The farthest the Veritas Christian football team ever has advanced in the Kansas Christian Athletic Assn. playoffs is to the semifinals - for the past two years.
In his sixth year as Veritas coach, Doug Bennett wants to change that.
"The KCAA state championship has been the goal since Week One," Bennett said. "Early on, we thought maybe that goal was too high, but we're starting to see things come together, and we think we've got a real shot at being able to win that state championship within our league."
The Eagles started the season 0-3, raising questions about whether this would be a down year for Veritas football.
However, the Eagles have won their last two games, including victories against Wichita Trinity and St. John's Military.
You guys started the game against Wichita Trinity with two turnovers. What was it like to come back and win that game?
Coming into that game, we were 0-3, and we knew we were building this year's team with a lot of new players and a new offense. They knew out of the gates we had some really tough competition. After having the two turnovers, you could see it in their eyes. They were kicking themselves. They knew they were a better team than their opponent. They just dug deep, never gave up and played a great game.
Veritas plays eight-man football. Do you ever see the program building to an 11-man program?
The school's development committee has done some research on that to see what size we can reach in the upcoming years. They think the school can grow to about 400 students (from about 150 currently) in the next 10 years. With 400 students, you'd have to be considering going from an eight-man program to an 11-man. It's just going to dictate on the number of kids that come out as the school grows. We'll just take it a year at a time.
What about coaching eight-man football is different than the 11-man game?
I still think it all comes down to fundamentals. When they narrow the field by 13 yards, the eight-man game is pretty much the same as the 11-man game. It essentially accounts for those three players that came out. The width is 53 yards for the regulation 11-man game, and then 40 yards for eight-man. I think eight-man has a reputation for a high-scoring type of game. A lot of that comes when you play on an 11-man field and not on the proper eight-man field. All of our home games are on an actual eight-man sized field. A lot of times on away games, we'll play on a larger field. You just don't have as many guys to try to coach on the field, so you usually have a speedster on one team or the other, and they know how to get to the outside and get downfield.
When you need a coach on the field to carry your team, who do you look to and why?
That'd be (running back/linebacker) Ben Reynolds. As a senior this year, he has the experience. He's been with the program since his junior high year. I've coached him all the way back to the junior high years. He knows what we want as coaches, and he's not afraid to speak up to his teammates and get things set right.
What's the state of the Veritas football program right now?
We're making very good progress for a new high school. The school itself went through ninth grade for more than 25 years before adding the high school grades. I think we've done a real solid job of keeping our athletic program going from the ninth grade to the JV and varsity levels of competition.
This year saw a bit of a low turnout. Are you concerned with the lack of numbers?
We lengthened our roster to 14 early in the season. We're in one of those spots where in the high school grades, we don't have quite as many boys as we do girls, and not quite as many athletes as we've had. But it's been kind of exciting. This year, with the football program, our expectations weren't that high. We knew we graduated five key players, and we've just had a lot of guys step up. It seems to be more of a team effort.
Veritas opened the season against Baileyville, a traditional powerhouse. Do you think facing a team like that early in the season will be beneficial in the long run?
We just had an open slot that Week One, and Baileyville was the only opening. We almost looked at it as a preseason game, and we knew it was going to be a tough challenge. Rather than sitting at home Week One, we thought it would be better to have a game on our schedule. It was unfortunate we lost our starting left end, Jerimiah Johnson, to a broken thumb in that game.