WICHITA, Kan.—Three schools in the city league have new coaches this fall. Strangely, extending an introduction to these individuals seems unnecessary, because all three have coached football in the league prior to this season.
Weston Schartz was the head football coach at Northwest High School for the last ten seasons. He will take over the program at West High School, and would certainly find an introduction a bit unusual because as a Wichita West graduate, he considers the school his home.
In the fall of 2001, the last season Schartz spent at West before transferring to Northwest, the Pioneers were first in the city league losing only one game all season.
Since 2004 West has not placed higher than fifth in the league. Last season West was 1-8 and placed eighth. In fact, from 2004-2011, West has held a record of 12-51.
In that time span, Northwest was 57-26. Schartz says that being a competitive team is fun, but he wants to return to his family at West and see if he can bring a winning tradition with him as well.
“Why are we doing this? We are doing this to make a difference,” said Schartz. “And the bottom line is I can make more difference at West than I did at Northwest with kids. Because they need it just a little bit more, a little bit more guidance, a little more ‘oomph’. That’s not to take anything from the kids at Northwest, because some of my favorite kids of all time are at Northwest.”
Schartz plans to push the Pioneers to a higher and more competitive level, and in order to do so he has asked for help from some of his former players.
“Almost everyone on my staff played for me at West High or played for me at Northwest,” said Schartz. “They know the pride and tradition that was there [West] and they want to bring that back. West need to learn to win again, and in order to do something you’ve never done before, you’ve got to be willing to do something you’ve never done.””
With a job like coaching, winning is the obvious goal. But Schartz says that with West, winning wasn’t everything.
“I missed it. I missed the kids. I missed hanging out in the locker room until 8 or 9 o’clock at night after practice,” said Schartz. “The relationships I built over that time were amazing. When you get text messages on Father’s Day and 80% of them are from kids that played for you at West ten years ago those are the things that make you go back.”
Steve Martin will replace Schartz at Northwest High School. Martin was the head coach at Troy High school for four years and was 31-11 in his time there. He spent the last three seasons, though, as the defensive coordinator at Heights and is excited to be a head coach again.
“New coaches these days have an upper hand in getting to see what their players can do now instead of what they can do in August,” said Martin. “We’ve been to two padded camps this year, and we’ve had our own team camp. We are excited at the strides our kids have made in picking up the new offense and new defense this summer.”
Northwest was 7-3 last season and finished third in the city league. The Grizzlies scored more than thirty points in five of their ten games, but shut out a team only one time.
As the defensive coordinator at Heights, Martin comes to Northwest with similar guidance he gave to the strong Heights football program that shut out five of their thirteen opponents last season.
“Defensively we will look exactly like we did at Heights,” said Martin. “We will run a 4-3 and dab in many different coverage’s. We will be basic, but we will be where our kids are playing fast. That’s why we were so successful at Heights; we had a very vanilla scheme and our kids played fast in it.”
Wichita Heights was undefeated in the league last season and finished second in the state, but Northwest has been a competitive team as well and Martin is optimistic about their upcoming season.
“I think we are going to have a very good year,” said Martin. “We return four out of our five starters on the offensive line, and anytime you can return that many people on the offensive line, it’s great.”
When asked about the strengths of his Grizzlies team, Martin finds that Northwest has always been strong offensively, and they have just the right kids to continue the tradition.
“We have a very dynamic backfield right now where we have Deron Thompson who is a very electric runner,” said Martin. “He can run inside and also stretch a team horizontally as well. And then you know one guy competing for the starting job with him is Christian Sanders, who brings another pop. Northwest is known for its great running back, and there’s two I’ve named right there. And then when you throw in Karol Williams who is a sophomore into the mix, those are three dynamic runners that can all do things for us at Northwest. Throw in Chris Hughes and Erin Gaither at the quarterback position, and we will be very explosive offensively.”
As all teams have a weakness, Martin touches on what could affect their season most this year.
“Our weakness is our overall depth,” said Martin. “Before I took over the head coaching job, I’d say we probably have between 50-70 kids in our sophomore through senior class. We are going to platoon so we are looking for those kids that can contribute and help us on both sides of the ball. If we have any injuries, it could go from good to bad in a heartbeat.”
Wichita South’s new head coach, Kevin Steiner, sees the same weakness in his Titan team.
“A weakness we have is that we have a few injuries already that kind of hold us back,” said Steiner. “We really need to develop depth.”
Steiner grew up in Pilsen, Kansas and played football at Centre High School where his brother is currently the head football coach.
Steiner has never had the head job, but as an assistant football coach for the last three years at South High School, he has seen the program through good and bad days.
In 2009, South was in the middle of a three-way tie for third in the city league, but in 2010 the Titans fell to eighth place.
Last season they saw progress as they moved up into the fifth-place position. Steiner says in any case, you have to work to see the change you want to see.
“We have kind of been drilling the point home that we need to earn it,” said Steiner. “Whether that be something as simple as a jersey number, to playing time, to victories, to championships. We got to earn it.”
According to Steiner, the South team will not have much to adjust to because he plans to have a similar coaching style to former head coach, Cory Brack.
“There’s going to be subtle changes,” said Steiner. “I’m not trying to completely jump ship from the things we have done. I think Coach Brack’s done a good job in getting the program headed in the right direction, now we just need to take it to a new level.”
South scored 178 points to their opponents 330 points in 2011, but their strength this year is certainly something that can help them score more touchdowns this season.
“We have a lot of team speed,” said Steiner. “So to get the ball in space offensively, and let our athleticism run would be a strength that I see for us.”