-time as the head coach at both Osborne and Solomon. He took Solomon to a state runner-up finish last season.

After returning zero starters last season in a 5-5 year, Buhler coach Steve Warner has the Crusaders off to a 3-0 start and in the mix in 4A west. Buhler is at Mulvane (0-3) on Friday. Mulvane is without quarterback Tab Creekmore, who suffered a broken leg. Warner is 123-34 with a state title and runner-up showing with Buhler, and is 240-95 in his 32-year career.

Bill Arnold has racked up 111 victories to just 40 losses at Topeka Hayden over 13 years ans is 167-57 in 20 years as a head coach. Arnold is 3-0 this year with Hayden who will be a contender in 3A.  

Mitch Gebhardt is 58-32 in his 10th year at Southeast of Saline and is in his 18th year overall of coaching with a 85-68 record. SES is 3-0 to start 2019.

Garrett Michael is 74-42 in his 11th year as the head coach of Sabetha with two state titles, coming in back to back fashion (2017, 2018. The Bluejays are off to a 3-0 mark this season.

Mick Holt has been at Sedan for 10 years and has put up a 53-31 record as the head coach. Sedan has a storied tradition with Les Davis who won 316 games as the head coach of the school, one of the top marks in all of Kansas.

Matt Biehler is 99-17 as the head coach at Conway Springs. He will go for his 100th victory against Hutchinson Trinity this week. Conway Springs also making the move to 1A football for 2020 and 2021.

Rod Stallbaumer has seen a lot of success in his 15 years as a head coach with a 108-44 record at Basehor Linwood and Lyndon combined. Although the Bobcats haven’t started off 2019 where they want at 1-2 they ‘ve been 42-16 under Stallbaumer in six years.

Larry Glatczak has been one of the most impressive 1A/2-1A/3A coaches in Kansas history with a 123-41 record at Centralia . The Panthers have won three titles under him and played in four total.

Silver Lake coach C.J. Hamilton has paced the Eagles to a No. 2 ranking in Class 2A. SL shut out Riley County, 25-0, last week. Hamilton, the state’s all-time winningest coach, is 425-92 in 44 years.

Other notable coaches that have long tenures at schools include Dan Adelhardt with 15 years at Kapaun, Harry Hester with 17 years at Cherryvale, Jason Swift with 17 years at Shawnee Heights, Jim Smith with 22 years at Atchison, Steve Johnson with 13 years at Jefferson West, Mike Paramore with 19 years at Perry Lecompton, Lucas Melvin with 13 years at Norton, Terry King with 21 years at Ell-Saline and Jon Webster with 11 years at La Crosse.