Goodland High School athletic director Marty Lehman knows an administrator can wear many hats, helping out here and there. Last Friday night, it was a coach’s hat.
The entire high school football coaching staff was under COVD-19 quarantine, so Lehman and USD 352 superintendent Bill Biermann walked the sideline in the season opener at home against Liberal. The Cowboys won, 43-32.
"Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do," said Lehman, in his fifth year as the school’s athletic director. "The important thing last week was making sure our kids got a chance to play."
Liberal was a substitute opponent for the opener. Goodland originally was supposed to play a pair of Colorado schools to start the season, at Wray last week and at home against Burlington this week. But Colorado moved fall sports to the spring due to the coronavirus and Lehman started looking for opponents.
Bridgeport, Neb., which lost a game against a Colorado school, will travel to Goodland this Friday. Liberal, which was supposed to open on the road against Guymon, Okla., last week, would have had to quarantine its players and coaches if they traveled out of state for a mass gathering. Liberal volunteered to make the trip to Goodland last Friday.
Lehman said there was not much pressure on Goodland going into the game against a bigger school from the Western Athletic Conference. None of the Cowboy players were under quarantine.
"We felt like we could compete with them physically as far as athleticism, just depth would be our problem," Lehman said. "We were a 1-8 team last year on the (Class) 3A level with an opportunity to play a (Class 5A) WAC school. We were playing with house money."
Lehman and Biermann agreed it was a team effort to pull it off. The junior high school coaching staff conducted practice and were on the sideline Friday night. During the week, the quarantined high school coaches would hold a zoom meeting with the players while the junior high team practiced. After the junior high practice was over, the coaches would stay for the high school practice.
"At the end of the day, our regular coaches were still involved," Biermann said. "We were running the things they wanted to execute. I sure hope people realize that what we did was a result of all the hard work our coaches have put in."
Biermann, the school’s girls’ basketball coach, had been an assistant football coach in the past, mostly on defense. He was the defensive coordinator while Lehman coached special teams. Joe Sramek, the head coach for the junior high team, runs the same offense; he was the offensive coordinator Friday. Sramek’s three assistants also coached Friday. Kathisha Wiegers, a school counselor and the wife of the high school’s defensive coordinator, Grant Wiegers, was on the sidelines, too.
"Our defensive coordinator taught his wife, a 115-pound marathon runner, all the defensive signals," Lehman said. "Our counselor was the one who signaled it in. It worked pretty good."
The players made it all happen with their willingness to adapt and do whatever it took to play.
"We’ve got really good leaders on this team who made what we did even easier," Biermann said. "They deserve a ton of credit."
The high school coaching staff was out of quarantine Sunday. Head coach Chase Topliff and his four assistants will be back on the sideline for Week 2.
"Hopefully now, things get back to normal," Lehman said.
However, both administrators expect other schools having to make similar adjustments this season.
"I think we’ll see a lot more of that kind of stuff, I really do," Lehman said. "I think we’re in for a year of that. We just happen to be a couple guys who were willing to step in, help out a little bit."
Biermann thinks what happened with Goodland last Friday got attention because it was the first time.
"You’re going to see other examples of that throughout the year, there’s no doubt in my mind," he said.
But for Biermann, last week was both the first and last. He and Lehman will now be No. 1 fans.
"I’m done," Biermann said. "I’m just back to being a Cowboy supporter, and I’m going to take that role on. I’m retired with my one victory, and I don’t know if it’s my victory. It was a Goodland Cowboy victory, and our kids certainly deserved it, as well as our coaches."