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Kapaun football players Colton Ocker, left, and Mickey Boulanger go against each other during a practice drill.

Kapaun football players Colton Ocker, left, and Mickey Boulanger go against each other during a practice drill. Jaime Green/ The Wichita Eagle | Buy this photo

Motivated Kapaun aims for more deep playoff runs

Published August 30 at 9 a.m. | Last updated August 29 at 1:47 p.m.

Mickey Boulanger’s text to Kapaun Mount Carmel football coach Dan Adelhardt came one night after Kapaun’s season, its most successful since 1990, ended in a Class 5A semifinal.

Boulanger asked Adelhardt if the team could start morning weights the next day, which was much earlier than normal. Adelhardt responded that they could talk about it the following morning in class, but Boulanger texted back that he already had players committed to lifting the next day.

“I said, ‘I’ll be there, I’ll be there,’ ” Adelhardt said.

The motivation of the 2014 Kapaun football team, which opens its season against East on Friday at Cessna Stadium, is undeniably tied to 2013’s run to the 5A semifinal.

Boulanger’s request was the first sign that Kapaun’s current group of seniors planned to be just as dedicated – at keeping the team together and strengthening the program as a whole.

Not one player wants a repeat of 2012, when the Crusaders stumbled to 3-6 in a season rife with discord and social media battles.

“I want to see us build on what we did last year, prove that last year wasn’t just a fluke season,” junior quarterback Brock Monty said. “I want to build and make that an every year type of thing.”

Adelhardt takes it one step further.

“We owe it to those players from last season, players like Ethan Harp and Pat Burrus and Sam LaFleur, that it wasn’t a one-year deal,” Adelhardt said.

Kapaun has geared this season toward being an extension of 2013. It started with increased sessions in the weight room. It progressed to hardcore conditioning for the two weeks before the season’s first practice.

“We need to make sure we’re not ever satisfied,” Monty said. “Keep going, doing the little extra things, doing something after practice, running an extra sprint. Do whatever we can to keep one step ahead of our opponents.”

Monty, a three-star recruit by Rivals.com who had 1,254 passing yards in 2013, went to multiple camps over the summer to strengthen his arm. He’s had throwing sessions with the receivers with the intent to build chemistry and improve.

“I’m kind of stepping into the big leadership role, trying to teach the young guys coming up,” he said. “… Now I’m leading by serving. If you can make someone else’s life easier, to make their job easier so they can do it. It might make my life harder, but it’s all about winning.”

Monty is goal-oriented, always setting short-term goals (get better today) with his eyes on long-term goals (win the City League, district and state).

Junior running back Alexander Norris is not only eager to help Kapaun win, but to lead, as well.

“We want to put Kapaun back on the map,” said Norris, who had 601 rushing yards.

The overall commitment to the team and family is what Kapaun is striving for.

There needs to be those players who are willing to put aside selfishness and focus on team. Players such as Colton Ocker, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of 2013. He battled to keep his own frustrations at bay during the run to the semis, instead focusing on how he could help his teammates.

“I had to keep my mindset right, not let my attitude get everybody else down, not let it affect the way they felt towards me or toward the game they were about to play,” Ocker said. “I tried to focus on helping everyone else out.”

Now he’s intent on experiencing that same kind of success in his senior season.

Kapaun has worked to build a family atmosphere.

There were the team meals sandwiched between two-a-days during the intensely hot first week of practice. There’s the offensive and defensive video sessions at players’ homes, where they have a chance to eat together and dissect plays.

Unity is the virtue that Kapaun chaplain Father Dan Duling gave to the football team last year, and then expanded to all of Kapaun for the 2014-15 school year.

The concept of family is why the Crusaders will honor Renee LaFever, a Kapaun teacher who died last Sunday, by wearing her initials on their helmets.

Adelhardt didn’t want a new virtue for this season’s team, so he and Duling decided to expand it.

“We’re still talking about how to do that,” Duling said as he stood in a small shady spot while watching practice one hot afternoon. “I don’t think Coach, nor I, nor any of the other coaches could do it. It takes the players to do it. We keep pushing it on them. They’re talking about it in the classroom, on the field.”

The concept of unity was critical in 2013 as a way to heal the rifts that were created the previous season.

This group of players knows how important it is to have that close bond as they embark on a new season. Whether they are lifting weights on their own or running through kickoffs at the start of every practice, they need chemistry and a focus on family.

“I feel like you trust guys when you know what they’re capable of and you know what they’re doing all the time,” Boulanger said.

It’s why Boulanger pushed for increased time in the weight room.

“During the school year, I think a lot of people take it easy, and it goes back to holding people accountable,” Boulanger said. “If we hold it for an hour, two days a week before school and these guys are working hard? You trust them a lot more.”

The motivation is each other, of nudging the Kapaun football program toward the powerhouse status it held in the 1970s and 1980s.

It’s building a legacy.

Every so often, some of the players reminisce about the outstanding seniors from the 2013 team. It was a special class of seniors, who rejuvenated the Crusaders’ program, cemented relationships within the team and won.

Boulanger doesn’t want it to end there.

“Next year I want them to be saying, ‘I wish we had Colton back and Mickey back, (Ben) Powers back, (Luke) Singer back,” Boulanger said. “We’re trying to leave our own legacy.”

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.