Andale coach Dylan Schmidt and Dusty Trail at Bishop Carroll have more than 30 years of combined coaching experience, but Saturday will hold a first for both.
Trail and the Golden Eagles have maneuvered a rigorous 5A playoff slate, including a 66-38 win against Arkansas City in the opening round and a 29-17 victory over Goddard in the state semifinal.
To the north, Schmidt has picked up where Andale legend Gary O’Hair left the program, blowing through the regular season to a flawless record and sprinting to the 4A final outscoring opponents 124-36 in three games.
Still, neither Trail nor Schmidt has led a team to a state championship gamebecause neither was the head coach before 2017.
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So as Carroll takes the field in Pittsburg against St. Thomas Aquinas and Andale goes to Topeka to battle Bishop Miege, the Wichita coaches will be inexperienced in the role. But all too familiar with the stage.
“The situation you fall into is very important,” Schmidt said. “And I think that’s the thing I’ve learned. There are great situations out there, and you’re lucky when you get to be a part of one of them.”
He seemed a perfect fit for this job, and Saturday, he can manifest it.
Schmidt grew up in Andale, graduated in 2001 and came back to the Wichita area to start his coaching career as an assistant at Circle. After two years, he came back to Andale as an assistant, but his job was cut after another round of budget cuts.
He took the next step in 2011 and snagged the job as football coach at Wellington, an Andale district rival.
His first opponent as coach: his hometown – Andale.
“It’s just kinda like playing your brother,” Schmidt said. “You know the people that well, and I obviously was on that staff the year before, so to turn around and then play ’em the very first game of my first year as a head coach, yeah, it was a blast.”
Schmidt said he took a lot of pride in that game. He wanted to prove himself to the school that he loved and that was forced to let him go.
Wellington won that game 35-28. Andale had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie or win with a score and conversion, but on fourth down at the 20-yard line, the Andale quarterback spiked it. The game ended.
Wellington hadn’t beaten Andale in almost a decade and hasn’t won against the Indians since, but that game meant a lot, especially to the man who coached it.
“It’s a great way to get your first victory,” Schmidt said. “It was against some of your buddies, and obviously some of the guys now that I coached against, they’re still on the staff, so it’s a little bit of bragging rights.”
After the game, O’Hair called Schmidt. Although he was ultimately five years away from retirement, he saw Schmidt’s potential and knew where his priorities laid – back home, in Andale.
“He said, ‘Hey, look, I think if you wanna get this job as head coach, your best opportunity is to be here,’ ” Schmidt said.
So he left his head position at Wellington for Andale and stayed under O’Hair’s wing for five years as an assistant. And when O’Hair retired in 2016, athletic director Jason Fawcett promoted Schmidt.
To this point in Schmidt’s time as the coach at Andale, he has proven Fawcett unequivocally right. A state championship in his first season would only vindicate his boss even further. Schmidt called Bishop Miege “one of the top teams in all classes” in Kansas, having beaten Bishop Carroll’s 5A opponent Aquinas and last year’s 5A state champion, Mill Valley.
“With that said, we have absolutely nothing to lose,” Schmidt said. “We’re gonna go out there and play our guts out and do everything we can to represent Andale. … The preparation is the same, but at the same time, you’d be foolish not to kinda soak it up and say, ‘Hey, this is pretty special.’ ”
Bishop Carroll football oozes a tradition of winning, and its coach has been forged in it.
Trail came on board at Carroll in 1995 after applying to become the coach. Alan Schuckman got the job, but he called Trail and asked him to be on his staff. He was in.
Schuckman won 182 games in his 22 years at Carroll, winning a pair of state championship in 2012 and 2014. He finished as the second-winningest coach in City League history.
Trail said he learned so much from Schuckman that when he was promoted for the 2017 season after Schuckman’s retirement, there wasn’t too much he needed to do. The work had already been done.
“It really kinda boils down to the program that was put in place under Coach Schuckman,” Trail said. “Of course I was a part of that the entire time, and pretty much all the rest of the coaching staff was a part of putting that program in place.
“When coach Schuckman and I first got there 23 years ago, the program was not very successful. They hadn’t won very many games in a lot of years there, so we basically built the program from the ground up.”
Trail said being one of the secondary orchestrators to Carroll’s rise as a state power has obviously taught him more than anything, and that’s why the Golden Eagles have picked up where they left off in 2014, owning an 11-1 record before this state championship game.
Nonetheless, Carroll has had to work this season and has been tested and beaten. Midway through the regular season, the Eagles went to Derby and traded blows with the defending 6A champs but lost 54-45 after 957 total yards combined.
Carroll committed a late turnover in that game, and Trail said emotions had a lot to do with the final score after it happened. He said his team’s goal wasn’t to beat Derby; it was “still to come.” The time has come, and Trail said he and his players will lean on what has gotten them to this point.
At Bishop Carroll, it doesn’t matter if it’s the coach’s first year or his 22nd.
“If it’s not broke don’t fix it,” Trail said. “That’s the approach we took, continuing on with the same philosophy that we’ve been doing for the last 22 years, and it’s been very effective.”
State Football finals
All games 1 p.m. Saturday unless noted
Derby (11-1) vs. Blue Valley North (8-4)
Bishop Carroll (11-1) vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (11-1)
CLASS 4A, Division I
Andale (12-0) vs. Bishop Miege (12-0)
CLASS 4A, Division II
Holcomb (11-1) vs. Frontenac (9-3)
Marysville (12-1) vs. Sabetha (12-1)
Smith Center (11-1) vs. Pittsburg Colgan (10-2), 7 p.m.
8-MAN, Division I
Hoxie (11-1) vs. St. Paul (11-1), 11 a.m.
8-MAN, Division II
Hodgeman County (10-2) vs. Hanover (12-0)