Varsity Kansas

Clearwater football: Year of experience strengthens confidence

Clearwater's Hunter Hall
Clearwater's Hunter Hall The Wichita Eagle

It wasn’t an easy decision to blow up the playbook a year ago at Clearwater and move to a pistol option offense. Coach Dirk Ankerholz said the change was made to benefit the program in the long term. The short-term struggles were obvious.

“You’re talking a lot of timing and reps and going through things to get it down. Plus we had a brand new (offensive) line,” Ankerholz said.

The result was a 4-5 season full of highlights when the offense got the new system and frustration when it didn’t. The team alternated wins and losses the entire season.

But after a year of gaining experience, Ankerholz said many of the same players are back with a much more confident attitude toward the offensive approach.

“Especially up front, there are a lot fewer questions and we’re seeing a lot more consistency,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for. We want more consistency than what we saw last year – even on a play-by-play, series-by-series, game-by-game basis.”

Last season’s growing pains were especially difficult to endure coming off an 8-2 season in 2011 that Ankerholz said gave the program its first league championship in 30 years. Johnny Becker, now entering his senior year, said there were some leadership qualities on that eight-win squad that he wants to see carried over into this season.

“We had really good potential my sophomore year and had really good leadership,” he said. “We have the athletes to be great this year. We know we can go out there and compete.”

Four returning starters on the offensive line will help, along with the knowledge they gained from running the new offense last year. The experience will be key this season, especially toward the end of a difficult schedule that will put the Indians on the road for four of their final five games.

“There are some things we can do to improve our consistency,” Ankerholz said. “We went to an offensive structure last year that we knew was going to suit our kids for a while. We looked at who we had coming up, and so each year in this system we should see more and more confidence.”

Even in summer workouts, the familiarity was apparent.

“It was a little confusing at times,” Becker said. “It’s a lot better now. Everybody knows what’s going on, and the timing is there. We knew we had to go through those things last year, and that’s made us more ready for this year.”

Clearwater Indians

Coach: Dirk Ankerholz, fifth season, 20-18

League: AV-CTL Division IV

Last season: 4-5

Last five seasons: 25-24

Projected 2013 playoff team? No

Top skill players

Player Ht. Wt. Pos Yr.
Johnny Becker 6-0 185 WR-DB Sr.
Hunter Hall 6-2 205 QB Jr.
Devin Roth 6-1 190 FB-LB Sr.
Landon Smith 6-2 205 TE-DE Sr.

Top linemen

Player Ht. Wt. Pos Yr.
Joe Cordell 5-10 235 OL Sr.
Cameron Hilley 6-3 240 OL Sr.

2012 results

Opponent Score
Eisenhower L,22-20
El Dorado W,26-6
Andale L,48-14
Augusta W,28-20
Collegiate L,38-35
Circle W,41-13
Wellington L,34-21
Winfield W,27-13
Mulvane L,39-0

2013 schedule

Date Opponent
Sept. 6 Eisenhower
Sept. 13 El Dorado
Sept. 20 at Andale
Sept. 27 Augusta
Oct. 4 at Collegiate
Oct. 11 at Circle
Oct. 18 Wellington
Oct. 25 at Winfield
Oct. 31 at Mulvane

Johnny Becker on his team

What Clearwater does well: “We have a lot of returning offensive linemen, so that’s going to be a strength of ours.”

What has to improve: “Last year we had quite a few penalties, and that’s something we have to work together on. In our offense there’s a lot of timing to get right, and things will get better there.”