Varsity Kansas

High school offseason: Q&A with Andale's Gary O'Hair

A weekly question-and-answer session during the summer with an area high school coach.Today: Andale football coach Gary O'Hair

In the last five seasons, Andale is 62-4 with two Class 4A titles. O'Hair is 86-14 in eight seasons.

How has your summer been so far?

"Summers are always busy. I do the weight-room thing in the morning and evening, and teach driver's ed in the afternoons."

Do you ever have any close calls in driver's ed?

"You always have a few. I had to hit the brake once today. The girl was going to go through the fence. . . . She hit the gas instead of the brake."

What are you expecting from your team this season?

"We've got a good senior class coming back. There are some good athletes in it, several that have playing experience. I feel that in general, we're probably a little deeper in our skill positions than in the line of scrimmage. I think it will be a competitive team.

"On the offensive side we have Jake Hattabaugh back. He was our leading rusher, and he'll either play tailback or quarterback this year. He played both for us last year. . . . Ryan Horsch is at split end, Allen Trent at tight end. They all come back with al to of playing experience. Defensively, we have starters back in linebacker Austin Blachat, Ryan Horsch, who also starts in the secondary, Tucker O'Hair, my son. He started last year in the secondary. Blake Staats, he started in the secondary, and Allen Trent started at defensive end. That's all the returning starters, but we have other kids that got playing time, too."

How important is RB Jake Hattabaugh to your offense?

"He really is key. He's a talented kid, able to break tackles and he runs hard. He blocks well, also. He's a good, tough kid, the kind of kid you want a whole bunch of."

You don't have much experience on the offensive line. Does that concern you?

"You're always worried about that. But honestly, for the last four or five years, it's been that way for us. We've been getting a lot of seniors out and pretty much every year we're senior heavy. So those juniors, they know next year will be their year. We have kids stepping in there that have played some varsity but a lot of (junior varsity). We put a lot of emphasis on JV. We film those games and coach them up."

Is being senior heavy a sign of a strong program?

"What we've always tried to operate on is getting 30-35 freshmen and keeping 20-25 by the time they're seniors. (Then) we feel we will field a good team. They may not be good as freshmen, but by the time they are seniors, they will be. They ought to be ready."

Is the character of a team different when it is loaded with seniors?

"I don't know if I can answer it. They've watched the kids ahead of them play, they know how competitive it is. They put in a lot now, they've put in three years, so they're committed to it.

"I think the attitude on the football team is always good when upperclassmen are playing.

"Some coaches say that if they have a junior that is the same as a senior, they'll play the junior because they'll have him for two years. I think that's short-sighted. I don't think that's the way you build a program. Then you have problems with the senior. I'll play an underclassman, but he definitely has to be better than the senior."

How does your defense look?

"We feel that, obviously, we have a lot of experience in the secondary. Those are good kids. . . . We've talked about moving them; they'd be good linebackers, too. But I think we'll leave them there. Hopefully we'll have kids that will step up and be good at linebacker."

That 62-4 record in the last five years is pretty ridiculous.

"It is. We've had a lot of fun. Andale is a good place to coach. Some of the things I've been saying, when you get a lot of kids out, you have the luxury of playing seniors, developing a competitive atmosphere where kids have to play hard. You put kids on the field where they know what they're doing.

"We talk a lot about tradition. We don't necessarily talk about wins and losses. One of the things we picked up and I stole from someone years ago is every week, at the end of practices, we say, ‘1-0.'

"We want to be 1-0. That's our goal for the week. Rather than 14-0, where, if you lose a game, then you don't make your goal. You can lose a game and win state. You hear coaches say that all the time, but truly you have to do that. You have to prepare for whoever the next opponent is."

You have a tough early schedule, don't you?

"(Wichita) Collegiate is going to be tough, obviously. I know they lost some good kids, but that was a very, very talented team. I watched some film from last year, and they were talented. It will be a good game for us.

"We start off tough. We play Wellington, and they're good every year and they're dying to beat us. We haven't played Mulvane in a couple years now, and (coach Dave Fennewald) has a program that's good every single year. Then it's Rose Hill, which has dominated about everyone but us, and then Collegiate, and that no doubt will be a great game."

Collegiate was placed in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division IV by the Kansas State High School Activities Association, replacing Kingman that left for the Central Kansas League —how do you feel about the addition of Collegiate?

"Football-wise, I welcome it. It will be good competition for us. . . . That week when we played Kingman didn't do us any good. I know (Collegiate) is going to be a quality team and has the potential to beat us. I know that's what we need.

"Some of the other sports will have a tough time competing with them. You do feel they have some advantages, at least in other sports. In football, it's all about numbers, and we may have an advantage there."