Lincoln Southwest star looking to the future

Call it unfinished business if you must. Nebraska fans are familiar with that saying. For Lincoln Southwest, it is just that as they were one victory away from taking the state title in just their fourth year of existence. A big part of their success was running back Ollie Sloup, who topped 2,000 yards rushing on the year. He's looking to do more this year, but just as much off the field as on, because this will be an entirely different team in 2006.

Five yards and a cloud of dust. For schools like Lincoln Southwest and Millard North, that just isn't a saying, it's the very methodology they use in beating their opponents into submission. On the backs of outstanding players like Jeff Tarpanian, Corey Young and Paul Homer, Millard North did it, taking the state title in the end.

Joining them in the state title was none other than Lincoln Southwest and much of their success running came on the legs of junior tailback Ollie Sloup. Averaging over seven yards a carrying and scoring 28 touchdowns, some would say that Sloup was key, but Sloup himself would say that his job was easy because of those around him.

"We are losing like 22 seniors, so there was a lot of experience on that team and everyone had the same goal," Ollie said. "It's never easy, but when you look at the fact that we have only one starting offensive lineman (Baker Steinkuhler) coming back, that tells you something."

En route to their 12-1 record, the "Silver Hawks" steamrolled everyone in their path, beating one opponent (Lincoln High) 84-0. Averaging over 400 yards a game on the ground, only Millard North was statistically their better.

During that run of excellence, Sloup exhibited some of his own, especially against then fourth ranked Millard South. On the day, Sloup ran for 238 yards, scored four touchdowns and as he is the starting field goal kicker, he knocked two three-pointers through the uprights in helping to lead his team to a resounding 41-14 victory. That was just one game in many that earned Sloup first-team Super State honors by the Lincoln Journal Star. Sloup was the only junior on the offense of the Super State team.

At 5-10, 185 pounds Sloup isn't the biggest kid and while 4.59 in the 40 is fast, he's by no means the most potent blazer on the field. What Ollie says he has are the intangibles that the measurements can't tell you. "I have pretty good vision, I don't have any problems seeing the whole field," he said. "And I like my ability to make guys miss in the open field."

Losing so many seniors, Sloup will be asked to be even more of the offense than he was this last season. That will probably mean more carries, but as Sloup indicated, the lack of all that depth will mean those key players will have to be even more key this up-coming season and in some cases, more versatile as well. "We had so much depth, I didn't have to do a lot other than what I was doing," Sloup said. "This year, because we just don't have the kind of size on the line as we had last year, I think the offense is going to change up a little bit."

"I'm not sure what that means right now, but once we get into practice, we'll be able to figure it all out."

That could also mean that Sloup might get a chance on defense, something that most high school kids, if they are amongst the best athletes on the team, usually have done already. It's not often you run into teams so deep on both sides, an athlete like Sloup is playing just one side of the ball. But that's good for Ollie, because when it comes to recruiting, he'll get some looks at running back, but more of it should come from the side giving the hits rather than the side taking them.

Sloup hasn't thought that much about that aspect, because this off-season is more important to him. When you see so many players getting recruited, some your former teammates, it's hard not to take notice. "I think about it a little more now that our season is over," he said. "I'm not really getting any attention right now, so I don't really know what to expect in the future."

"I don't really worry about the individual stuff, even though I know that's what teams want to see. For me, I would much rather concentrate on the team."

Being an in-state kid, most assume that dreams of playing for the big red have danced in his head since the day he knew what the big red was. While you certainly can't avoid the influence of the Huskers if you are within the state, Sloup hasn't had any problems looking beyond. In fact, he's even got a friend putting out the good word. "Boomer goes to Wake Forest and I think he's putting in a good word for me out there," Ollie said of former Lincoln Southeast lineman Boomer Peterson. "I have no problem going anywhere and I like schools like Kansas and Kansas State, too."

"Honestly, all I am interested in right now is a chance at a free education. I guess I will worry about where that is at some point later on."

When Ollie looks at his senior season, he's actually invigorated by the fact that the challenge won't be just to make it back to state, but to get this team together, trying to find some unity with so many new faces showing up on the field. It's a challenge that he deferred to the senior-laden team last year, but it's one he takes seriously now that he's one of the elders on the team. It's something that everyone is taking as THE challenge before the challenge of the actual season arrives.

"We're all really taking it on our shoulders to lead this team," Sloup said of himself and other players like future starting quarterback Austin Cassidy. "The seniors did it for us and we feel that is a big reason why we did as well as we did. It's our turn now, so this off-season is really important to us, because this is the time where we come together as a team and when practice starts we are ready to go."

Sloup's concentration will continue to be on that aspect and only a little on the recruiting in the future. He hasn't thought much about whether he feels slighted from the lack of attention, because he isn't the kind of kid that demands the attention at all. It's a free education, which is the most appealing part to him, but that is then, this is now and in-between, there's still a lot more he wants to do.

"I know I won't be thinking about that stuff the closer football gets," Ollie said of the recruiting attention. "It will be nice, but it will be a lot nicer if we can make it back to the state title game."

"I don't know that many expect it considering how many players we lost, but I don't know how many expected us to do what we did last year. I'm hoping we can surprise a few people again."

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