A weekly question-and-answer session during the summer with an area high school coach.
Today: Derby coach Brandon Clark
Clark enters his fifth season with the Panthers. He coached Derby to an 8-4 record and a trip to the Class 6A semifinals in 2009.
How successful do you think your team can be this year?
"When I first took over we had a senior class that had four different coaches. So they had four different programs. Once you get a little bit of stability and you have some talent, it kind of takes care of itself as long as they're bought in and show up to work every day. I'm not sure how successful we'll be, but I know we'll be competitive."
It seems like every year your teams have gotten better overall. How much easier does coaching get once you get established and get the players to buy in to what you're doing?
"If you get kids and they get bought in and they have belief and you share common goals then that helps out. Then once they get a little bit of confidence we are able to roll off of it. You see confidence not only on the field as a coach but you see it in the weight room. You see it at school. The kids start doing every little thing right. They start showing up on time. They start getting better grades. When you start seeing that, then kids become better kids and better football players. Their expectations get higher. They expect to win. They want to win. They know they can win. That all starts to come together. That's where I think we are right now."
Is that one of those reasons why you don't get too flustered when you have a bunch of kids coming up from the JV level to start on defense?
"We're not like the NFL to where we can recruit new players every year. There are going to be a lot of kids that wait four years for this time, and we wouldn't play them if we didn't think they were ready. They've been in our program for four years, and you may not have heard their names before but hopefully by the end of this year you will know who they are."
You have a young guy on defense that's been playing at a varsity level. What does Dillon Call bring to the team?
"He brings a lot. He's stepping up and becoming a vocal leader. That's kind of hard to do as a student-athlete in high school, because not only do you have to hold your teammates accountable, but you have to hold yourself accountable first. And sometimes that's the hardest thing to do for kids. He's one of those guys that plays hard no matter what. No matter if we're on the practice field or in the weight room. He never takes a rep off. He leads by example."
What was it like seeing him as a sophomore doing all of the stuff that he did?
"As a sophomore to be as good as he was and knowing that he wasn't going to be content with his playing level is good. We know he's going to be a lot better this year. We know he's going to be a lot better in two years as a senior for us. If you've got a kid that played at an all-state level as a sophomore and he's a kid that never gets complacent and you know he's going to keep working hard, that's very exciting for a coach."
Will Evan Oaks start at running back?
"Evan is a tough player. We run the zone a lot. Sometimes you can find that type of running back that can become a zone runner and understand how the zone works. Evan is that type of runner. I don't know if we've ever had the type of runner in our program in four years that has the vision that Evan has. If you put the offensive line in front of him that we have, then hopefully we can do some good things this year."
You've got Salina Central followed by Hutchinson. You guys are going to have to be on top of your games from Day 1, right?
"A lot of coaches get carried away with their overall schedules for the season. We're concerned once we get to district. Those first two games we're playing two of the best-coached teams in the state. This is going to be a great assessment tool for us to see where we're at and to see where we need to be to beat the best teams. Our goal is to make it to the playoffs and make it to state. We're going to see teams just like that."