(Listen to Coach Stephenson on the Morning Blitz)
After 14 years on the west coast, Josh Stephenson is returning to the Sunflower State as the new head football coach of the Goodland Cowboys.
Originally from Greensburg, Stephenson played high school ball at Abilene under legendary coach Paul Dennis, at Olathe North for Gene Weir and at Haven High School. Stephenson continued his playing career as a linebacker for Bethany College.
Upon graduating, he took a position with McPherson College in 1997, where he assisted the Bulldogs football program to its first winning seasons in over 20 years. The program also finished ranked in the top five nationally in total defense during his tenure.
In 2000, he was hired as the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for Los Angeles Valley College (California Community College Athletic Association). His aggressive schemes guided the Monarchs defense to a top five finish in the country before leaving in 2003.
“I had the opportunity to coach some of the best players in the country,” Stephenson said. “I was fortunate to have over 30 players move on to play Division I and over 20 made NFL rosters.”
When Stephenson and his wife, Mary, were blessed with the addition of their two children T.C. (11) and Jace (10), he stepped away from the football coaching scene and focused more on serving in administration.
“As my kids have gotten older, and now that they are older, it’s time to get back on the field,” Stephenson said. “The reason we’re coming to Goodland is simple: the people and the family atmosphere that exists. We want our family, especially our kids, to experience the values and camaraderie that comes from living in such a great community.”
Last season, the Cowboys finished 6-4 overall (2-3 GWAC) and were eliminated from the postseason 27-26 by Abilene on a failed two-point conversion at the end of the game. Quarterback Trey Teeter left for Holcomb with former head coach Kent Teeter, and the Cowboys also said goodbye to 11 seniors. The offensive and defensive line lost John Peden, Colton Cooper, Taylor Thomas, Zach Miller, and Connor Simpson. Also departed are Dax Ruhs, Adam Simmerman, Tyler Gastineau, Taylen Smith, and Garrett Taylor, who led Goodland last season in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and tackles.
Stephenson acknowledged this is a situation where time is not of the essence. With Teeter’s recent departure for Holcomb, it will be a very quick turnaround for Stephenson to get the kids into summer camps and evaluate next season’s personnel.
“We are going to have camp the week of July 7-12 with both the high school and junior high players,” Stephenson said. “We are going to focus on getting the players familiar with the pace, schemes, and starting to install our schemes through the rest of the summer.”
Stephenson said he has been doing his best to assess what is currently in place from a distance. He hopes to implement a system he has learned in the college ranks that is easy to grasp, allowing the players to play fast.
“I am a very fast-paced and progressive coach,” Stephenson said. “We will play a variety of fronts and schemes on defense. We will be aggressive and will look to put our players in position to dictate what opposing offenses will do. My pace is something that our players will have to get used to.
“We are going to play as a class-team with unity and our players will know that we are a family looking to start something great,” Stephenson said. “Change is difficult, especially in athletics, and we can’t wait to become part of the Cowboy family.”
The Cowboys will open their season Sept. 5 against Wray in Goodland. The next game, Sept. 12, is on the road at Holcomb.