Olathe South is in the line of fire
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
For most of the last decade there wasn’t much question who was the best team in Kansas Class 6A. Olathe North dominated then Hutchinson took over for a few years.
Then when Hutchinson went back down to Class 5A four seasons ago 6A became a little more wide open. In the three seasons since the Salt Hawks moved down to 5A three different schools have claimed the big-school title in Kansas. Junction City won in 2008, Olathe North in 2009 and Wichita-Heights brought home the trophy last season.
This year the field looks wide open again so everyone is asking who will that breakout team be in 2011. With candidates from Manhattan to Wichita and Junction City to Kansas City it might just be Olathe South that grabs the title in 2011.
The Falcons return a talented offensive line, an up and coming quarterback in Frank Saier and a confidence brought on by a strong finish in 2010. In what looks like a crowded field of contenders, Olathe South coach Jeff Gourley feels like his team has as good a chance as any team because they are much further ahead than they were this time last year.
“This year we’ve got our entire playbook in,” Gourley said. “We are so far ahead of the scale right now. They understand what it looks like. We are way ahead right now and working on individual technique and not have to work on team as much.”
That confidence may not have been there at the start of the 2010 season. Gourley had decided to change the team’s offense and with it the team’s style of play.
The Falcons had been a wide-open passing team when Gourley arrived from Belton before the 2008 season. Olathe South had gone to the 6A title game in 2007 losing 37-14 to Hutchinson and Gourley was hired the next season to take over for the retiring Mark Littrell.
Gourley’s first year the Falcons went 3-6 and followed that up with another 3-6 mark in 2009. In 2010 the veteran coach installed his wing-T offense in an effort to give the team some more toughness and take advantage of the athletic and sizeable linemen in the program.
The early results were mixed but they got better as the season went on finishing the regular season at 6-3. A playoff win over a good Shawnee Mission East team came next before Olathe North ended the Falcons season with a 17-0 win in the 6A quarterfinals.
This change has now fully taken hold and Olathe South isn’t learning, it is just playing the game. Junior quarterback Frankie Seurer said this year’s preparation has been very different than last year.
“I think it just took us a while to learn the offense really well (last season),” Seurer said. “I think after the first days of practice we’ve been looking pretty good. It’s completely different.”
Leading the way on that sizable offensive line is the head coach’s son Scott Gourley. The senior has been a part of the program since moving from Belton with his father as a freshman. Scott Gourley said he understood the changes his father wanted to make with the offense he knew it might just take some time.
“As his son we talked a lot at home so I definitely knew what he was looking for coming in,” Scott Gourley said. “He was expecting something fierce, fast and quick. That’s what we were lacking. We were still in that pass mindset offense from three years ago.
“I knew what he wanted because I had worked at his camps when he was over in Belton. So I had a general idea of what to do.”
The father son combo has seen all of the changes over the last four years and now both are ready to take the next step. In a season with no clear favorite for the Kansas 6A title Olathe South is ready to take on that favorite’s role if it falls to them.
“A lot of it is just the kids themselves,” Jeff Gourley said. “I know from a personal standpoint my son is a very confident person and a very confident football player. We have a real good senior class. There are times where you have great athletes that you don’t enjoy being around. Then you have bad athletes that you enjoy being around. These are great athletes that I enjoy being around. It’s the best of both worlds.”
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