Liberal football continues turnaround with best start in 20 years

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 10:39 PM CDT
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LIBERAL, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - In recent history, the football program at Liberal High School has fallen on hard times. Just once since 2006 have they finished with a record above .500, this after they were one of the state’s top powerhouses for all of the 1990s.

The team then won four state championships and took runner-up three times, playing for a title every year from 1991-1997.

“It’s all up in the gym, all the banners, yeah we know all about that,” said senior Zayden Martinez.

“We really want to bring back the tradition, I mean obviously won a lot of state titles in the 90s so its cool to see that and want to bring it back for sure,” added his classmate J. Brooks Kappelman.

Led by Gary Cornelsen for the course of that dominant run, he retired following the 2003 season. That was the last time Liberal started a season 3-0, that is until last week.

“That was the message in the locker room,” said head coach Bryan Luetters, “we haven’t talked about it all week, message in the locker room was none of these dudes are 20 years old and my assistant coaches are barely 22-23-24 years old so they weren’t around or they were very young when that happened last time. So I told them they could do something that has never happened in their life, and they’re proud of it.”

Luetters himself came to Liberal needing just one year to win a championship as a head coach, leading Meade to the 8-Man Division I title in 2021. Shortly after that win, he was hired on at Liberal to take over and look to turn the program around.

Now with a 3-0 record and still three home games to play, the buzz around the program and community is growing.

“Everyone’s starting to believe, the kids mentally are starting to believe,” said Luetters.

“Working hard all summer, all of us have been playing for four years and kind of sick of losing so its been a really big deal winning these games” continued Kappelman.

Liberal will look to move to 4-0 when they open up conference play against rival Dodge City Friday night.