Pratt Greenbacks take a road game and turn it into team-bonding experience

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Those Pratt High School football fans who made the trek to Mission Valley HIgh School near Eskridge, Kansas last Friday were gifted with the opportunity to see all healthy players (49) make it into the game for playing time in the 59-22 non-conference win for the Greenbacks.

The Pratt High School 2021 football season is off to a good start and head coach Brent Hoelting couldn't be happier about the team concept he feels building among his Greensbacks. Two weeks ago Pratt defeated Hoisington 68-18, last Friday the Greenbacks traveled to eastern Kansas to take on Mission Valley and came away with a 59-22 win, placing them at 2-0 for an early-season start. But something much more than wins is catching Hoelting's attention at this time.

"I am very proud of how all my kids are playing right now," Hoelting said. "It all started in the weight room this summer, but going on that long road trip last Friday, I could really see the camaraderie building and everyone pulling together as a team. Those kinds of experiences are invaluable."

Pratt coaches and USD 382 staff joined forces to completely renovate the Greenback weight-room facilities this summer. That seems to have sparked a renewall among the whole student body to add weight-lifting to class schedules, and its paying off big-time for the football team so far this season.

"You know, the weight room is our equalizer against previously-thought stronger teams," Hoelting said. "It makes us stronger, faster, and we can already see that it is setting up about from other programs that were previously thought to be more athletic. Our kids have become very competitive, and the bonds they build lifting weights together also carry over to the field."

Hoelting said that when he came into the Pratt district as a coach several years ago there were already 150 kids involved in the Greenback weight-lifting program. At that time, that was considered a respectible percentage of kids. This year, there are more than 220 students taking part in weight-lifting classes at the 3A school.

In addition to being a stronger, faster football team this year, Hoelting said his Greensbacks have really bought into a new offensive system that is paying dividends on the scoreboard.

"We've installed a single-wind offense that the kids are really starting to understand and make work," Hoelting said. "It's a downhill, physical type of offense, and it's awesome to see it working."

Part of getting Pratt offensive and defensive systems successfully from the drawing board to the playing field this year can also be attributed to the bonds among teammates. Those bonds were strengthened this past week, when football players went from the despair of not having a Friday night game to taking a long road-trip to face new challenges.

"It was crazy last week," Hoelting said. "When Lyons cancelled because of COVID-19 quarantined players, we became one of few teams without a contest. We work so hard all year long for such a short 9-game regular season that it really gets the kids down when we don't have something lined up."

Hoelting said connections he made in his beginning coaching days at Mission Valley High School came into play when he found out that their regularly scheduled opponent, coached by a friend of his from college, was going to pull the plug last minute on their own Friday night schedule because of quarantine issues.

"I've known those guys at Mission Valley for years," Hoelting said. "My first job as assistant coach was there, with the current superintendant as my head coach. I called him and said, 'Hey, we are the only two schools without a game on Friday, let's play.' And he agreed."

Atheltic directors from both schools made contact, game films were exchanged last Thursday at 10:30 p.m., and the Pratt Greenbacks were rolling on a 3-hour trip to eastern Kansas the following day.

"The kids were so happy just to get the change to play," Hoelting said. "It really was a fun outing for us all. And everyone on team who wasn't injured got to see action. That made it a fun night for everyone."

Looking ahead, Hoelting said this Friday's scheduled contest with Hesston will be a game to test the Greenbacks mettle.

"We are playing Hesston, at Hesston, and we are two strong teams with completely different styles of play," Hoelting said. "Hesston is very tall, athletic, putting a lot of emphasis on the parimeters of the game, while we are going to maul you up front and run it right up the middle."

Hoelting said he has no doubt his team will come to play. And they will be ready to take on whatever Hesston has to throw at them. Gametime is 7 p.m. in Hesston.

Pratt High School 3A football players gather on the sideline of 2A Mission Valley HIgh School field, getting ready for September 10 Friday night action.

Just released this week: Pratt High School moves up to a 6th place 3A State Football Ranking.