In the four years John Rossetti was on the defensive staff at Garden City, first as linebackers coach, then the last two years as defensive coordinator and secondary coach, the Broncbusters were 6-0 against Dodge City, whipping the Conquistadors by an average score of 37-8.
No wonder Rossetti had little interest when he was first contacted about the open Dodge City head coaching position.
"Being only 50 miles away, I guess I perceived Dodge City Community College based on the way we beat them at Garden City," Rossetti said. "(DCCC President) Richard Burke asked me to come on campus and take a look."
Rossetti liked enough of what he saw to replace Greg Cintilli, who resigned after winning just seven games in five seasons.
Rossetti, who was the head coach at Joliet (Ill.) Junior College before his stint at Garden City, takes over a Conq squad that went 2-7 a year ago and has just six returning starters.
One of those returnees is QB Jake Blodgett, who started a handful of games a year ago. The Topeka, Kan., native went 50 for 89 passing for 383 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions as a freshman.
"He's kind of a tough, hard-nosed kid," Rossetti said. "He's not going to come at you with great speed or arm strength, but has a lot of intangibles that you've got to like."
Blodgett will be pressed by out-of-state QB's Tabares Baker, Bruce Petty and Tavares Taylor.
Two offensive linemen, tackle Joey Lippo and center Derek Olson, are back, as is starting tight end Russ Owens, who Rossetti considers one of the top tight end prospects in the nation.
Who will be the feature back is still up in the air. Candidates include redshirt Terrence 'Black' Anderson, Gerard Jackson, a transfer from Central Florida, Jeff Womack, Allen Edwards, David Nieto and Dusty Osner.
Levi Pledger is the only returning letter winner at wide receiver, so there are a lot of question marks at that position.
Defensively, the Conqs return just two starters, tackle Bernard Godfrey and safety Joe Simon.
They do have two Division I transfers along the defensive line, John Duggan (6-6, 275) from Purdue and Marquis Johnson (6-4, 285) from Miami. Defensive end Darnell Jordan (6-4, 250) draws high praise from the Conqs' coaching staff. Another defensive line candidate is Antonio Searcy (6-4, 285) from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the nephew of Baltimore Ravens' offensive tackle Leon Searcy.
Miami native Leon Cesar (6-1, 225) leads the list of candidates at linebacker, while corners Donald Defrond (6-1, 180) from Ft. Lauderdale and Tim Jackson (5-10, 190) from Tampa, Fla., lead a speedy, but inexperienced group in the secondary.
"We'll stay pretty similar to what we did at Garden City, have a lot of the same philosophies," Rossetti said, "but I'm sure we'll do some things a little bit different also."
The Conqs, picked sixth in the preseason Jayhawk Conference coaches poll, will find out just how far Rossetti and his coaching staff have brought the team. Dodge City opens up the season Sept. 1 at home against the Broncbusters.
"Somebody made the comment, 'Maybe you can sneak up on Garden City.' I said, 'I don't think so. Those kids are going to be out gunning for me,'" Rossetti said. "I didn't leave Garden City for awhile, so I'd see those kids around town, and trust me, we're not going to sneak up on anyone."
But while leaving one of the most successful junior college programs to move to a program working its way up may be career suicide for some, Rossetti is confident the Conqs will make a move up the Jayhawk Conference standings.
"The reason I went to Dodge City is there is a great foundation there," Rossetti said. "The potential is definitely there. It's going to be a matter of changing some attitudes, it's going to take great work ethic and great recruiting, but the foundation is there."
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