Bartlesville High School Athletics


Another new look for Salthawk football


For the second straight season, the Hutchinson High football team will go into its season opener with unknowns. Last year, it was more simple. Could the Salthawks, after an unprecedented seven state titles in 17 years under coach Randy Dreiling, continue that kind of success under new coach Ryan Cornelsen? After reaching the Class 6A state championship game last year, it's obvious the Salthawks can keep winning with a different coach. But some of the biggest names from last year's team - running back Blaik Middleton, quarterback Turner Wintz, fullback Jacob Hardenburger, wide receiver/linebacker Ryan Stoecklein - all graduated. Pretty much everyone who handled the ball on a regular basis is gone. Friday night, the Salthawks will open the season at Olathe South. Can the players who will handle the ball on offense continue to pile up yards and points? "We've got a lot of new kids," Cornelsen said. "It's similar to last year in a way. You hope you're prepared, but you never know until you get out there and go live. It's definitely a concern, but we just need games under out belt. Can they keep the ball high and tight, and execute at game speed? They just need reps doing it now." Sophomore running back Brody Smith scored a pair of touchdowns at last week's intrasquad scrimmage, while senior Ruben Benitez looked shifty and slithery. Benitez did have some varsity reps last year, mostly in mop-up time. He averaged 6.1 yards on 22 carries. "I have pretty high expectations for myself," Benitez said. "Hopefully, I'll do good. I believe in myself, and I believe in the offensive line." Smith and Benitez will likely share carries, and Cornelsen also plans on using two quarterbacks - juniors Canyon Maldonado and Wyatt Akins. The fullback position will be manned by sophomore Joesiah Galindo and senior Gabe Raigoza, who doubles as a starting linebacker. That kind of depth extends to many positions, save the offensive and defensive lines. "We have a lot of kids who can handle those positions," Cornelsen said. "As long as they're comfortable and prepared in the offseason, I'll give them a shot. My hope is that everyone looks good." Last year, it took the Salthawks time to get used to Cornelsen's system. Although the players were on board and trusted it, the Salthawks stumbled out of the gates, losing 24-2 to Olathe South. This year, the learning curve is gone. "I think everyone feels a lot more at ease," senior linebacker Colton Fee said. "We know what's going on now. What feels different is we're seniors now, and we've got to step it up and be leaders."