Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 12 June 2012 15:47
“I think the goal every year should be to win,” said Sawyer, who was 15-30 in his five years at White City, an 8-man, Division I school in the Wheat State League.
“I had never played eight-man, let alone seen eight-man football,” Sawyer said about his start with the Huskies. “It was fun, but it was a learning experience the first three or four years—then we really started catching on. Last year we went 7-2. We lost to the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state—and they were both in our district.”
Sawyer, who grew up just outside of McPherson, is an alum of Inman High School, where he played football, basketball and baseball. After graduating in 2007, he went on to Kansas State University, where he earned his degree in secondary education/math after four years.
Sawyer didn’t play sports while at KSU, but he did get his feet wet in coaching, serving as an assistant coach for basketball and baseball at Wabaunsee High School for three years.
When he took his first teaching job at White City, Sawyer also became head coach for football and basketball.
“It was busy, but it was fun,” he said. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Attracted to Hillsboro
Sawyer was hired this spring to teach math and engineering classes at Hillsboro. In addition to his football responsibilities, he will be assistant boys’ basketball coach and the spring and summer weight-room supervisor.
Sawyer said one of the things that brought him to Hillsboro was his family’s desire to be closer to his home area and to his place of employment. While at White City, he had been commuting 45 miles one way from his home in Manhattan.
“We’ve been living in Manhattan ever since we went to college,” he said of his wife and their daughter.
Also attractive, he said, were Hillsboro’s tradition of athletic success and the quality of its facilities. He also liked what he heard about returning players from former head coach Max Heinrichs.
“The key to me wanting to go there was Max saying the kids were wanting to win,” Sawyer said. “That just excited me.
“I watched some film and I knew there was some talent coming back,” he added, “so the cupboard wasn’t bare. It was just a good place for me.”
Sawyer said he believes Hillsboro’s facilities, specifically the football stadium and weight room, are outstanding.
“The facilities there are amazing compared to what we had (at White City) and compared to almost every 3A school in the state,” he said.
“After I got this job I went to Wichita Heights and Wichita Northwest—some 6A schools—just to see what they were doing in the weight room,” he said. “Hillsboro’s weight room is by far bigger than either one of theirs. It doesn’t even compare.”
Resources and goals
Sawyer steps into a situation where the previous head coach will still be on campus as high school principal.
“I think it’s a good experience for me,” Sawyer said. “If I ever have any questions, or wonder how things were run in the past, I have a resource there.
“That’s how we’re going to look at it—he’s going to be a resource for me,” he added. “He’s going to be the biggest supporter for the team, I’m sure—and he’s a great guy.”
Sawyer said he hopes to continue the open offensive style he developed toward the end of his tenure at White City.
“I like to be an up-tempo guy,” he said. “The first three years at White City I tried to pound it out. That wasn’t my style. So we started moving to a complete spread offense. We were wide open, we were fast. That really seemed to work.
“What I’m looking at is that we’re going to be quick,” he added. “The kids have been really working hard in the weight room and are trying to get a little quicker and working on their hands. So maybe we can pass the ball a bit more then they have in the past.”
On defense, Sawyer said he wants his teams to be fast and be able to hit. “We’ll see how that works,” he said.
Sawyer first met with HHS football players in May and strongly encouraged their participation in the weight-training program this summer.
“We really haven’t talked about offense or defense yet,” he added. “That will come soon. We’ll start doing some seven-on-seven stuff here within the next couple of weeks. We’ve got camp in July, so it will begin then.”
Sawyer will have a veteran staff of assistant coaches when practice begins.
“We’re not going to change a ton—just maybe some of the philosophy things,” he said. “I think once they the players catch on, they’ll have fun with it and I think we’ll be able to win.”