Randall leading Pioneers to new fortunes
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Just a few years ago Leavenworth football was looking for a direction and for players and coaches to lead it.
The Pioneers had struggled through 2008 with just one win and had gone winless in 2009. Then new head coach Kevin Kopecky signed on after several very successful years at St. Thomas Aquinas.
The coach was in place but the players and leaders on the field were still to be found. Leavenworth had long been a place where people felt there was talent, but getting that talent to play football was hard to do.
The school committed to football starting in 2010 with the hiring of Kopecky. The district also put in some signs of real support with a new stadium, locker room and weight room. Also that year a talented group of young players began to assert themselves. A few freshmen and sophomores started that year led by freshman running back Jason Randall.
“He is just real durable,” Kopecky said. “He has started every game since his freshman year. Him and I are real close personally. How can you not be close to a kid like that? Coaches try to say they don’t have favorites but the favorites are the ones that do everything you ask and do it with great effort. We do have favorites and he is definitely one of my favorites.”
Randall was a key member of the team that snapped the 21 game losing streak with a win over Wyandotte in week No. 7. Just two weeks later the Pioneers found themselves with the possibility of a playoff appearance with a win over Shawnee Mission North in the final week of the season.
Leavenworth would lose that game but bounce right back to reverse that loss a year later and advance to the playoffs for the first time since 1980. The Pioneers would fall in the first round to Shawnee Mission West but times were changing.
“The pieces of the puzzle are there now,” Kopecky said. “Getting to the playoffs was really important for these kids to have some confidence. There were Leavenworth kids that worked hard over the years and have nothing to show for it. Getting the playoffs was just a huge thing for us. You can see a little more pep in their step around here. That’s what we needed.”
Randall was one of the keys to that change in 2011. The sophomore ran for 822 yards on just 145 carries scoring 11 touchdowns for the Pioneers. He was also a vital part of the passing game catching 26 passes for 302 yards and two TDs.
This year surrounded by what is now a veteran group of players Randall could be the key to another breakout season for the Pioneers. Even though it would be easy to get caught up in being a starter and a big part of the offense, Randall is focused on continuing to help the football program improve.
“It’s good because every year we make progress,” Randall said. “We get new players come in because we are a military town. It is just fun to be here and I am glad to be a Leavenworth Pioneer.
One the field he is a leader but his more impressive resume may be off of the field. He carries a 3.8 grade point average and was selected for the Kansas State High School Activities Association Student Advisory board. The KSHSAA honor is one just a few students in the state receive and only a handful of students from Leavenworth have ever been on the board.
The good grades in the classroom, strong work ethic and play on the field already have quite a few Division I schools interested in Randall including a standout academics and athletics school like Vanderbilt University.
With all of the talk of D-I scholarships Randall knows he still has lots of work ahead of him and the Pioneers as they enter the 2012 season.
“I’ve been receiving a few things in the mail,” Randall said. “I haven’t really been focusing on that. I’ve been in the weight room focusing on starting this season right.
“We have some team goals. We want to make it to the playoffs again like last year. We want to win the opener versus (Shawnee Mission) North. Personal goals I just want to protect the ball all season and run hard.”
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