The Bullodgs’ football and volleyball teams are a combined 32-4 in 2018.
Douglass — a high school of 160 students — hasn’t had that kind of start to a school year since the early 1990s at the latest, and that has the school and the city in a different energy.
“We’ve been waiting for this season for a while,” senior linebacker Kyle Hurd said. “We’ve been prepping for it our four years of high school, just growing for it.”
The Bulldogs football team won a district championship last season but finished with a 3-7 record. In the three years before that, they won seven games combined. But this year is different.
Douglass is 5-1 and sit atop their 2A district with a +63 point differential. The Bulldogs have 14 seniors in 2018. At one point, they boasted the state’s leading rusher, senior Zachary Dressler. And Friday at Fredonia, they have a chance to win the most games the school has won in a single season since before 2004.
Senior tight end Kaleb Hurd said it comes down to mental toughness, and Dressler said it definitely helps that they have all been playing together for years.
“We’re playing for each other and not just for ourselves,” Dressler said. “We’re brothers. We really are. Right now, everybody is doing their job. ... We’re trying not to get caught up in the records or numbers. Right now we’re in a pretty special position. Not everybody gets the chance to play in a season like this.”
Kyle said if everyone isn’t on the same page and doesn’t execute their roles, the Bulldogs wouldn’t be 5-1.
A lot of the Bulldogs’ football success has to be traced to coach Kelley Sayahnejad, who took over the program four years ago when the class of 2018 were freshmen. It has been a pleasure to watch his seniors grow, he said.
Kyle said keeping consistency in the coaching staff has meant a lot to their success because they know what is expected.
“We know how they coach and how they work,” he said. “We know what to ask and what not to ask to make him upset.”
Sayahnejad said the guys are trying to not get too far ahead of themselves. Class 2A is one of the more top-heavy classifications in Kansas this season, and right now, Douglass is just another cog in the wheel.
The Bulldogs’ five wins have come against teams with a combined five wins, but they are outscoring those opponents by 27.6 points per game. Their only loss came in Week 2 to Garden Plain, one of the best 2A teams in the state.
Douglass still has a lot to prove, but the vibe is building.
“It’s always a challenge because you always want to focus on what’s ahead,” Kaleb said. “But we just really need to focus on what we’re solely doing at the moment rather than getting ahead of yourself.”
And that energy extends throughout the Bulldogs’ sports teams this season.
The Douglass volleyball team is 27-3 and sits No. 5 in Class 3A, according to the Kansas Volleyball Association state rankings. The Bulldogs’ only losses are to 5A power Maize South, Sedgwick on the road with three starters out and Circle in the Thunderbirds’ home tournament.
Like the football team, the volleyball team has eight talented seniors, including three who have already verbally committed to play in college. One of those college-bound seniors, outside hitter Katelyn Moore, said it is an exciting time around the school.
“It’s nice to see those boys put in work and see it pay off this season and see them come out to their true potential and work as a team,” she said. “It’s been nice to go to games and watch them win because in the past we’d go and think, ‘We’re probably going to lose, but we’re going to go support them because they support us.’
“But now we’re going because, ‘Hey, we might get a dub out of this.’ “
Coach Leanna Braddy, a Douglass grad, has built the Bulldogs’ program into one of the most consistent in the Wichita area. Since 2011, they have four sub-state championships and a pair of league titles.
At least their record would reflect they are on their way to more success in 2018. But Braddy said this year’s group might be one of the best she has had as far as raw talent is concerned. And with that, the school is equally invested.
“I feel like everyone is just excited for each other,” she said. “That’s what I like, hearing the girls say, ‘Hey, guys, that was awesome the other night,’ or when the guys come. They’ve been traveling over an hour to watch us.”
Braddy said a lot of success comes down to numbers, too. There are about 80 kids in the senior class. Senior libero Greely Munroe said it’s not fun having to raise money for a senior trip, but it is paying off now.
It’s not just the football and volleyball teams though. The Douglass cross country teams and girls tennis team have also followed suit and found success in 2018, too.
With so much happening at Douglass early in this school year, Braddy said things are changing.
“It’s the expectations,” she said. “Everyone knows, ‘You have the potential. This is the year that you all can be successful.’ Whereas in the past it was hodge-podge kind of all over the place.”