By RICK PETERSON
It was early in 2013 and Derick Hammes was facing a crossroads in his coaching career.
Hammes had resigned after seven seasons as the head football coach at Class 6A Washburn Rural and was trying to decide what his next move was going to be.
Rossville, meanwhile, was looking for a new head coach after longtime coach Steve Buhler had accepted the job at Rural as Hammes' replacement.
Fortunately for both Hammes and the Bulldawgs, they found each other.
"It's been a great fit and I appreciate the community and their passion for this,'' Hammes said. "There's never been one thing that I've asked -- whether it's a morning practice or whatever it is -- there's just never been anything that's too much for our kids and community and I think that's what's rare and what I appreciate the most.''
Hammes, who had a stint early in his career as the head coach at Center High School in Kansas City, Mo. and served as an assistant coach for Hayden's undefeated Class 4A state championship team in 2004, took over at Rossville prior to the 2013 season after former Bulldawg All-Stater Jason Broaddus, the school's initial pick to replace Buhler, stepped down shortly after accepting the job due to a health concern.
The rest, as they say, is history, with Hammes coaching the Bulldawgs to a 95-15 record (.864 winning percentage) and four state championships in his nine years at the school.
Rossville, which has won 25 straight games, will try to notch a fifth state title and a second straight perfect season when the 12-0 Bulldawgs square off against 9-3 Beloit in Saturday's 1 p.m. 2A state championship game at Salina Stadium.
Hammes is quick to credit the entire Rossville community for their contributions to the Bulldawgs' success.
"They're supportive and the people are interested in winning here,'' said Hammes, a former standout linebacker at Nemaha Valley (now Nemaha Central) and Emporia State. "Everybody does their part and I think it's more of a community thing than anything. It's a special deal and it's worked.''
Hammes certainly couldn't have predicted Rossville's incredible run of success, but he's extremely thankful for how things have turned out from both a personal and coaching perspective.
"For me, this fits my personality,'' Hammes said. "I think I'm a pretty intense guy, I'm a driven guy and the folks here have just been compatible to that. The kids here have bought in to that and that's kind of the match that I think has worked out really well for everybody involved.
"I believe that if you work hard at something and if you believe in what you're doing it's going to work out and that's certainly happened in my case.''
Rossville football will try to add to its legacy Saturday and although Hammes knows the Bulldawgs face a tough test, he believes his team is up to the challenge.
"What I enjoy about this group is I that I know they're going to go out there and they're going to give it their best and they're going to play hard and they're going to lay it on the line.''