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Cornelsen has first day in Hutch

8/19/2014

By Brad Hallier

By Brad Hallier

Special to The Hays Daily News

HUTCHINSON -- To Ryan Cornelsen, Monday afternoon's football practice was just that -- a football practice.

Sure, Cornelsen was a bit excited in having his first official practice as Hutchinson High's coach. But he's experienced many of these first days during his previous coaching stints at La Crosse and Hays High.

Yes, Cornelsen understands coaching at Hutchinson is different than pretty much at any other school in Kansas. It's a big reason he left Hays for Hutchinson, which has won seven state championships since 2004, and has reached a state championship game nine times since 2003.

"When you get out there, coaching football is coaching football," Cornelsen said after his first practice ended during the searing heat at 5 p.m. "It's just a different colored helmet, that's all."

For the players, they are experiencing what no Salthawk has since 1997 -- a new coach. Randy Dreiling, who constructed the Salthawks' football dynasty, resigned in December to take the job at St. Thomas Aquinas in Overland Park.

But with a new coach comes a fresh perspective, and with that come no guarantees, even for the returning starters.

"In my opinion, it's all open right now," said senior fullback Jacob Hardenburger, a starter last season. "I don't feel I have a solid job. It's been more intense than usual."

Enthusiasm was high for Cornelsen's opening practice, which started at Don Michael Field and concluded at Gowans Stadium.

"I thought there was a lot of energy," senior quarterback Turner Wintz said. "With a new coach, he doesn't go by reputation or what we've done before. I know he has an idea, but everyone wants to do a solid job, which should help our depth."

Cornelsen is keeping a watchful eye on everyone, from veterans like Wintz and three-year starting linebacker Colby Turner, to the younger players hoping to catch their new coach's attention.

For now, Cornelsen is keeping practices simple. There's still time before the Salthawks open the season Sept. 5 at home against Olathe South, and Monday, the journey began.

"Right now, we're making sure we're understanding our jobs," Cornelsen said. "We're trying to understand what our jobs are offensively and defensively during week one. Week two, we'll work on execution. And week three is getting ready for Olathe South."