Wildcat football team turns things around
All turn around success stories must start somewhere. For the De Soto High School football program, things began to pick up in the Gardner seven-on-seven tournament, a seven-on-seven league and a recent lineman competition.
De Soto showed that it was also a postseason threat as they advanced to the semifinal round of the Gardner seven-on-seven tournament at Gardner-Edgerton High School on Saturday.
The Wildcats won their round-robin pool by defeating Orrick, Mo., 32-28 and Paola 30-22. Junior running back Michael Allen left the Paola game because of a nose injury.
De Soto coach and Baker University senior football player Ryan Costello said the team was becoming more comfortable in games that go down to the wire.
Costello played football at Olathe South from 1994-97 under current De Soto head coach Brad Scott, an assistant for the Falcons at the time.
"They have the desire to win," Costello said. "When a game is close, they find a way to win."
De Soto faced Spring Hill in the quarterfinal round of the tournament without the services of Allen. Senior Justin Haub stepped up and hauled in three touchdown passes from junior quarterback Greg Francis. Senior Bart McGivern came up with a key interception that helped put the Wildcats over Spring Hill 40-30.
De Soto started off strong in the semifinal round against the Wellsvllle Eagles, their third Frontier League opponent of the day. Francis connected with McGivern for an early touchdown pass.
By halftime, the game turned into an offensive shootout. Francis and McGivern came up with stops on the other side of the ball late in the second half. However, Wellsville pulled ahead 38-36 in the final seconds and the Wildcats failed to complete a touchdown pass on the last play of the game. The championship game turned into the I-35 series as Wellsville faced host Gardner-Edgerton, who defeated Baldwin in the other semifinal matchup.
"We are getting along pretty well," McGivern said. "Wellsville had a bit more speed and we have to get faster as a team."
Francis said the 'Cats 11-2 combined record between the league and the tournament gave them confidence in the red zone, a place where they consistently struggled during the 2000 season.
"I think most of our play in the league will carry over into the season," Francis said. "We were able to finish in the red zone in seven-on-seven. We also have a better idea of the offense this year."
De Soto offensive/defensive line coach Allen Terrell said it was hard to tell if the team's success was an indication of things to come in the fall.
"It is a passing league but it shows the talent levels, and the kids match up really well," Terrell said. "It is teaching our kids how to win."
The Wildcats finished 8-1 in the regular season of the Gardner summer league at its Basehor site. With the ever-improving passing game of Francis and several touchdown receptions from Haub, De Soto defeated Turner, Kaw Valley League rival Tonganoxie and a top notch Bonner Springs team during league play.
While the skill players were dominating the seven-on-seven, Terrell took the linemen to a lineman challenge in Grandview, Mo., against players from larger schools in the area two weeks ago.
Several Wildcats enjoyed success in the shuttle run, tire throw, squat reps, bear crawl, bench press and obstacle course events.
Seniors David Davis and Jim Stevens stood out for the Wildcats while sophomore T.J. Tops represented some of De Soto's young talent.