DHS coaches return with experience, new leadership
Eleven head coaches and countless assistants endured difficult times but also witnessed signs of progress last year during their debut seasons with De Soto High School athletic teams.
This year, all of the coaches will be back with their respective teams but will answer to a new boss with 25 years of teaching and coaching experience at DHS.
New DHS Athletic Director Roy Hawley has served as an assistant football coach, head track coach and head girls basketball coach for the Wildcats. Last season, Hawley was an assistant on Dwight Spencer's girls basketball staff and also coached the girls junior varsity squad.
A health and physical education teacher at DHS, Hawley grew up in Dodge City and graduated from Fort Hays State University. He coached the football teams at Palco High School in western Kansas and Rossville High School near Topeka before coming to De Soto in 1976.
This fall, Hawley will oversee several changes in De Soto sports. De Soto and Mill Valley will no longer share a wrestling team. The Wildcats have hired former DHS wrestler and football player Eric Deyoe to lead the program. In football, De Soto will have two new coaches, Allen Terrell, a Kansas State football player from 1993-97, and Mike Wiley, who previously coached football at Lexington Trails Middle School. Former Mill Valley girls' volleyball assistant Amy Otto will go across the district to help the Wildcats' cause while Rachel Huhn, an assistant coach on Spring Hill's 2001 girls basketball state tournament team, will join the Wildcat girls' basketball and volleyball staffs as an assistant.
Like many of his Wildcat colleagues, Hawley had the opportunity to teach and coach at Mill Valley High School but has recognized De Soto as a home because of his years there.
" I've been here the longest now and I have a lot of strong feelings about De Soto and the high school," Hawley said. " I wouldn't want to move to another school and compete against De Soto."
Hawley said he hoped to establish a level of consistency at the athletic director position to complement a bright, young coaching staff.
"We've had some very good athletic directors but we haven't been able to establish the consistency we really need," Hawley said. "I am really happy with the caliber of coaches they have here."
Hawley also noted that the coaches guided their teams positively even during the most trying times.
'It was unbelievable what our coaches did with the lack of experienced athletes," Hawley said. 'Trying to play football without seniors is very difficult but never once did I hear the coaches use that as an excuse. Every sport has just about everybody coming back from last year."
Brad Scott, the head coach of the DHS football and golf teams, was an assistant football coach at Olathe South for seven years. He said the transition would be yet having someone like Hawley will help the entire athletics program at DHS.
"My first year as a head coach was definitely a learning experience," Scott said. "This will be the first year that a senior class at DHS will have the same (football) coaching staff for two years in a row. You can't measure Roy Hawley's experience, and he will be a resource for coaches to lean on when they need to handle things."
Head track and field coach Brad Qualls came to De Soto from Topeka Hayden High School where he was the head boys track coach. Qualls, who also serves as the defensive coordinator for the DHS football team, said the opportunity to coach both girls and boys track was one that he could not pass up.
"I enjoyed my first year of coaching a lot because I was able to mold the entire track program into the way I wanted it," Qualls said. "Hopefully, we will get some more numbers next season. I am also excited about the football program because we haven't seen this much improvement in one year."
Qualls attributes De Soto's strong efforts in various sports to the young people who thrive at the chance to play varsity at a young age.
"The kids have taken an attitude that nobody is going to do it for them," Qualls said. "They get a chance to compete at the varsity level and they do the important things like going to the weight room and camps."
Hawley and the entire Wildcat athletic staff is confident that the freshmen and sophomores' varsity experience will pay large dividends down the road.
'I think we're going to have a good year in athletics but this (Kaw Valley League) is an awfully competitive league," Hawley said. "I will work with and try to support the coaches as much as I can."