Varsity Kansas

Collegiate draws from 2000 champions

The first time Wichita Collegiate football coach Bill Messamore mentioned the Spartans' undefeated Class 3A championship team from 2000, it was shortly after Spartans fan Jim Collins died last summer.

To let this year's team know how much Collins meant — he was a supporter and the parent of former player James Collins — Messamore showed a video.

"We showed a film of how the parents supported the 2000 team, and it was a funny video, a lot of fun," Messamore said. "After that, there was a little piece of footage, a highlight of 2000. I was starting to turn the recorder off, and they said, 'no, we want to see that.' "

Since then that championship team has been mentioned frequently. Especially now that Collegiate (12-0) is playing at Norton (9-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday in a Class 3A semifinal.

Alums from 2000 have paraded through the Collegiate locker room. Banks Floodman, a 2000 Top 11 player who played at Kansas, came through. So did Patrick Ritchie, Will Messamore, Joe Rheem and even Jamie Rheem, who played on the 1994 title team.

"They gave us a little pep talk about how this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and to make the most out of the opportunity," Collegiate quarterback Blake Jablonski said."... Just to hear the alumni come in, you're in the same situation they were in before. You see them all grown up and you know that one day, you'll be there, too.

"You hope you're going to be back here to encourage the other young players."

Messamore compares this team to 2000, and not merely because of the success. There's some eerie parallels.

* The coaching staff has changed some — Messamore was the defensive coordinator then, now he's the head coach. But coach Mike Gehrer returned this season as an assistant.

"Our roles are not really reversed," Messamore said. "They're about exactly the same as they were then. I'm more of an X and O guy, he's more of a motivator."

* Collegiate opened the season with Nickerson, just as it did in 2000. One of the Spartans' best players got hurt — in 2000 it was quarterback Joe Rheem; this season it was Tyler Coughenour. Both returned to play.

* In Game 2 of both seasons, the Spartans had one of their worst performances.

* In Game 3, Collegiate knew it would be tested but still won against a quality opponent — it was Scott City in 2000, Hesston in 2009.

"That's when we had an inkling as a coaching staff that we had something special," Messamore said.

* Another parallel is the Spartans' defense. In the past several years, Collegiate's defense often was considered soft.

That perception disappeared after Collegiate handled the physical running teams of Garden Plain and Scott City.

* Collegiate's first-round victory over Conway Springs in 2000 was one of the most complete games Messamore remembers in his tenure at Collegiate. That was a game the Spartans had focused on since losing to Conway Springs the previous season.

This season, Collegiate played Garden Plain.

"The best game we've played this year was Garden Plain," Messamore said. "That's almost as complete a game as we can play."

There's one major difference between the 2000 and 2009 teams: offense. The 2000 team was led by the hard-running Floodman, who had 1,753 rushing yards out of a double-tight wishbone offense.

Jablonski uses pinpoint accuracy to lead this Collegiate team in the spread offense. He has thrown for 3,365 yards and 43 touchdowns.

The focus on the 2000 championship has motivated the Spartans. But Floodman may have said it best in a pregame speech.

"He said, 'I'm sick of hearing about the 2000 team,' " Jablonski recalled. "'I want to hear about the 2009 team, about how they were state champions.' "

Collegiate doesn't have it easy on Saturday at Norton, which has a balanced attack with quarterback Connor Pfannenstiel.

Yet there's no doubt that Collegiate has proved itself. It's had the blowouts, it's had the come-from-behind win, the defensive battles.

Just like in 2000.

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