It’s the power game as usual for the Olathe Pirates
Tough, physical players and power football is the Olathe way.
For the past decade, coach Ryan Corn has embraced that simple philosophy, and it’s led to a pair of Class 2A state titles in 2008 and 2010.
This season will be no different, but the biggest hurdle for the Pirates will be developing young, inexperienced players. Corn likes what he sees from the perspective of potential.
“The seniors we have coming back are outstanding leaders, and we have a good junior class,” he said.
Successful power running games have depended on a big, physical offensive line in the past, and Corn said that might be the team’s strength, especially as the season progresses.
“We’re going to be back to some of those older Olathe lines. These guys are all 200-plus (pounds),” he said. “When you can get that kind of size on the offensive line, once they get to clicking, it’s going to be fun to watch. But we have to get them clicking. They’re all rookies right now. They haven’t played a lot.”
With only one returner on offense and two on defense, inexperience is the Pirates’ biggest challenge, but with the sound tradition of Olathe football, Corn is expecting the next class to continue that legacy.
“(The key will be) how quickly these kids can transition from being JV players to varsity players. If they can figure things out quickly, good things will happen,” he said.
Don’t confuse the term power football with predictability, because Corn isn’t afraid to change things up. The veteran coach is always tweaking and adapting to meet his personnel and opponent.
Last year, he switched from the traditional flexbone to the I-formation midway through the season, but the result was the same — a potent power-running game. The Pirates will stick with the I-formation this fall.
“It’s just because of our personnel, but things haven’t changed, we’re still about power football,” he said. “We’re just keying off two backs instead of three.”
With Mitchell Carlson back, the Pirates have experience and leadership at quarterback. Corn said the senior has a good arm, and with some good receivers they hope to be more diverse on offense than last season.
Junior Chaden Harris will be the main runner, and a pair of seniors at outside linebacker lead the defense. Mario Hightower and Alex Quintero will be the main players on a defense that Corn thinks will “be pretty stingy.”
With a divided 12-team 2A Western Slope Conference this season, Olathe will have some long road trips, most of them more than 2½ hours.
Corn said playing well on the road will make or break his team.
The WSC Southern Division features Olathe, Alamosa, Gunnison, Bayfield, Pagosa Springs and Montezuma-Cortez. The Northern Division has Aspen, Basalt, Roaring Fork, Coal Ridge, Moffat County and Battle Mountain.
Olathe football has a tried-and-true formula for success, but that success starts and ends with one thing, Corn said.
“Work ethic is always a key for us. We’ve got blue-collar kids. They’re hard workers, so they always have a good work ethic,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting better every week.”