Before the season even started, Ingalls coach Ted Brown was excited and eager — and maybe even a little anxious — about how his Bulldogs football team would perform.
He said that team speed and experience would be the team’s strengths, and focusing on making the playoffs again would be the team’s focus.
He proved to be correct on all points.
Ingalls finished the season with a 10-1 record, its only loss coming against Wallace County (52-6) in the second round of the Class 1A-Div. II playoffs.
“It’s something that never even crossed my mind, going undefeated (in the regular season) in the fashion that we did,” Brown said.
In his fourth season with the Bulldogs, Brown has seen his team make incremental strides each year.
In 2011, they finished 5-4. They repeated that in 2012 but gave up 20 fewer points per game.
In 2013 they went 7-3, losing in the first round of the playoffs.
This year’s 10-1 record was a reflection of how much better the players have become on both sides of the ball, he said.
“Now you can really see the work that we started when I got here take hold in the weight room, in the summer time, with the kinds of programs we have going on,” Brown said. “That really came to fruition and you could really see that on the field this year.”
This year the Bulldogs averaged 230 rushing yards and 75 yards passing per game (nine of their 10 regular season games were shorted due to the 45-point mercy rule).
It was also the year for offensive output, scoring 580 points (332 more than last year) and the defense gave up just 182. That’s an average game score of 53-16.
In fact, in Brown’s first three seasons, Ingalls scored 372 points (2011) then 340 (2012), then just 258 a year ago.
What was the secret behind the scoring going super nova this season?
“The crazy thing is, most of our games really were over by halftime,” he said. “We changed the offense a bit. We have a system that utilizes all of our players in places of their strengths this year. Last year, I think I was doing things that didn’t quite fit all our talent. We made some tweaks with the offense and it went nuts.”
They scored 70 touchdowns, had 40 tackles a game, picked up 17 sacks, and intercepted the ball eight times.
Branson Sandoval led the running attack (1,124 yards, 22 touchdowns) with Josh Irsik adding 737 more yards and nine touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Zeke Cox played in just the first five games before tearing his ACL. He had thrown from seven scores and averaged 30 yards a completion.
Enter sophomore Colton Schmidt, who went on to throw for nine scores and the same yards per completion average.
Schmidt put in a lot of work into the summer program, asking questions constantly, knowing he might not see the Friday night field for a while. But when Cox went down, he was ready to step in.
It’s one of the many positives for the Bulldogs this year.
Another positive is Ingalls finally had enough players to create a JV team where his younger players now have a chance to play on Mondays to look forward to playing Fridays.
It’s all part of the vision the Dodge City High School and Community College player had when he joined the program five years ago as an assistant.
Football at Ingalls is now a 12-month program, with strength and conditioning in the off-seasons. It’s either be on board or not, Brown said.
“It was a struggle at first. Those two 5-4’s almost killed me, but the kids bought in and saw we had more success this year,” he added. “The kids have now bought in and are willing to commit more time.”
It’s a lot for a guy to take over a program at age 25, but it’s been a good ride so far. He learned on the job — with growing pains.
“It’s been something for (the guys) to take pride in and it’s been really good for the boys at the school,” Brown said.