By BRETT MARSHALL
The numbers are indeed impressive when one looks at Glenn O’Neil’s six-year football coaching resume’ at Scott City High School.
Sixty-three wins, 10 losses — and finally a Class 3A state football championship.
In setting the tone and making sure his staff and his players remained focus on little goals before the bigger goals were accomplished, O’Neil has been recognized as The Telegram’s 2012 Football Coach of the Year.
For the low-key O’Neil, getting that much-talked about state title came in a way that at last took that 800-pound gorilla off the Beaver program’s back.
“It was a thrill and kind of some relief at the same time,” O’Neil said while sitting down for a final look at the 2012 season. “The kids had set such lofty goals for themselves. As a coaching staff, a lot of our job was to kind of maintain sanity and at the same time to tell them that there’s a lot of other little goals we need to achieve before we could worry about getting to the state championship.”
The only close contest of the nine-game regular season came against rival Holcomb, in what proved to be the title game of the Great West Activities Conference. The offensive juggernaut that was averaging nearly 47 points and more than 450 yards was complemented by a stifling defense that held opponents to a mere touchdown each Friday night.
“It was Week 7 or 8 and we brought all the seniors in,” O’Neil recalled. “I told them, ‘Here’s my coaching goals and here’s what I want to achieve with the team.’ There wasn’t a state championship goal on that list. There’s a lot of other things that we talked about that if we achieved those goals, the playoffs and possibly a state championship could take care of itself.”
Despite all the success of the Beavers’ senior class, they had not tasted a state championship game, let alone savored what a title might feel like.
“They had put so much pressure on themselves they felt like they had to win 5 games in one night,” O’Neil stated. “I felt like we just need to take care of one thing at a time — daily, weekly goals. We could reset goals once we got to the playoffs.”
Two lopsided triumphs over Cimarron and Sacred Heart, both decided by halftime, set up the quarterfinal matchup with then-unbeaten Garden Plain.
That ‘jinxed’ third round, where the Beavers had also lost to Wichita Collegiate (2009) and Conway Springs (2011) — not including a second-round exit in 2010 at Smith Center — the Beavers made their statement in a 49-0 rout.
“The biggest thing in the Garden Plain game was making sure the kids believed in themselves,” O’Neil said. “We had gotten to that round it seemed like everybody felt we were jinxed in that round. We’d had a lot of trouble getting past that in the last five or six years. A lot of that had to do with who we were playing (two eventual state champions) and where we were playing (on the road at Collegiate, Smith Center and Conway Springs). This time, we got to play at home.”
It was then back on the road to another unbeaten and powerful Beloit squad. Down 18-14 at halftime, the Beavers produced a memorable second half, outscoring the Trojans 28-8 en route to a 42-26 win. The capstone of that comeback was Dalton Buehler’s 90-yard kickoff return after Beloit had pulled to within nine points early in the fourth quarter.
“The best thing in my memory was just the excitement on our sideline,” O’Neil said. “We had them in a fourth-and-2, and Tyler (Hess) stretched it out and Brett (O’Neil) came and cut the runner. Coach (Jim) Turner was down on his knee pumping his fist. The kids were going crazy and I could hear the crowd noise in the back. That memory takes hold of me and throughout the rest of the fourth quarter, just the raw emotion of the game and that we were able to maintain it for the whole half.”
The week of the state title game proved challenging in many ways — illness, injury and school out for the Thanksgiving holiday.
First, it was Hess having the flu on Thursday; Buehler’s ankle not responding to treatment and his uncertainty for the title game; then on Saturday came the one unanticipated — quarterback Brett O’Neil coming down with the flu overnight before kickoff.
“He didn’t sleep a wink all night,” coach O’Neil said of his son and team leader. “We weren’t sure who was going to play.”
Then the Beavers lost the coin toss, and while in most games it matters little for the Beavers, on this day it played a major role in the way the game evolved. A 20-30 mph south wind was key.
“Silver Lake defers and forces us to either kickoff twice or take the ball first into the wind,” O’Neil said. “I’ve never kicked off twice and this time, we didn’t come out too well.”
The wind played a major factor in the Beavers falling behind 21-0 before getting on the board just before halftime to breathe a little life into their title hopes.
After a halftime challenge to make some big plays by coach O’Neil, the Beavers responded in spades.
“There was just a comedy of roller-coaster rides and plays in the second half,” O’Neil said. “Both teams had likely scores that didn’t occur. Both kept punching and counter-punching, everything you want to see in a championship game. So many players were borderline for both teams. Both just came up with big play after big play.”
The play that sealed the win and provided the margin was one in which all critical parts had to perform — linemen, backs and receivers all doing their job — resulting in a TD pass with 49 seconds left in the game.
In the four years of varsity football, O’Neil guided this group of seniors to a record of 46-3, never having lost a home game — regular season or playoff.
“Each kid has his own special part of the team,” O’Neil said. “Every role is important.”
And O’Neil had praise for the fans who followed the team throughout the recent year and previous seasons.
“Our crowd was amazing,” O’Neil said. “They said there were 4,500 fans at the state game, and I would guess there were about 3,200 on the Scott City side. We had people from all over — alumni, former players, relatives who came in from a long way to watch. We’ve got great assistant coaches and the relationships they have and the leadership they provide with the players are all reason why we have been successful.”