Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger several times throughout his nine seasons at Ottawa has changed players’ positions once they came to Ottawa.
Kessinger likes to have players who are open to change and embrace it. He found two of those in seniors Shane Gimzo and Donald Anderson.
Gimzo came to Ottawa as an all-state quarterback for Perry-Lecompton. He was known as an athlete, who could do multiple things.
He was not the typical quarterback for Kessinger’s passing offense, but more of a running quarterback. So he was moved to receiver and played quarterback in the so-called “Wildcat formation.”
Things changed halfway through his junior season when he was called upon to be the starter at quarterback. All of a sudden the Braves offense became more diversified.
He moved back to receiver to start his senior season, but returned as the starting quarterback in the second game of the season.
All he did was become one of the most feared offensive players in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. The coaches selected him as the KCAC player of the year.
Anderson spent his first two seasons as a receiver and did not see the field much on offense. The coaches saw his athletic prowess and needed a corner at the end of the 2010 season.
Anderson switched to defense in the regular-season finale against Friends. He came up with two interceptions and he became a lock down stopper.
He turned his game up a few notches this season leading the nation in interceptions (10) and passes defended. He still was a force on special teams, blocking punts and even returning kicks.
Anderson was selected the KCAC defensive player of the year.
Both were grateful for their recognition and surprised by their selection.
Anderson said it was a team award because he could not have been effective without their support.
Gimzo made plays all over the field. He has 749 yards rushing. He completed 175 of 267 passes (65 percent) for 22 touchdowns and 2,177 yards. He caught two passes, one for a touchdown.
Gimzo wasn’t sure about his move to quarterback early in the year.
“It took me a game or two to embrace it,” he said.
Anderson said moving to defense kept him from quitting football. He was going to give up football after his sophomore season.
“When I first came in I was not sure I would fit in,” he said. “I liked it. Then I broke my arm coming into my sophomore season. The best thing I ever did was move to defense.”
Ottawa defensive coordinator Josh Homolka planted seeds during the winter between his sophomore and junior year.
“I give a lot of credit to coach Homolka,” Anderson said. “He said, ‘if you put in the time, there is no reason why you can’t be all-conference.’
“Before this season, he said, ‘if you put in more work, there is no reason why you should not be an All-American.’ He called it out. We are pretty close. We have a good relationship.
“There is no regrets. The experience I have here is like no other. I am humble and grateful. It has been a great experience.” Ottawa, the KCAC champions for the third time in four years, received three first-team selections on offense and four on defense. Joining Gimzo on offense was junior receiver Jon Hilliger and offensive lineman Quinton Flaming.
The other defensive selections were senior defensive lineman Zach Van Duesen, senior linebacker Matt Gross and senior safety Logan Schultz.
Hilliger caught 83 passes for 1,008 and 12 touchdowns this season. Flaming anchored Ottawa’s offensive line.
Schultz quarterbacked the defense for the Braves. He finished with nine interceptions, which was one behind NAIA leader Anderson. He had 49 tackles.
Van Duesen was a load for the opponents’ offensive linemen. He had 51 tackles with 12 for losses and four quarterback sacks.
Gross switched from the secondary to a linebacker during his career. He had his best season leading Ottawa in tackles with 82.
Offensive lineman Austin Britt and receiver Travis Adamson were second team selections on offense. Adamson was second team punter. Jeff Stamp was second team as kicker and Dexter Hayes was second team kick returner.
Defensive lineman Pierce Hutchens was second team defensive selection.
Weston Coomes, Christian Magdalena, Nate Bruto, DeVontae Corbitt, Tyler Reibel, Kodee Wood, Michael Baer, Zach Lanning and Sean Wilkerson were honorable mention selections.
McPherson senior offensive lineman Isaac DeLaTorre, who graduated from Central Heights, earned honorable mention honors.
QB — Shane Gimzo, Ottawa, Mike Keese, Saint Mary
RB — Tevis Linnebur, Bethany; Brett Giesen, Kansas Wesleyan; James Monroe, Tabor
FB — Ben Suchsland, Bethel
TE — Cody Butts, Friends
UTL — Derek Racette, Friends
WR — Brandon Martino, Bethany; Zach McClain, Kansas Wesleyan; Julius Record, McPherson; Jon Hilliger, Ottawa; Jerrell Young, Saint Mary.
OL — Jon-Michael Bergeron, Tabor; Stephen Buesch, Friends; Sean Grove, Kansas Wesleyan; Dusty Hague, McPherson; Quinton Flaming, Ottawa.
DL — Dexter Davis, Friends; Zach Van Deusen, Ottawa; Garrett Mangrum, Southwestern; Chris Sanborn, Tabor.
DB — Jeff Kontz, Friends; Allen Colbert, McPherson; Donald Anderson, Ottawa; Logan Schultz, Ottawa.
LB — Marcus Carter, Friends; Brady Harwell, Kansas Wesleyan; Matt Gross, Ottawa; Nik France, Tabor.
PK — Joe Cannon, Tabor.
PR — Tanner Giffin, Tabor.
KR — Lee Stewart, Kansas Wesleyan.