Varsity Football

He had 3 interceptions and a touchdown to spur a 14-point fourth-quarter comeback

Chance Omli comes to high school every day with a notebook in his backpack, but it’s not for class.

Omli is Eisenhower football coach Darrin Fisher’s student aide. He helps in class, but a lot of his time is spent with his head buried in the notebook. Fisher had no idea what his senior safety and receiver was using it for.

When he found out, Fisher knew Omli was going to be one of the greatest players he had coached.

“He has that notebook tabbed up game-by-game,” Fisher said. “He draws up every single play, the formation, who they targeted, what down-and-distance it was. He knows who they are going to change coverages to. He knows who they are going to blitz with and who they are going to help to.

“You can’t teach that. Now I ask him every day, ‘What’d you learn?’ “

Omli was the best player on the field Thursday in Eisenhower’s 20-14 road win over AVCTL II rival Andover. He had three interceptions and a touchdown that helped turn a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit into a six-point victory and Fisher’s first win on the road as coach of the Tigers.

“We just believe,” Omli said.

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

Eisenhower’s offense is a work in progress under Fisher. For the past six years, the Tigers have run an option offense. Fisher wants to run the spread. The change in scheme looked like it was set to fail Thursday.

Eisenhower’s offense didn’t have a point through seven quarters dating to the fourth quarter of Week 1. The Andover defense was taking the ball away and turning fourth down stops into commonplace. The Tigers were having trouble completing screen passes.

The good news was Eisenhower’s defense was almost as strong.

Omli had two interceptions before he caught a slant route early in the fourth quarter for the Tigers’ first touchdown. He was the quarterback of the secondary, too. He barked out orders pre-snap and made sure the Tigers’ defense was in position to make plays.

He had seen the film. He knew what was coming.

He has done it all season. In Week 1 against Salina Central, he flipped sides with his fellow safety because he saw a route combination coming based on the formation. He was right, jumped the pass and snagged an interception.

Still, at halftime, Eisenhower trailed 6-0. The deficit felt much larger. Fisher said not to panic.

“We talked this week about being loyal and trusting the process,” Fisher said. “We have a saying called, ‘Prime the well.’ You got to keep pumping that well, and eventually you’ll get a little bit of water and a little bit more. Soon, it starts flowing.”

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

Eisenhower hit water on one of the final plays of the third quarter.

Senior cornerback Shaun Brogan lined up looking to block a 51-yard field goal attempt from Andover’s All-America kicker David Kemp. Brogan flew in around the right side of the line and got his hands to it.

Kemp, who hit a 57-yard attempt in pregame warm-ups, would have made it a three-score game. Instead, the Tigers smelled blood.

After Omli’s touchdown, Eisenhower got a three-and-out, and senior running back Parker Wenzel plowed his way in from about 12 yards out. He reached at the goal line to tie the game at 14.

Andover couldn’t find its rhythm again. Eisenhower forced another stop as junior safety Cody Houser stopped Andover senior reciever Harper Jonas a yard short of a first down on third down.

That set up a little bit of magic.

“Once we got that drip of water, we knew,” Fisher said. “ ‘We got ‘em.’ “

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

Looking for the go-ahead score, Eisenhower junior receiver Mason Turney huddled on the sideline with the offense before starting the drive. Fisher told Turney he was going to call the deep shot. About five plays later, he did.

With 4:15 to go, Eisenhower backup junior quarterback Nick Hogan launched his best ball of the night to Turney about 40 yards down the left sideline. There wasn’t a defender within 10 yards of Turney, but the ball hit him in stride. Turney walked in for the touchdown that gave Eisenhower the lead.

Hogan was hurt on the play and had to watch the rest of the game from the back of a utility vehicle. He didn’t play a snap with a lead, but his effort in the fourth quarter made it possible, Turney said.

“He stepped up,” Turney said. “It was a short week, and it wasn’t perfect, but he stepped up tonight.”

On Andover’s last shot, the Trojans got into Eisenhower’s side of the field, but junior Brent Ho, in the first start of his career, caught Eisenhower’s fourth interception of the night to ice it.

“I’m just thinking, ‘Don’t drop the ball now,’ ” Ho said. “I’m not the best catcher on the team, but that’s how things happen sometimes I guess.”

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

After the game, almost every Eisenhower player came up to Hogan, still in the back of the utility vehicle, to hug him. They told him they loved him.

Fisher said Thursday’s win was, “monumental.” The Tigers entered Week 3 with a 1-1 record. A loss would have been crushing to a team that won three games last year. Fisher said

Instead, a victory — inspired by a notebook that lead to three turnovers and six points — banded a group together under a coach still looking to win his players’ trust.

“I’m just hoping they buy what I sell,” Fisher said. “I know it’s only the third game and that doesn’t mean it’s the end of our season, win or loss, but at some point, the kids have to see a return. For a coach developing a program, you want to see returns earlier than later.”

Fisher said one of his biggest fears as a coach is that losing games would rip players away from the program. Instead, he said 13 kids asked to join the team even after a 33-2 loss to Andover Central.

“We put all our trust in (Fisher),” Omli said. “We believe that what we’re doing right here at Eisenhower is the right way to do it. We see great things in the future.”

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle
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Wichita Eagle preps reporter Hayden Barber brings the area updates on all high school sports while adding those hard-to-find human-interest stories on Wichita’s student-athletes.
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