Varsity Kansas

Follow-up has been tough for South

If it's been quiet around South's football team this season, it isn't just because the Titans have failed to win a game.

It's a leadership thing.

Last year's seniors were vocal leaders, and chemistry helped South finish 5-5, beat eventual Class 6A runner-up Heights and advance to the postseason for the first time since 1971.

It was anticipated that South could make last year's rise to the upper half of the City League commonplace, but it hasn't happened. The Titans are 0-6 entering tonight's 6A-District 7 opener against North.

Coach Cory Brack has stressed the importance of such intangibles to this year's team, but he mostly hasn't been able to get more experienced players to say the right things, or sometimes to say anything at all.

"I expected them to know how to be able to do that," Brack said. "In the last few weeks we've been working on some leadership things and I should have taken more of a role in that. You hope that carries over from year to year, but each year kids are different.

"I think our kids knew last year that somebody was going to step up and say something or knew somebody was going to do what needed to be done. I think they came into this year expecting the same thing and it didn't happen."

It's an ego thing.

The Titans let theirs expand after the most successful season at South in nearly four decades. Understandable.

South has been shocked by a return to reality. The upbeat confidence is gone, replaced by a hope that district play can bring something different.

West beat South 14-6 in the opener, then South was outscored 115-6 by Bishop Carroll and Kapaun Mount Carmel in its next two games. Then 161-20 in its next three.

"I think coming off last year, everybody thought we were going to be real good," senior linebacker Lucas Marsh said. "Our seniors aren't as vocal as last year because last year we had something to prove."

It's a personnel thing.

Graduated quarterback Zack Villarreal gave the Titans stability at the most important position and everything else would fall into place. Duwayne Kelly was a serviceable running back, gaining nearly 600 yards as a complement to South's passing attack.

Kelly moved to quarterback to start the season and never got comfortable. That prompted a switch to Kaale McCulloch, with the idea that the sophomore could gain experience for districts and into next season.

South's defense hasn't been as strong, either. The Titans allowed fewer than 10 points three times last season but have allowed nearly 50 per game so far.

Lineman Jordan Turner, who orally committed to play at Memphis, has been unavailable much of the season for disciplinary issues.

"I expected us to be better than we are right now," Brack said. "But you've got to go with the flow of the season and sometimes the ball doesn't go your way in certain games. You just have to get better week to week."

The Titans can still save their season because the teams in their district — North, Campus and Northwest — have a combined 3-15 record.

Brack wants his players excited about that possibility. He wants them to say something.

"Kids don't want to hear their coach on their case all the time, correcting them," Brack said. "They want to hear it more from their peers than from you. We've been going through some leadership things where I can teach the younger kids how to become leaders for the last three weeks and carry it over into next year."