Randy Dreiling, who built a football dynasty 17 seasons at Hutchinson, has resigned as the Salthawks’ coach and will be the new coach at St. Thomas Aquinas.
“The more I thought about it, (I realized) that I had probably done about all we could probably do here,” said Dreiling, who was 160-38 in 17 seasons. “It might just be time for a new challenge, not that it’s the challenge to the depth of what it was when I got here.”
When Dreiling took over at Hutchinson, the program was mired in a 26-game losing streak.
Hutchinson, was 5-4 in 2013 and had a 13-season streak of playoff berths snapped, the Salthawks became the state’s dominant program under Dreiling, became the program coaches tried to mimic.
Under Dreiling, Hutchinson won seven titles in nine seasons and played in the title game nine of 10 season.
Hutchinson won six straight titles from 2004-2009 – winning in Class 6A from 2004-2007 and then in 5A in 2008 and 2009.
“You look at what he’s done, it’s almost unbelievable,” Carroll football coach Alan Schuckman said. “In this time, at the 6A level or 5A level, to win (seven) state championships and go to nine state title games, that’s an amazing run.
“He’ll go down as one of the best high school football coaches in the state of Kansas.”
But Dreiling affected more than simply his own program.
Fact is, other programs improved because of Hutch.
“What people don’t realize is that by him elevating that program to such a high level, he elevated other people’s programs,” said Schuckman, whose team won its first 5A title in 2012. “Ours, Salina South’s, anyone on Hutch’s schedule.
“They knew to get to a state championship game, they’d have to beat Hutch. Whoever was on Hutch’s schedule, district play on, you better figure out a way to beat them or you’ll never get to a state championship game.
“He’s probably done more for our program than he’d ever think of. Scheme-wise, that’s not the point. It’s him forcing us to get better.”
Schuckman and former Heights coach Rick Wheeler, whose Falcons teams lost to Hutchinson in 2004, 2006 and 2012, will miss their friend.
Most likely, though, there are plenty of teams who faced Hutch who are happy to see the coach move to the east side of the state.
“I’m sure there’s some guys that are in (6A-) District 8 who are doing backflips right now,” Wheeler said. “I would be. I would be excited if he was leaving my backyard.”
Dreiling’s decision was started by an e-mail he received regarding any possible interest he’d have in the Aquinas job. Then several weeks ago he met with Aquinas representatives.
“And then for the next couple weeks, I stewed,” Dreiling said. “I was miserable. Seventeen years at one place is a long time.… It was a very, very, very tough decision, as you might imagine. I just kind of said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ I took a leap of faith, and here we go.”
Hutchinson was recently spotlighted because of a bullying incident involving football players in which three players were branded with a heated wire hanger in October. After a three-week investigation, Hutchinson police said there was no evidence to show that school coaches had condoned or intentionally ignored hazing.
Salthawks athletic director Eric Armstrong said Dreiling’s decision to leave was his alone.
“This was completely Randy’s,” Armstrong said. “Hopefully people will understand the great things that Randy has done.
“… The stats and things just speak for himself. But the football part is just a piece of what Randy’s done for Hutchinson and Hutch High and the community. It’s a big deal.”
Now for Hutchinson, the talk turns to who takes his place.
“First of all, we have to let the dust settle and see where things lead us,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt we want to continue the success.
“The groundwork obviously is there. We have kids who know how to work hard. We have a program built, a weight room. All the things are there to be a successful program and continue. Now we have to find someone to take those pieces and lead the kids.”
Following in Dreiling’s footsteps will be a monumental job. He established a program with high numbers of players, an outstanding weight lifting program and his 2009 team is often considered one of the state’s best ever.
Dreiling isn’t one to hold his tongue on issues and he tended to use crass language. So how will he fit in at Aquinas?
He points out he played at Benedictine, which is a Catholic college. He is a life-long Catholic, too.
“I’ll fit in on that realm,” he said. “I need to evaluate the way I coach, probably. I think we’ll get along pretty well there. If they’re as committed as some of their administration and some of the people I’ve talked to about Aquinas football, I think it will be a very good fit.”
As for Hutch, Dreiling said he will miss the players, the community, his coaching staff, administrators.
“It hasn’t always been highs at Hutch High, but the highs outweigh the lows. We’re all pretty proud of what we got accomplished here,” Dreiling said.
“There’s a lot of people who were instrumental. It wasn’t just Randy Dreiling. It happened here because people did believe in what we were doing.”