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High School Sports

High School Sports

High expectations greet new EHS coach

August 2, 2013

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More than three years ago, Kevin Kopecky arrived at Leavenworth High as the school’s new football coach and noticed something strange: There didn’t seem to be any expectations surrounding the program, which hadn’t advanced to the postseason in three decades.

Kopecky led the downtrodden Pioneers to a 7-21 record and a 2011 Class 6A playoff appearance in three seasons before leaving earlier this year to take over at Eudora, where the 26-year coaching veteran knew interest and the anticipation of success made it a very different job from the moment he signed up for it.

“The expectations are very high at Eudora right now. They probably have been for the last 10 or 15 years,” the Cardinals’ first-year coach said. “I want to be at a place where there are high expectations.”

EHS football players and supporters have grown accustomed to success, with the Cardinals advancing to the 4A championship game and finishing runner-up each of the past two seasons under former coach Gregg Webb, now at Truman, in Independence, Mo. Eudora went 96-30 in Webb’s 11 seasons, and Kopecky’s goal is to maintain that level, if not improve upon it.

“Is it gonna be difficult? Sure, but it’s also exciting,” he said.

A major part of the challenge comes with the implementation of Kopecky’s no-huddle, spread offense — a far different approach than Eudora’s run, run and run some more style under Webb. Last season, 12 Eudora players combined to rush 679 times for 3,724 yards in 14 games, while quarterback Andrew Ballock, now a senior, only attempted 90 passes and threw for 802 yards.

It’s not that Eudora won’t run the ball anymore in Kopecky’s system, it’s just that passing will be a major part of the game plan, instead of a tactic to keep defenses honest. The new coach said the Cardinals have adjusted to the change throughout the summer and keep getting better. In their final seven-on-seven date, EHS beat every team it faced.

“What I’ve liked about the kids so far,” Kopecky said, “is there’s a lot of toughness there. It’s just a football town.”

Eudora senior Justin Underwood, a tackle on offense and defense, expects the team will continue improving with the new spread attack while keeping with the same 4-3 base defense with which the players are familiar. And the more they get to know their new coach, the more they like him.

“He treats us like we’re family,” Underwood said. “He’s always in contact with us.”

The players, he added, are confident in Kopecky’s ability to maintain Eudora’s stellar reputation. Kopecky’s teams reached the state title game once at both David City, Neb. (1986), and St. Thomas Aquinas (2008), falling short each time.

“Knowing that he knows success,” Underwood said, “and has been to the playoffs a bunch motivates us.”

Kopecky, who also coached at Ralston, Neb., holds a career record of 157-119 and can commiserate with the returning Eudora players who have participated and lost in the state title game. He wants to help them go one step further.

“For any of those kids who are back that remember that feeling,” the coach said, “we want to finish.”

Comments

Scott Morgan 1 year, 4 months ago

The Eudora public school system is a hidden gem setting in Eastern Douglas County. Over the years, for reasons I never understood Eudora in general takes flak.

Twenty years ago the EHS football program was a mess. Somebody even told me they played and lost to teams like tiny Williamsburg?? The town known for BBQ. No pride, nor expectations of glory in Eudora.

For whatever reason back two decades ago the fine administration decided to make football a priority and hired a young up and coming 5A coach from Springfield Missouri. Aaron Barnett took the job and immediately changed the pigskin culture. You could actually feel something was going to happen.

Aaron and his talented wife Erin became very visible in the community beyond football. Top high school coaches find top assistants. Eudora was no different, there are many outstanding assistant coaches there.

Aaron as with many of the greats got the itch and moved on to build another program. Again the fine administration pulled a rabbit out of the hat and coaxed Gregg Webb and family to take over.

High school football coaches, especially head coaches are far far far away in all areas from their college counterparts. College coaches are overpaid, high school coaches in any sport are unbelievably underpaid.

Gregg is a legend in Western Kansas, and could have lived a comfy life just on the accomplishments.

While many hoped Gregg could maintain the winning atmosphere, few bet he would take the program to near the top year in year out. He did. When cruising through Eudora (home of the best Chinese/Mexican combo restaurant in the world) seems like everyone wears a EHS Football T-shirt during the season.

If just for the experience you wish to witness Friday Night Fever drive through Eudora before a game.

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