2014 will mark the beginning of a new era for the Bluffton football program. Coach Kyle Cutnaw has taken the reigns as head coach, replacing Dennis Lee who coached from 1988 to 2013 and compiled a record of 178-103. Coach Cutnaw has brought an infusion of new ideas and energy to the program, but also recognizes that Coach Lee left the program in excellent shape and carried forward successful mindsets and traditions.
Coach Cutnaw has past head coaching experience at Edgerton High school and assisted at Pandora-Gilboa, Streetsboro and Upper Sandusky high schools. Cutnaw also was on staff at Otterbein University and Kenyon College in his career. Last season, Cutnaw was a volunteer varsity assistant for the Pirates and gained an understanding of the Pirate program and kids. “My goal is to take the best bits of each system I’ve been in and infuse them into our game plan. We have the pieces and now we’re trying to make things work based on our personnel.”
Personnel wise, Cutnaw steps into a program that is loaded with experienced upper classmen. Eleven seniors dot the roster and sixteen lettermen return from BHS’ 6-4 team last season. This was the first winning season for Bluffton since 2005. Returning offensive starters include seniors Robbie Stratton, Austin Bricker and Levi Kistler as receivers. Seniors Clay Wilson and Devin Lugibihl return and will team with sophomore Dustin Falk in the backfield. Returning linemen include seniors Brady Parkins, Andrew Spallinger and Ross Zimmerman and are joined by Blake Sampson, Misha Groman and Zach Little. Junior Mitchell Ault returns at quarterback after throwing for 1,634 yards and 16 scores and completing 59% of his passes as a sophomore. Senior Dylan Alt returns as a hard hitting defensive back.
Cutnaw said the offseason and preseason have gone well and even exceeded his expectations. “I have been very impressed at how hard working these guys are. I can tell this is a dedicated football team with the backing of their town. Our numbers were strong in the weight room all spring and summer.” Cutnaw also said that team chemistry is a huge plus for this team. “These players respect each other and the time everyone is putting in.” Cutnaw implemented a ten week leadership program that the captains went through in the offseason. The four captains are seniors Robbie Stratton and Austin Bricker and juniors Mitchell Ault and Zach Little. “We wanted our captains to know what it takes to be a good leader and set the tone to influence teammates in a positive way. We want them to be very vocal and up front for our team”, Cutnaw relayed.
The coaching staff is peppered with familiar names and some new ones. Assistant Coaches Steve Lemley, Bryant Miller and Pat Prichard return to the sidelines. They are joined by Jesse Herr, Jeremy Basinger and Dave Bracy. “I can’t say enough good things about our coaching staff. They have welcomed me and have put in all the countless hours that is required to continue a successful program. I really enjoy working with these guys.”
The Pirates schedule features a few new teams this season as two long standing rivalries have dropped off the chart. Lima Central Catholic and Carey are not on Bluffton’s schedule and have been replaced with Van Buren and Western Reserve Academy, near Cleveland. Bluffton starts on the road at Cory-Rawson and Van Buren and ends with three straight home games. The middle of the season is where the Pirates will show what they’re made of against the best of the Northwest Conference. The Pirates host Delphos Jefferson and Ada and travel to Crestview and Spencerville in games that will likely decide the NWC and postseason standings.
In regards to the postseason, Cutnaw relays that is one of the team’s goals for the year. “First, we want to improve every day and every game. Our next goal is to make the playoffs. Third, we want to win the NWC and our fourth goal is to win a State Championship. We have a lot of work before us but I like where we’re at and I’m looking forward to getting the season underway when we travel to Cory-Rawson.”
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