Only 12 points separated them from beating the eventual Class 5A state champions.
Goddard lost to Bishop Carroll 29-17 in its 2017 5A semifinal. A week later, Carroll beat Aquinas by 10. Now Goddard, along with a few other football powers in the Wichita area, will drop a classification. Even for the teams they will face on the 2018 schedule, that’s a welcome challenge.
“I don’t know what to expect,” said Tom Beason, first-year Goddard coach. “I’ve coached at 6A at North and been at Goddard in 5A, but I haven’t played McPherson or Buhler or Wellington in I don’t even know how long. So we will all be going through this together.”
Here is a look at the top classification changes in the Wichita area:
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Plenty of heavy hitters have moved classes for the 2018 season. The Lions are only one of the headliners. Northwest made it to the Class 6A semifinals and lost 53-41 to Derby. Coach Steve Martin said his players felt like if they won that game, they would have won the state championship.
Heavily motivated by the Derby loss, they are now in 5A. Martin said that doesn’t matter: Three of the Grizzlies’ toughest opponents last year were in 5A in Heights, Kapaun and Carroll.
Northwest opened with Carroll last season and will do that again in 2018, on Aug. 31, on the road. Carroll coach Dusty Trail said having the Grizzlies in the same classification doesn’t change anything in the Eagles’ preparation — for now.
“Our kids know that just because we dropped a class doesn’t mean it’s any easier,” Martin said. “You have Maize, Eisenhower, Maize South is moving up, Salina South will be much improved. You can never count out those guys.”
Class 5A certainly has its state powers, and many of them come from the Wichita area. Martin said he doesn’t have to talk to his guys about the change in classification because they just want to line up and play.
It doesn’t matter who is on the other side.
“Football is football,” Martin said. “Whether you’re playing 8-man or 6A, it’s all about competing. When I was at 2A Troy, it was all about getting your kids to compete. When you can do that, it doesn’t matter what class they’re in.”
That hasn’t historically been the case for now-3A Andale.
The Indians made it to the Class 4A-Division I state championship game last season and suffered a 40-point beatdown against Bishop Miege. Coach Dylan Schmidt said while he is happy to be away from Miege, 3A hasn’t been kind to Andale.
“I want to say the years we’ve been 3A in making the playoffs, we’re 0-6 or 0-8 in the past 20 to 30 years,” he said.
Schmidt was part of two 3A teams at Andale as a player in 1998 and 1999. In 1997, Schmidt and the Indians made the 4A semifinals before losing to eventual champion Sabetha. A year later, in a “lower” level of football, they didn’t even make the playoffs.
Andale will certainly be one of the favorites out of 3A this season after a 12-1 season in 2017. Schmidt said he definitely hopes his team does well in his second year as coach but knows there are plenty of good teams in 3A.
Class 3A has 16 more schools than 4A. There is Topeka Hayden, Pratt, Holcomb and defending champion Sabetha. There is Marysville and Scott City, too. Schmidt said every year there are about 8-10 teams that could win a state title. He is just hoping Andale is one of them, as it typically has in the past.
Cheney will be one of those teams affected.
In 2017, the Cardinals made it to the 3A sectionals before losing to eventual runner-up Marysville. Now there is another fighter in the ring. Coach Shelby Wehrman said bring it.
“I’m a guy that kind of looks for a challenge, so if we can compete with Andale and beat them, what does that say about how we will do in the playoffs?” he said. “I don’t see that as a scary thing, but I can see how some schools would take that road.”
Martin, the Northwest coach, said a lot of pressure can come when you have success at a high level and drop a class. Expectations are that they will improve. Martin said if he was told he would coach 5A football when he was hired, he would have laughed.
And when the announcement came down, he said, he got texts from friends asking whether it was a misprint. Martin said he and his players are drowning that out with less than a month to go.
“You’re damned if you do it, damned if you don’t,” Martin said. “I’m gonna go in and enjoy it. There can be a lot of pressure: ‘Is this your year?’ If every coach had that pressure, that’s not gonna be very fun. That’s not gonna be a good year. I’m just gonna enjoy the kids.
“If we’re still there the last weekend of November, great.”