It’s on John Puckett to recharge the Butler High School football program and make the Aviators a playoff contender.
Puckett succeeds Nathan Hyatt and will be the only new coach in the six-team Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division this season. After 19 seasons as a go-to assistant in four states, the time was right for him to accept the hot seat.
“It’s funny to try and be in charge of the whole practice instead of just half of it,” he said after Tuesday’s second preseason practice. “I have a tremendous coaching staff and they have an emotional investment in all these kids. We’re working on the man first and we figure the football player will follow.”
Puckett comes to Butler from Centerville, where he was the defensive coordinator last season. He’s a Chaminade Julienne grad who played for former Eagles coach Jim Place.
The Aviators’ transformation will be assisted by 23 seniors, including linebacker Nick Coyle, “our true leader out there,” Puckett said. “He gets everybody going.”
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Puckett will make his debut at Harrison in the season opener. Following a Week 2 game at Tecumseh the Aviators will have their home opener in Week 3 against Wilmington.
“It’s been going great,” said Puckett, who resigned a teaching position at Centerville to accept a position in the Vandalia-Butler City School District. “We have a tremendous amount of support from the community and the parents have been overwhelmingly supportive.”
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The following are five things to know about GWOC American North football.
Teams/coaches: Butler (4-6, 2-3; D-III, Region 12), John Puckett (first season); Greenville (2-8, 0-5; D-III, Region 12), Aaron Shaffer (seventh season); Piqua (6-4, 3-2; D-III, Region 12), Bill Nees (28th season);
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Sidney (10-2, 4-1; D-II, Region 8), Adam Doenges (eighth season); Tippecanoe (4-6, 1-4; D-III, Region 12), Joel Derge (fourth season); Troy (8-3, 5-0; D-II Region 8), Matt Burgbacher (fourth season).
What to know: Defending GWOC American North champ Troy and runner-up Sidney advanced to the playoffs in 2017.
Burgbacher has quickly returned Troy to heavyweight status since leaving a successful run at Fort Loramie. Just 2-8 in his first season, Troy has won a combined 18 games the last two years. Charlie Burgbacher, Matt’s father, is firmly entrenched as the defensive coordinator after a long and successful run as Tippecanoe’s head coach.
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Matching Burgbacher’s turnaround at Troy is Doenges at Sidney. All the Yellow Jackets did was rewrite most significant school single-season, career and individual records in 2017. Sidney’s All-World running back Isaiah Bowser (2,617 yards rushing, 29 touchdowns) is in the running for playing time as a freshman at Northwestern University. Defensive lineman Devan Rogers is at Toledo.
Sidney also must replace electrifying quarterback Andre Gordon, who will play basketball only as a senior at Huntington Prep (W.Va.).
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• Piqua’s Nees has been the longest-serving GWOC head coach since Steve Nolan left rival Troy. Nees has guided all 11 Indians’ playoff teams, including the D-II state championship season in 2006 with Mr. Football Brandon Saine in the backfield. Piqua also was the D-II state runner-up in 2000.
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• This is the final season for these six teams to call the GWOC home. Most have early roots in a revived Miami Valley League that will begin play in the 2019 season. Joining these six are current GWOC American South members Fairborn, Stebbins, West Carrollton and Xenia to make a 10-team alliance.
Key returning offensive players:
• Josh Burritt, sr., RB, Tippecanoe: 941 yards rushing, 9 TDs.
• Jaydon Culp-Bishop, sr., RB, Troy: 1,549 yards rushing, 11 TDs.
• Bryant Johnson, sr., WR, Butler: 21 catches, 605 yards (28.8), 10 TDs.
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• Mason Motter, sr., QB, Butler: 1,622 yards passing, 14 TDs, 11 INTs.
• Ratez Roberts, sr., WR, Sidney: 22 catches, 459 yards (20.9), 6 TDs.
Key returning defensive players:
• Blake Burton, sr., LB, Troy: 69 tackles, 1 forced fumble.
• Quentin Glover, sr., DL, Butler: 59 tackles, 1 fumble recovery.
• Mason Gostomsky, sr., LB, Tippecanoe: 69 tackles, 1 fumble recovery.
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• Caleb Harris, sr., DB, Sidney: 67 tackles, 4 INTs, one fumble recovery.
• Micah Karn, sr., LB, Piqua: 82 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 fumble recovery.
Week 1 games: All at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 24.
• Bellbrook at Tippecanoe;
• Belmont at Troy;
• Butler at Harrison;
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• Greenville at Eaton;
• Piqua at Chaminade Julienne;
• Sidney at St. Marys Memorial.
Fun bonus fact: What do five of the six teams all have in common besides jumping to the revised MVL next season? Interstate 75. That’s where you’ll find, in order going north and just a long pass from an exit ramp, Butler, Tipp, Troy, Piqua and Sidney.
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