Varsity Kansas

Behind The Story: Maize South

by Taylor Eldridge

If you weren’t able to check out my story in Friday’s paper about the new Maize South football program, then check it out here. As you can probably surmise from reading the story, it was a big piece of work. And it could have been longer. I have so much extra information, anecdotes and other fun stuff from my week with the team that I figured I would make a blog post out of it.

I’ll try to post some video’s I took later if I figure out how to do that, but anyways there are so many people to talk about and thank, I’ll just talk about each as they come to mind.

Tom O’Connor, offensive coordinator

I was disappointed there wasn’t enough space to work in O’Connor’s story. He was the head coach at Campus for some years and is a former assistant of Schuckman’s at Carroll. He took the step down to being an assistant coach when Pfeifer offered him the job because their families have been close for some time. Both have little boys who have played several sports together and that is actually how they met. Although it’s obvious he still has the fire to be a head coach somewhere, he is content at Maize South. "It's going really good,” he said. “I'm a little bit more relaxed. I'm enjoying it a lot more working with all the kids here. They're just great kids." The other four coaches have been together for around 10 years, but you would have thought O’Connor was included in that group with how well he gets along and meshes with the others. The kids love him. He works closely with the quarterbacks, which are Drake Dukes, Taner Thurman and Austin Mormando. Dukes spoke very highly of him and it has worked out great for all parties involved. All the coaches were so laid back and he was no different. He was always interested on the article and took time to ask and get to know me. He’s such a nice guy and Maize South, as it knows, is lucky to have him. Here are two quotes on him from Dukes and then Pfeifer:

"I'm very blessed to have O'Connor over here. Just happy he can be out here helping us. He knows what he's talking about when he's talking about football."

“Have coach O’Connor come on board has been nothing short of a blessing for me. Everything I have going on this year, he’s really stepped in and is helping do some jobs. It’s kind of like our own little family here.”

Steve Rasmussen, defensive coordinator

Definitely my favorite coach to watch in practice. He has so much energy and passion for teaching the game it’s enjoyable to watch. He’s the coach who isn’t afraid to get up and challenge the players if he doesn’t like what he sees. But off the field he has earned the respect of all the players, so he is able to push them farther than most coaches. While he is the high-energy coach on the sidelines, he is really nice off the field as well. Plus his sense of humor/sarcasm is awesome. I didn’t have to wonder if he was a former footbal player, so it was no surprise when he said he was a former linebacker at Peru State. He’s been with Pfeifer-Jones-Schultz for years and the bond is obvious. Everyone has their role and his is the motivator. "That's just in me. As a player, I was kind of the intense guy. Get-in-your-face kind of guy. If we needed a morale boost, we got up and we got after it. I think that's my role. (Pfeifer's) got his head role. We all have roles and we just kind of feed off each other."

Travis Jones & Kip Schultz, assistant coaches

I didn’t get a chance to talk very much with either of these coaches, as they were mainly working with the younger players and trying to develop them. But I did, however, enjoy Jones’ constant references to food when talking in practice. And I know from talking to Pfeifer that Schultz has a great taste in music.

Nehemiah Scott, fullback/linebacker

The first day of practice I showed up to, Scott was the first person I talked to. Sidelined on crutches due to an ankle injury suffered last week, Scott was standing around on the sidelines when I got there. I think I only quoted him once, but he is such a great source of knowledge. We sat in the Gator watching practice and just talk about stuff. I learned a lot of background information about the team and was able to ask pretty much any question to him with a great answer. He’s a good guy and has such a positive attitude about his injury. Missing the first two games of the season would distraught many, but not Scott. It viewed it as an opportunity to teach and coach his teammates. He is a great motivator too. And is without a doubt, the leader of the team. When he gets back for the third game of the season, watch out. He will be teaming up with Cayden Good to make a pretty formidable backfield. He has a bright future ahead of him and is a first-class person. So I wasn’t surprised when I heard that he won the school’s first voting for Class President. Congratulations Mr. President.

Drake Dukes, quarterback

I was immediately interested in Dukes, being the team’s first quarterback. I watched him pretty closely and I think good things are ahead of him. He’s only a sophomore. He’s never started a varsity game. But I think by the time he is a senior, he will be a gamer. If you look at him, he definitely looks like a sophomore. But when I was talking to him, the first thing I noticed was his voice. He has the quarterback gruff voice down pat. He just sounds like one out there calling audibles and plays. He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, but he has enough zip to get the ball in there when needed. He’s stepped up as a team leader already and he is exactly what you want from a quarterback. He has lived up to the high expectations so far. He is also my facebook friend, so he is cool. Also, funny story on him and Facebook is he befriended one of Lighthouse Christian’s players on there and was talking to him before the game. That was the only contact Maize South had with them before the game. Thought that was interesting.

Cayden Good, running back/linebacker

Talk about a stud. Good is exactly that, good. I was impressed with how he ran in the practice and his legs are just thick. He’s going to be a tough one to bring down in games. He isn’t a leader by voice, rather by example. Whenever I talked to him he was real laid back and chill. Expect Maize South to rely on him heavily.

Aaron Wondra, running back/linebacker

He is the unequivocal leader of the team. In every way. He is awesome to watch in practice. Every drill he is going all out. I’m not kidding, every single play. Every single sprint. Everything. He was a player who had varsity experience over at Maize and came over looking for playing time and liked the coaches. When I talked to him, I could just tell he had that leadership in him. He just says the right things. He’s going to be a good one too.

The offensive line (Nick Pierce, Joe Hobert, Cody Weston, Zack Tilson and Josh Thompson)

This is the group that is the most intriguing. They have the size (averaged out they are 6-2 and 240) just not the experience. None of them have any varsity experience, so they will learn as they go. Pierce is the most intriguing prospect of this group. He’s never played football before and stands 6-7 and 245. If he develops quickly he might be D-1 material. Hobert and Weston are two of the most out-going players on the team. In practice on Tuesday after a play Pfeifer would yell “stop bouncing off blocks.” Then after watching them do the same thing, he asked them if they were boulders or pinball? Hobert’s reply: “Trick question?” He didn’t live that one down any time soon. When I interviewed him after practice one day, about 10 kids surrounded me and tried to make him laugh and/or screw up his lines. He’s a funny guy, as is Weston. They will be an interesting group to follow and see how far they progress.

Evan Allen, wide out/safety

I actually have known Evan for quite a while, way before I was assigned to this story. We go awhile back from our basketball playing days at the Northwest Y. We’ve had some pretty intense battles on those courts and he is a heck of a basketball player. And that’s just it, he is a basketball but he is out for football – once again – because of the coaches. And he is a talent too. Pfeifer is going to love all the ways he can use Allen running or catching the ball. They can split him out wide and create a mismatch or put him in motion and hand him the ball going full speed. He’s going to be a dangerous threat. So even though I could post him up any day of the week, Evan Allen will be a name to remember in football and basketball.

John Blazek, Maize South principal

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Blazek down on the field of Wednesday’s practice. Everyone at Maize South are so nice. He came down to watch some of the team’s practice and meet some of the players. You can tell he’s a big fan of the program and wants to be involved. Plus he has a powerful handshake, so you know he’s in charge.

Brent Pfeifer, head coach

Last but certainly not least is coach Pfeifer. When I covered track last spring, Pfeifer was immediately my favorite coach. First off, he was so open about everything about the Maize team he was easily likable. But he was my favorite because every time I would call him during school hours on his cell phone, he would pick up and then tell his class to shut up, I’m on the phone. Gotta love it. Students love him. Players love him. Administration loves him. He is just an overall great guy. He, and the staff he has assembled, had as much to do with as many players coming out for the football team than anything. He develops relationships with students in the classroom and genuinely cares. He took the time to get to know me and ask me questions about my career and how I’m doing. People don’t forget stuff like that. That’s why I think he will be in the coaching biz for a very long time. I was only with him a week, but I could tell how busy he was. When he gets to school in the morning he has an inbox filled with e-mails. He tries to get as many of those taken care of before he has to teach two classes. Then it’s back to being athletic director and answering e-mails. If he gets anywhere near completing that, then it’s time for football practice. And many nights, after football practice, will be the duties to oversee volleyball or other sporting events of Maize South. Not to mention he is a father of two and a great husband. He’s just one of those guys that you can talk to anything about. I’m sure the players love that about him. He owns everyone’s respect, so it’s all in good-natured fun when players razz or joke around with him. But when it’s time to get down and work, the players know it. I’d say for all the time I spent talking to him, only half of it was about Maize South football. He’s just an awesome guy and I can’t say enough good things about him.

The Smith Center game

This is something I wanted to get in the story, but there was just no room. The team was obviously disappointed not to be able to play the game. Everyone wanted a shot at the team to find out just how good they really are. Here are some quotes:

"They don't want to play football, they don't want to play,” Cayden Good. “I was ready to play them."

"I was pretty upset,” Aaron Wondra said. “I wanted to play those guys. Let them see something else besides some farm boys. Let them see some speed."

"I was upset,” Nehemiah Scott said. “I wish we could have played them. I think it would have been a good game. I think we might have had the ability to contend with them if everybody could have came together and done what they were supposed to do."

Would have been interesting.

If you have read all the way to here, I am beyond impressed.

To recap: Thanks to everyone at Maize South for being so open and accomodating. I had a blast. You don’t get opportunities like that, so I tried to make the most of it. Thanks to everyone on MSHS for making a great story. I can’t say enough good things about the kids they have on that team and the coaching staff. Hope you liked the story and I give you permission to hang it up in the locker room and give it a caption like you did the last story.