Cougars have new coach, new outlook
The Shawnee Mission Northwest football team starts anew after former coach Aaron Barnett resigned, taking an administrative job in the Shawnee Mission School District.
New coach Linn Hibbs — a two-time 4A state champion at Wellington High School, where his teams advanced to 19 consecutive playoff appearances — brings a new system and outlook to the Cougars as they look for a deeper run in the playoffs after being derailed last November by SM East.
In the first summer under Hibbs’ tutelage, the Cougars are trying to grasp new terminology as the beginning of the season draws near.
Although there are a lot of challenges involved in bringing in a whole new system, Hibbs has enjoyed getting to know the SM Northwest community in his first few months — one of the reasons why this job was so appealing to Hibbs.
“I had a lot of confidence in the coaches and administration that we can put a good product onto the field,” he said.
Throughout summer, Hibbs and his coaching staff supervised weight training, ran the summer football camp, organized 7-on-7 football and finished with high-intensity training between July 23 and Aug. 3.
“I told the kids there’s no two- or three- or four-year plan,” Hibbs said. “This is a now plan.”
Hibbs knows his coaching philosophy works, but for the Cougars to win now, they’ll have to rely on seniors with experience in the Sunflower League.
Senior tight end and defensive lineman Josh Zdeb is one player Hibbs will rely on for team leadership and consistency.
“I like the dedication in the weight room,” Zdeb said. “Everyone is working very hard for this season.”
Another player to stand out to Hibbs this summer was senior fullback and linebacker Connor Jarman.
“I think he’s putting some of it on our shoulders to get stuff done, and I expect to get a good record,” Jarman said.
Jarman, a physical presence on the team in recent seasons, said he noticed an improvement in his speed and agility this offseason.
The most impressive player for the Cougars might lurk in the trenches in senior lineman Jake Filsinger.
“I’ve been working a lot with footwork and hands,” Filsinger said.
Other players Hibbs mentioned as keys to success this seasons include new starting quarterback Lucas Karlin and senior defensive back Luke Fields.
With a 4-6 record in 2011, Hibbs sees plenty of room for improvement.
But before getting to work on that, Hibbs said the team must first buy into his philosophy during preseason practices.
“We’re going to take it slow and try to keep it simple the first couple weeks and then incorporate more as we go along,” Hibbs said.
There are a lot of unknowns still for the Cougars, but the support of the fanbase and the community’s belief in the program has been unmistakable, he said.
“There’s an energy here, we just have to build on it,” Hibbs said. “We all know there’s going to be bumps in the road. We understand that. We just got to work through those bumps in the road and we’ll be all right.”
The Cougars are scheduled to open the 2012 season with a 7 p.m. varsity clash against the Olathe North Eagles Aug. 31 at SM South District Stadium, 5800 W 107th St., Overland Park.