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Season Preview: Olathe East

By Sean Brewer, 810 Varsity, 07/19/21, 8:15PM CDT


Hawks look to soar higher in 2021

>> Hawks team page, schedule <<

For Olathe East head football coach Courtney Porter, his first year at the helm of the Hawks was truly baptism by fire. 

Following the sudden resignation of former head coach Jesse Owen, the Olathe East football program was in need of a leader with only weeks before the season was scheduled to start. In addition, there was a slight pandemic hitting the world, throwing into doubt the possibility of even having a fall football season.

Despite these challenges, Olathe East athletic director, Dr. Kaleb Stoppel, wasted no time to identify and hire the coach he wanted to lead the program, and hired the long-time area coach.

Courtney is only the third head coach in the history of the Hawks program, following Owens and long-time coach, Jeff Meyers. 

Porter said he was grateful for the opportunity, even under trying circumstances. 

“Getting the opportunity to take over a program less than 90 days before the season opener - and during the heart of the COVID crisis - was both exciting and nerve-wracking,” Porter reminisced. “The players and coaches deserve all the recognition the success we had.”

That success can be measured with a top 6-2 season record with their only losses to 5A state champion Mill Valley and 6A state runner-up Blue Valley North. The Hawks finished in the top 30 of the 810 Varsity Kansas City-area Top 25 football poll for 2020.

But that was then. Now, the Hawks look to the ’21 season with a new perspective. After losing eight starters from the offense side of the ball and seven from defense, Porter said this year will be one of new team leadership.

“We lost a lot of great players and great leadership to graduation, but are excited about the future,” Courtney lamented. “It’s great to see how hard the players are working to earn a chance at playing time.”

Senior athlete Austin Berggren (6-foot-1, 212) will again be taking snaps from under center for the Hawks. Last season he fired off just under 900 yards of passing and completed over half of his passes. Berggren is also a standout punter who launched a 55-yarder last season, which helped him earn a 37.6 yard average for the season.

The backfield will be led by the two-pronged attack made up with senior running backs Joe Zinn (5-foot-7, 184) and Sage Borghese (5-foot-6, 153). 

The Hawks offensive line will be anchored by returning center, Swade Helton (5-foot-10, 243). In the gaps to his left and right will be senior Tuner Lennard (5-foot-10, 230), juniors John Jarboe (6-foot, 267) and Alex Sonner (6-foot-1, 267), and rising sophomore Brett Carroll (6-foot-3, 266) who is also a standout wrestler for the Olathe East wrestling team. 

Senior Kyle Martin (6-foot-1, 163) is the leading returning receiver from last year’s squad. Martin hauled in nine receptions for 47 yards from his tight end position. 

The Hawk’s receiving corps will be made up of two seniors and a junior. Seniors Nick Elliot (6-foot, 183) and Nick Carlson (5-foot-10, 164), and junior Nick Matlack (6-foot-3, 172) will be speedy and athletic targets for Berggren to find downfield.

Courtney said many of the starters this year on offense will be learning on the job.

“This year’s team has a chance to build their own legacy. With so many open positions, we are looking for younger players to step up and put in the work necessary to get better,” Courtney optimistically said. “Our coaching staff has also done a great job this summer planning and preparing. They are a great bunch of guys who the players look up to.”

On defense, the Hawks bring back four starters from last year’s team that held opponents to under 17 points a game. 

The line defensive line returning starter will be senior end Turner Lennard (5-foot-10, 230). Adding to the line will be junior Charlie Matthews (5-foot-10, 194) and sophomore nose CJ Hartung (5-foot-10, 276)

Zinn, one of the two-way players for the Hawks, will lead the linebackers. His 41 tackles last season are tops among all returning defenders. Joining him on the linebacking wall will be seniors Noah Amundson (6-foot-3, 200) Andrew Cox (5-foot-9, 158) and junior Evan West (5-foot-9, 187). 

The secondary is again loaded with experienced playmakers and athleticism. All four of the starting cornerbacks and safeties are seniors, which points to aggressive, intelligent defensive centerfield play and the possibility of increased interceptions. 

Nate Jerguson, (5-foot-10, 159) and Jaylon Elmore (6-foot, 181) will be the corners who look to shut down opponent air games. Nick Elliott (6-foot, 183) and two-way player Borghese will be the safeties to start the year for the Hawks. 

On special teams, the Hawks are as loaded as any team in the Sunflower League. In addition to quarterback/punter Berggren, senior placekicker Alex Gregg (6-foot, 156) - who connected on 22 of his 24 extra point opportunities last year and nailed two field goals- is one of the top returning kickers in the league. 

Overall and despite the challenges of a young and inexperienced team, Courtney said the team knows what it will take to find success.

“This year’s class knows they have a long road ahead, but they are a tough bunch. We’re all excited to get back to work and be in a position to make some noise in the always-tough Sunflower League.”

The Hawks open the 2021 campaign on September 2nd against Lawrence High. 

>> Hawks team page, schedule <<

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