When Brandon Clark was hired as Derby's football coach four years ago, he was disturbed by the contentment he found in the program.
"They were just happy to be here," he said. "They weren't too competitive."
That was unacceptable to Clark, who has always been a fiery competitor.
During games, he's constantly in motion, walking the sideline while yelling instructions. A former Kansas State football player, he plays basketball twice a week at 5:45 a.m. and recently picked up running.
He expects his team to have fire and be competitive at all times.
The Panthers (7-3), who play host to Dodge City (8-2) at 7 tonight in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs, have taken on Clark's persona. Most have embraced it.
"As a coach, you're teaching things you never thought you'd have to teach," he said. "Sometimes competitiveness has to be taught. There's good athletes out there, but some have never really had adversity, where you had to have that competitive drive."
Clark has guided his team by instituting a variety of challenges.
This season he created a goal board. Those goals have become so important that the Panthers not only want to win games, they want to beat those goals.
In the offseason, there are challenges in seven-on-seven games, conditioning drills and weight lifting.
Offensive linemen tend to be overlooked in competitions outside of the weight room, so Clark created the Big Uglies challenge in the summer.
And in each, there's something on the line. For instance, lose and there's extra running or pushups.
"It's kind of like a break, in a way," senior Meshach Kennedy said of the challenges. "In the weight room, you're hitting (the weights) hard... then there's a challenge. 'OK, I'm going to beat you.' "
Sometimes the challenges are fun, such as when the offense picks a defensive player to catch a ball from a coach. The defense might pick a lineman who would struggle to catch the ball.
Whomever wins doesn't have to run sprints.
"So far, the defense is 2-0," Kennedy said with pride."
One of Derby's most competitive players is Jon Ortiz. At 5-foot-7, 165 pounds, he's undersized at noseguard, but successful because he couples his speed with passion and desire, Clark said.
Ortiz's favorite challenges have come in the past several weeks. Clark has his defensive and offensive starters facing each other instead of the scout teams.
"It's pretty intense," Ortiz said. "When you're going up against the first-team offense, you don't want to get your butt kicked in front of the coach. It makes you want to go 100 percent every time. Even though you've secured your spot, you want to show them that you want to be there and do the best you can."
Sometimes, though, players get in each others' faces.
"We've had some very highly competitive practices," Clark said. "There were some heated moments, some moments that, as coaches, we were about to step in and break up the moments.
"But we took a step back, and it was never taken over the top. (I said,) 'This competitiveness is great, but when we walk off this field, we're brothers.' "
Those challenges aren't just to keep intensity up in practice or to add a bit of levity. They're to help the players in games.
Clark thinks they give the players confidence. Kennedy said it's perfect preparation.
"If you're competing at a high speed, then it's doubled in a game," Kennedy said. "It's faster and quicker, you can go all out.
"And you don't have that connection with the other team, like you would with a brother."