All-Area 2012: Bamberger named top coach
By KLINT SPILLER
NESS CITY -- Eagles head coach Chris Bamberger is quick to redirect praise pointed toward him.
Bamberger has had about as much success in his first three years of his career as a young coach could ask for -- a 26-7 career record, three playoff appearances and, now, the school's first state championship.
However, Bamberger said he didn't think it was because of anything special he did.
"I think I just happened to have caught a bunch of kids that were real excited about football," Bamberger said. "They believed in what we wanted to do."
There might be some truth to that.
Ness City was loaded with skilled and driven players in 2012. The Eagles had a senior starter at every position on offense and defense and 28 players on the roster.
Even so, senior quarterback/cornerback Koltyn Ratliff said Bamberger played "a big part" of Ness City's success.
For his efforts this season, Bamberger was named the Coach of the Year on the 29th Annual HDN All-Area Super 11.
Bamberger, a former linebacker at Kansas State University who last played in 2008, took the job at Ness City in 2010 after the school broke up its cooperative agreement with Dighton to play 11-man football together.
Bamberger was new to the profession. He only had one year of coaching experience at Ark City where he was the freshmen coach and helped with the defense.
But when Bamberger met with the Eagles for the first time, Ratliff said the team immediately bought in.
"We just looked up to him as soon as he walked into the conference room the first day," Ratliff said. "We were like, 'Man, he is going to get us where we want to be.' "
In Bamberger's three-year tenure at Ness City, the Eagles got progressively better, going 5-5, 8-2 and 13-0.
"There was definitely a big shift in motivation," Ratliff said. "We could tell right off the bat what he wanted and what he wanted from us."
This year, Ness City was simply unstoppable.
The Eagles ran a multi-pronged attack, posting 867 yards through the air and 3,437 yards on the ground.
They blew past their opponents, averaging a 43.8-point margin of victory, and won via mercy rule in nine of their 13 games. Their closest games came against Hoxie in Week 6 when they won 38-6 and against Mankato-Rock Hills in the state championship game when they won 40-8.
Ness City also had the best defense in eight-man football. In fact, it was the best defense in several years.
Ness City surrendered just 70 points all season -- an average of 5.4 a game. Only Victoria in 2007 allowed fewer points (66) than Ness City, but the Knights did it with two fewer games.
"Top to bottom, the kids who played on the varsity field and the kids who didn't, they all bought in and they all worked hard," Bamberger said.
As far as Bamberger's coaching style, Ratliff said Bamberger is incredibly intense, but he isn't a drill sergeant.
He is reserved and soft spoken, but at the same time, his voice carries a quiet intensity.
"He doesn't (scream at us)," Ratliff said. "The way I think of it, he probably doesn't think screaming at us will help. He just tells us what we needed to be told, the way it needed to be told."
Still very young and early in his coaching career, Bamberger said he tries to use his playing experience to relate to his players.
"I guess I get pretty excited, and I am passionate as a leader," he said. "Hopefully, they can feed off my love of the game and the respect for the game and the way it's supposed to be played."
With such little coaching experience, Bamberger said he has leaned heavily on his two assistant coaches, Dave Kempke and Matt Overlease, who both have had plenty of coaching experience.
"They've been incredible as far as giving opinions and how they feel about certain situations," Bamberger said.
Bamberger, a native of Jetmore, said he also based much of his program off his experience playing at Jetmore under Kevin Ayers, who now coaches at Sharon Springs-Wallace County.
"My high school experience with him was really where I started a lot of my ideas here," Bamberger said. "Talking with him a lot through the years and getting together, he's helped me along the way."
It's true Bamberger was fortunate to get the senior class he did, but he also was there when several of them were starting as sophomores and helped mold them into a state championship team.
He might not accept the praise, but, as Ratliff said, Bamberger got the Eagles to where they wanted to be.