When he was named the new head football coach in the last week of May of 2014, after Jerry Johnson resigned the post, Kent Teeter was full of optimism about making the switch from Goodland to Holcomb.
After all, his Cowboy teams had played the Longhorns every season and he was familiar with the coaching staff and players.
At the time of his hiring, both Teeter and Johnson said they thought it was a good match, while also retaining the previous head coach on the staff as an assistant.
As they say, it has been a ‘Match made in heaven.’
In the four years since assuming the reins of the Longhorn program, all Teeter has done was lead the team to a pair of Class 4A-II state championships, and two other semifinal appearances in which they lost to the eventual state champions.
The most recent season was just completed on the Saturday after Thanksgiving on a sun-splashed afternoon at Salina Stadium with a resounding 41-20 victory over Frontenac to complete a school record 12-1 season.
“I think to some degree all of us are astonished at just how successful things have been,” said Teeter in a recent interview after being chosen as The Telegram’s All-Area football coach of the year for the second time in the last three seasons. “It’s been even better than we thought it might be.”
Teeter is quick to give credit to his head coaching predecessor, Johnson, who was 46-25 in his seven seasons as the head coach.
“Jerry did such a great job of implementing the discipline, the foundation of the program and the expectations of success,” Teeter said of his now assistant and also athletic director boss. “Winning two state championships, I’d say it would be a long shot to say that we thought we would do that, but I think the thing that has happened, is we had a vision, and we had a goal and none of us put limits on us or the kids.”
That four-year run in Class 4A-II will come to an end next season, when school classification is re-tooled and the Longhorns, along with most of the teams in the Great West Activities Conference, will drop into the 48-team Class 3A division.
But in that window of time, the Longhorns have been devastatingly good, winning 43 games against just seven losses, an astounding winning percentage of .860.
A trademark of the Longhorns during this brilliant run of success has been the fact Teeter’s teams have improved during the season, playing its best ball at the end. With the exception of the playoff losses to Andale and Pratt (also in district play in 2016), the Longhorns’ setbacks came early in the schedule.
“The big key has been for us to stay healthy,” Teeter said. “We run a spread offense, and we don’t have to practice a lot of hard hitting drills with a three yards and a cloud of dust philosophy. We’re perhaps not as beat up physically at the end because we don’t go at it that hard in practice.”
An ardent student of the game’s nuances for Xs and Os, Teeter said he spends countless hours watching film, drawing up potential plays for his offense to experiment with while leaving the defensive schemes to his coordinator on that side of the ball, Brandon Hill.
“We put a lot of time in, correcting things that went wrong in a loss,” Teeter said. “We try not to have those things occur later in the season.”
Teeter said he learned early in his coaching career about the benefits of hard work during a season when he felt he wasn’t prepared all that well.
“One year, we lost a lot of games, and I knew I wasn’t as prepared as I needed to be, because the kids weren’t as prepared as they needed to be,” Teeter recalled. “You’ve got to do it right.”
To his credit, Teeter said that he and his staff are like a band of brothers — sometimes arguing, sometimes needling each other, and then working through to a solution that best fits the team’s objectives.
“We’ve gotten mad at each other, but we don’t let it carry over,” Teeter said. “I’m lucky because I think I’ve got the best staff in Kansas. The chemistry has been really good, and we’ve gotten great support from the administration and from the community.”
In looking at how to build a successful program, Teeter said he considers several factors.
First, how many kids are out for the team?
Second, what are the class sizes, and if there are a decent number of kids out in all sports, you’re going to get good athletes.
Third, what kind of relationship does the coach have with other head coaches? He believes if you don’t have that support from one sport to the next, success will be more difficult to achieve.
Fourth, does the high school head coach have the say-so with what happens at the middle school program. It’s a critical factor in building the program from the ground floor up, Teeter said.
“The longer I’ve been here, the more the younger kids are understanding the terminology,” Teeter said. “The kids are playing multiple sports and we’re very supportive of that. I think I knew the work ethic of the kids here, because that’s what we saw when I was coaching in Goodland every time we played them.”
Teeter uses his platform in sports to also teach his players about life lessons.
“We use examples by bringing in speakers who talk to the kids about other parts of life, other than sports,” Teeter said. “We’ve been blessed in many ways to have kids that are willing to work and to get better. We’ve got a great group of coaches on our staff and in our school, and we’ve got really good athletes.”
It’s been a winning combination and a high level of success for four years. And it’s been Teeter at the top that has put the house on a strong foundation.