Searching for respect: As No. 2 seed, Pirates look for second straight Class 2A state title
It’s hard for the Olathe High School football team to not have the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome.
No matter what they do, the Pirates just can’t seem to get any respect.
When the Class 2A state playoff brackets were released Sunday, Olathe found itself as the No. 2 seed.
For most teams, the No. 2 seed is nothing to complain about, but it has a different feeling when you’re the defending state champion who’s on a 24-game winning streak.
“I wasn’t really happy (with the seed) but that’s the way it goes,” Olathe coach Ryan Corn said. “The committee saw some things from us, and I guess they thought we had a weak league.”
The No. 1 seed was given to Faith Christian, but Corn has a valid argument for his team. Besides being the returning state champion with an undefeated record in 2009, the Pirates have been more dominant this year than they were last year.
“With a 24-game winning streak, we expected to be up there, but they saw us differently,” Corn said. “If nothing else, it puts a chip on our shoulders.”
It can be scary when the motivated get more motivation. The Pirates cruised to the 2A Western Slope Conference title by outscoring their opponents 340-68. The number of points scored against Olathe are a tad skewed, as 49 of those points came in the second half when the Pirates already had a sizeable lead.
“The last four or five weeks our defense has played very well,” Corn said. “We’ve been peaking on that side of the ball.”
The defense has played well, but it’s been helped by an Olathe offense that’s been near unstoppable this season. The Pirates rode oversized tailback David Rhodes to the state championship last season, and this year have replaced power with speed. Olathe is led by tailbacks Dylan Markley and Pablo Payan. Markley is the team’s leading rusher with 1,519 yards on 109 carries this season.
“Offensively we are clicking, and our run game is stretching things,” Corn said.
Payan missed three games this season because of injury, but still put up good numbers in seven games. A senior, Payan, has rushed for 838 yards on 65 carries. Olathe quarterback Garhett Jurgens is also an option running the ball, as he has 659 yards on 52 carries.
The thing all three ball carriers have in common is blazing speed. Both Payan and Jurgens were on the 400-meter relay team that finished second in the state in track. Markley is just as fast if not a step or two quicker.
“Our speed kills,” Corn said. “Those three guys off the edge are very good.”
But it’s important to not think the Pirates have done away with their smashmouth style. Olathe’s running backs have had their choice of holes as an experienced line has mowed down opponents all year. The Pirates have five seniors on the offensive line, led by returning starters Colby Corey and Andrew Steckel. Brett Burch, Ethan Seekins and Chase Harper round out the line.
“It’s a good size line,” Corn said. “All of those guys are over 200 pounds, which at 2A is huge.”
This weekend the Pirates play No. 15 seed Salida (5-5). Taking a page from last year’s title run, Corn said the team is incredibly focused on one game at a time.
“Last year we didn’t look down the road at all,” Corn said. “They know they have to take care of Salida before anything else can happen.”