The dogs are out

Senior teammates reflect on 10 years of playing together


Photo by: Aubrey Bolinger

From left to right: seniors Alex Kafka, Chase Curtis, Jhalani Long and Tye Cicero.

Story by Nicole Konopelko, Managing Editor

It’s the middle of a basketball quarter and senior Drew Roelfs, the guard, has the ball. Though he just got it, he can already sense the location of the player he’s about to pass it to.  

He throws it to his best friend, senior Chase Curtis. Curtis shoots the ball straight into the basket, and wins the point for the Dragons.

“I know what his tendencies are and I know where he’s going to be,” Roelfs said. “We’ve played so much together that we know what each person is going to do.”

Curtis and Roelfs have been playing basketball on the same team since they were in third grade. Joining them on the team are seniors Alex Kafka, Jhalani Long, Tye Cicero, Chase Johnson and Mitchell Light.

“I know every facial expression of those guys: when they’re focused, when they’re not focused, when they’re mad, when they’re not mad,” Curtis said. “I feel like that’s [contributed] to a lot of the success that we’ve had in high school sports.”

The boys’ journey to the PHS varsity basketball court started in third grade. At the time, they were known as the “raildogs.”

The team started off as a basketball team. Curtis’s dad, Chris Curtis, decided to start it after noticing Curtis and his friends’ athletic potential. He wanted them to get used to playing as a team because they were eventually going to when they got to high school.

“We just wanted to go other places and play other teams to make us better,” Roelfs said. “We grew closer together, and we got better.”

The Raildogs soon became a baseball team, with the same boys.

In 2012, after three years of playing with each other, the Raildogs made it to the Little League World Championship game. Though they lost the championship by one run, they made it into the top 60 teams.

I know every facial expression of those guys…

— Chase Curtis

“We really came together. Being that young, it was pretty impressive how we all were being mature and we all came through and helped each other,” Curtis said.

The Raildogs traveled to bigger cities to compete against bigger teams, including Kansas City, Branson and Topeka throughout their time on the team.

In middle school, the team left the Raildogs and became the dragons.

But they don’t just look at themselves as teammates. They’re also best friends, and they hang out with each other outside of the sports they play.

“I would say that we’re just kind of a bunch of goofy guys,” Long said. “We’ve known each other forever. We’re all just really close and we have a lot of fun together.”

Keith Matlock, head baseball coach, said that in his 17 years of coaching, he’s never had a team as connected as the boys.

“Every bit of [their relationship] translates onto the field and off the field,” Matlock said. “That chemistry has really made them believe in one another. Their comradery will be really hard to replicate, and they just really do a great job leading.”

The boys will be parting ways this year and graduating. Though some of them will be playing in college, some will not.

Kafka said their relationship, however, will not part with them.

“It’s going to be real hard parting ways with the guys that you’ve done everything with for your life so far,” Kafka said. “When we meet up, I am very confident that we will pick up right where we left off and tell stories from our Raildog days.”