Friday Football Feature: After 5-win improvement, Goddard aiming for more

Game between Goddard and Kapaun at Goddard on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.
Game between Goddard and Kapaun at Goddard on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.(Selena Favela | Selena Favela)
Published: Sep. 1, 2023 at 7:45 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Goddard’s Tommy Beason was one of two named co-coach of the year in Division II of the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League last year, and you might know how that goes.

Anecdotally, those awards seem to often go to coaches whose teams have exceeded expectations, no matter how tepid. Goddard fell into that category, going from a winless 2021 season to a 5-4 record last year that wasn’t far off from being significantly better.

That could be the last of Goddard’s surprises, though. The Lions return most of their significant contributors from 2022 and are leaning into their identity as a run-heavy, blue-collar, veteran group that welcomes higher expectations.

Goddard begins its season tonight at Campus.

“The most attainable, achievable goals right in front of us are to have a winning record, host the playoffs in week 9, and win our division and our league,” Beason said. “Those three things I know we can fight for every year. If we can do those three things, we’ll let the chips fall where they may when we get to the (state) tournament at the end.

“We’ve had years where we’ve accomplished all three and years where we didn’t accomplish any of them, but those are the goals we’ve always set.”

Beason has been the foreman of rebuilding efforts before. As an assistant under Scott Vang, he saw Goddard go 11-2 with a trip to the Class 5A championship game in 2016 and follow that up with another 11-win season in 2017.

Beason rose to head coach in 2018 and guided Goddard back to the state title game, where the Lions were overmatched against Bishop Miege. In the four seasons since, they’re 16-22 with two winning records but not much traction so far.

“I think you’re going to have to be willing to accept the fact that you’re going to have years you’re good and years you’re bad,” Beason said. “I think that there are certain situations around the state where some teams are just never bad. …In the league we’re in, there is so much parity. In my 12 years in Goddard, six of the seven teams currently in Division II have won the division.”

Part of the reason Goddard appears ready to take another step forward is because of the previous steps back. Not all teams who finish 0-9 can envision the prosperity to come, but as the Lions believed two years ago that the class of 2024 would not go quietly.

Sure enough, Goddard has a loaded – and proven – senior group. The Lions’ 2022 leaders in rushing, passing, receiving, tackles and fumble recoveries, are all seniors. Goddard rushed 429 times last year, and 230 of those were by players now in 12th grade – along with 63 carries from current juniors.

“Going into that (2021) season, we had a really young team and I didn’t know quite how much we were going to struggle,” senior defensive back/running back Tyson Wallace said. “I knew it was going to be a struggle because this was a team that had never really played together before. Growing into that, I feel like that’s helped us a lot.”

Goddard’s seniors include Wallace; linebacker Lane Nelson, who averaged nearly nine tackles per game last season; 927-yard rusher Micah Johnson, who scored 12 touchdowns, receiver Mason Healy; quarterback Ashton Sell, who doesn’t pass often but who passed for 10 touchdowns and rushed for five; tight end/linebacker Jake Jasnoski; linebacker Gage Koenigs; defensive end Matrix Eames; and nose guard Pablo Martinez.

If not for a few narrow defeats, the conversation around Goddard might be about how their potential was mostly realized in 2022 and curiosity about whether the Lions are title contenders this year.

The Lions’ three regular-season losses came by a 19 points – one in overtime to Andover and another when crosstown rival Goddard Eisenhower scored with a second to go to win 21-14. Goddard’s comeback effort against Salina Central fell short, as it outscored the Mustangs 21-6 in the fourth quarter of a 47-42 defeat.

“Being able to turn it around last season was a huge step for us,” Koenigs said. “It made a lot of guys have a lot more confidence in our team, and we got a little bit of faith back in ourselves as a team and as a unit.”

The confidence – and pretty much everything else – comes from Beason. The bond he has with his players is palpable, as is the confidence he has in them and the expectations for them, which never change regardless of their record.

That consistent approach and unshakeable touchstone are how teams go from one state championship game to the next, from zero wins to five. And from five to … who knows?

“We’re all held to a pretty high standard,” Martinez said. “No one gets to slack off, no one gets to jog. We’re 100 percent 24/7. …I think it’s definitely stuff on the field – sometimes we come off sore, we’re obviously always tired.

“I think the sense of discipline, it’s good. Everyone knows to do their job, no one tries to be a hero. Everyone knows they want to make a play, but sometimes it’s just not going to happen.”