John Blazevic tried to keep a normal routine after Olathe East teammate and close friend, Nate Trinkle, died July 14 in a car crash. Blazevic – a senior quarterback and two-year starter for the Hawks, who was as close to Trinkle as anyone on the team – went to summer weights. He wanted to give himself a break from the grief, but working out could only provide so much relief.
“I came that Monday to try and get my mind off it,” Blazevic said. “After we lift, Nate usually led us in some sprints, and we were usually the first two running with the backs, but when I looked over to see him that day and he wasn’t there, I just lost it.”
Trinkle – No. 48 – is never far from hearts and minds around Olathe East, especially after the football team adopted the slogan “State for Nate.”
He would have started at linebacker and also split time at fullback, power back and slot back in the Hawks’ run-oriented offense this season.
“That slogan means a lot, because it’s what he would have wanted,” said Branden Trinkle, Nate’s younger brother. “He loved football.”
Of course, the season hardly turned into a magical ride for the Hawks, who instead stumbled from the gate with only two wins in the first six games.
No one would have blamed coach Jeff Meyers’ team if the emotional toll of dedicating the season to Trinkle had proved overwhelming as the struggles mounted, particularly for a program so unaccustomed to such struggles.
Of course, that’s not what Trinkle would have wanted.
“Nate was the hardest-working kid I ever met, so I know he’d want us to keep going,” senior running back Hayden Frazier said.
Instead, Olathe East persevered, claiming some momentum with a 14-3 victory over rival Olathe North last week – a win Nate Trinkle surely would have reveled in – and moving with renewed confidence into a district that is up for grabs.
“We’re keeping our heads up and still grinding away at the season, so I think he’d still be proud of us,” Branden said. “If we can get to the playoffs, anything can still happen. I think we’d have a great chance of making it to state. You never know what might happen.”
Some criticize the Kansas State High School Activities Association’s format for overvaluing the final three games of the season, but for the Hawks – and any other team whose on-field performance hasn’t met expectations through six games – the reset button has been triggered.
No matter what the win-loss record says, starting now every team in Kansas has a chance to make something of its season.
“If we can get to the playoffs, I know we can still make some noise and make a run at a title,” Frazier said. “It’s been a tough season, but we’ve been competitive against most teams, and I feel like, once we get into district play and get our momentum, it’s going to be hard to stop us.”
The next leg of the journey for the Hawks – the one in which they hope the clouds continue to part, so to speak, much like the grief has receded over the last three months – begins against Blue Valley North at 7 p.m. Friday at the College Boulevard Activity Center.
“Hopefully, we can surprise some people,” Branden said. “We have enough talent on the team to make it to state. We’ve had to become a team, and we’ve made too many mental mistakes, but we can turn that around.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.