Olathe Northwest ready for next big step

Dion Clisso/PrepsKC

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: September 9, 2010 - 9:33 PM

Olathe Northwest is no longer a young football program. The new has worn off but some may feel the Ravens are still the little brother of the Olathe School District.

While Olathe North has won multiple state titles, Olathe South has been to the state title game twice in the last 10 years and Olathe East seems to win at least eight games every year and has been in the state title game.

Northwest made the playoffs in 2006 and 2009 but this season the Ravens are ready to take that next step and become the next great Olathe football program. Northwest will start that journey with a game against an East team they have never beaten in the first six years of the Ravens program.

“It’s a good rivalry and last year they beat us 7-0,” Northwest coach Todd Dain. “We’re an improved football team and certainly they always have athletes and we have to be prepared to win a battle this week.”

When the program began seven years ago it was thought that Northwest would quickly grow and become as large as the other Olathe Schools. The growth around the school didn’t take off as expected and with the down economy the last few years the school population never exploded.

While Northwest is still the smallest of the Olathe schools, small steps have begun to be taken. Last season no sophomores played varsity for the first time in school history and all levels of the program began to see full squads.

This year Northwest opened its season with an impressive 41-14 win over Shawnee Mission South. The Ravens got solid games from running backs Justin Pamatmat and Connor Middleton who ran behind an offensive line that tore holes in the South defense all night.

The Ravens are hoping Friday’s game is a preview of more great things to come as the season goes on.

“I think what we do best is we work as a team,” senior receiver Nick Bandy said. “We have 11 guys flying around on the ball and then when we are offense we work together to score.

“I think the summer conditioning and weights we were all working well together and it is paying off.”

While Northwest was off and running so was East. The Hawks ran all over Shawnee Mission North last week and look to have that overall team speed that Sunflower league opponents are used to seeing. East has won several boys track titles over the years and many of those athletes line up for football in the fall.

Bandy knows it is going to be important to tackle well for Northwest to keep the Hawks in check Friday night.

“I’d say we have to fly around,” Bandy said. “If we hustle and play as a team. I think we will do good things. We will see what happens. I think we have a good shot at beating them.”

Dain knows that last year’s close loss puts them closer to East but there are several keys to this year’s game.

“First of all I think it starts up front,” Dain said. “We feel like we can be pretty good up front. If we are consistent up front and physical up front, we think that’s where it starts. Then we are just going to have to play sound football. When you play a team with a lot of speed if you play fundamentally sound and take proper angles and do those things a lot of times you can negate those elements of speed.

“That’s our goal this week is having that consistency and negating that element of speed by being fundamentally sound.”

Staying sound in the fundamentals is a key but not getting too high or too low against a cross-town rival could be just as important. Confidence and enthusiasm aren’t always two things that happen together but the Ravens might be in just the right place.

“I think it is a really big game, we’ve never beat them before,” Northwest senior Drew Boyce said. “I think it would be a good test to see how good we really are. I think we can really do a good job and beat them this week.

“I think we will come out with a lot of enthusiasm and play well. I think we need to come out as a team and be ready to play East with all of that enthusiasm.”

Even though districts are five weeks away this is somewhat of a statement game for the Ravens. The program is starting to get where Dain and his staff wants it, but it still has not reached their ultimate goal. A win this week would knock one of those goals off of the list on the way to the big prize, a state championship.

“We’ve got to some find some talent and we’ve got some character but we have to have that consistency to play at the kind of level we want to play at,” Dain said.

“Any time you play at cross-town rival it’s a big game. That’s what this week is and that’s what we are looking at it as.”

The Ravens appear to be on knocking on the door, they will find out Friday night if they are ready to open the first door on their way to bigger and better things.