Ready for a rematch: Olathe looking forward to showing Florence what has changed
Ryan Corn knows all about winning football programs.
The seventh-year Olathe High School coach has not only turned the Pirates into one — Olathe is making its fifth consecutive appearance in the Class 2A state playoffs — he played for one.
Corn leads the Pirates (10-2) against the program he played for, Florence (12-0), in the semifinals at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Olathe High School’s Wilson Field. The Huskies, led by 25th-year coach Mark Buderus, have qualified for the playoffs for more than 10 consecutive years and have won two Class 3A state titles during that stretch.
“I know Coach Buderus very well,” Corn said. “He was my coach. My offensive coordinator (Tyler Vincent) and I played for him. We know the tradition, mystique.
“It’s kind of fun. It’s very interesting. It’s funny, a lot of their staff I played with or coached with. It’s very exciting, but when it comes down to it, it’s still a competition.”
The coaches won’t be the only ones familiar with each other. The players are familiar with what their opponent runs on offense and defense, because it’s pretty much the same scheme.
Both teams run an option offense and both teams work out of a base 3-5 defense, with three down linemen, five linebackers and three defensive backs.
“They play very basic football,” Corn said. “Base football wins games.”
With its size and numbers advantage, Florence was able to dominate the Pirates in the third week of the season, winning 35-21 in Olathe.
“We’re real excited about it,” Corn said of the rematch. “The game we played against them last time wasn’t our best game. We weren’t playing at the level we could. We get a second chance.”
The Pirates have made several changes, making significant improvements since that game.
“From that game, we learned quite a bit,” Corn said. “We changed some positions around. We moved quite a bit around to see what we needed athletically.”
Senior Cody Harrison moved from middle linebacker to defensive line, and he started playing offensive guard after the Rifle game. Sophomore Josh Pietak impressed Corn enough to play nose guard.
“Josh Pietak has done a great job,” Corn said. “Those guys helped out a ton.”
Olathe added a twist to its offense as well, throwing in a pistol spread formation. The pistol spread is a spread offense with four receivers and one running back. The quarterback is in shotgun formation and can run the option out of the formation.
The Pirates are able to utilize the pistol because of senior quarterback Keifer Wollert’s throwing ability.
“We’ve added in quite a bit of passing game,” Corn said. “Keifer Wollert is more of a prototypical quarterback. We can throw the ball more. We’ve thrown it 8-10 times more this year. Last year we threw about twice a game. It’s a good change.
“More than anything for (Wollert), it was gaining confidence. He’s gotten progressively better. The highlight of year had to be Coal Ridge. He was almost perfect. He threw a couple touchdowns and ran the option well. The more confident he’s become, the better he got. He always had the tools.”
More than anything, the Pirates have benefited from senior leadership.
After losing to Florence, Olathe lost to Rifle 34-6, falling to 1-2 and raising doubt not only in town, but within the locker room.
“After the Rifle game, the kids had to take a big look at themselves,” Corn said. “The seniors came in and had their own team meeting. The kids pulled themselves in and said we’re missing these parts and had to fix it. That Monday, we looked at ourselves and solidified some things. They built confidence from within.
“We are more of a complete team than in the past. We have good talent, but nowhere near what we’ve had. This group responds well to each other.”