Pirates face uncharted territory
The last time the Olathe High School football team finished below .500, the Carolina Panthers were in the Super Bowl and John Elway had just been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Since 2004, Ryan Corn has notched two state titles, one undefeated season and cemented Olathe’s status as one of the premier programs on the Western Slope.
But Corn is facing an unprecedented hurdle in his team’s dynamic run. A team usually laden with upperclassmen at all positions has six seniors whom Corn calls “impact players.” The rest of the team is made up of juniors with little experience from the conference championship squad of 2011.
Last season, the Pirates fell short of their own high standards, losing to Brush in a state quarterfinal. And this year, the league isn’t going to be any easier. Bayfield, who bowed out as 2A runner-up at state, is moving to the 2A Western Conference from the 2A Mountain Conference with back-to-back conference titles and a combined 21-3 record over the past two years.
The Wolverines have had their own run of success, finishing above .500 every year since 2006. Although Bayfield must replace Colt Walker and Aaron Velasquez, a quarterback and running back who combined for nearly 3,000 rushing yards last season, Corn said the Wolverines are a veteran bunch.
“Every coach is probably picking Bayfield to win the league. If not, they’re dumb,” Corn said.
The Pirates will be looking for offensive leadership in Jacob Solseth, a quarterback with the ability to run and throw and likely will serve as a spark plug for the team, Corn said.
“Above all else, he competes,” Corn said. “The kid wrestles and swims and does things like that. He’s going to go out there and work hard for us.”
It all begins up front for the best football teams, and Olathe will lean heavily on experienced senior defensive linemen Anthony Aguila and Rio Green.
“We need to run good base defense if we want to compete,” Corn said. “We need to be fundamentally sound and be competitive on the line. We lack the dynamic speed we’ve had in the past, so we need to execute well.”
Offensively, the Pirates have gotten a good look at Trent Piatt, a senior who will transition from special teams to the offense. Piatt returned kicks for the varsity last year and will be looking to turn that vertical speed into speed between the tackles.
Olathe has a lot of question marks, and the addition of Bayfield to the league might make the road back to a state title tougher. But on Oct. 19, the two perennial powerhouses will meet to see which of them has filled in the gaps better — and possibly secure a 2A Western Conference championship.