Unbeaten Arcanum generates community buzz: “It feels pretty special”

Austen Cuttarelli and his senior teammates were tasked with revitalizing Arcanum High School football. A small school and community tucked off Route 49 in Darke County, Arcanum hadn’t fielded a winning team since 2008.

»»PHOTOS: Arcanum football, Week 8

Interest in Arcanum football had waned. And then it happened. The Trojans couldn’t help but notice folding chairs were dotted among the stadium bleachers days before their next game at Arcanum-Butler School Athletic Field. There’s a winning reason for that.

“I’ve never seen that before,” said Cuttarelli, among the many two-way Trojans standouts. “Coach has always told us we were going to be the senior class to change it and it feels pretty special. This team is part of the community. We feel we owe the community.”

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Overseeing the most significant transformation from last season is Trojans head coach Jason Schondelmyer. If that name sounds familiar, it should. He’s in his second stint as Arcanum’s head coach and picked up the athletic director title, too.

“Schondo” returned to Arcanum as football coach last season and the Trojans dipped to 2-8. That’s what makes their 7-0 run this season so sweet. Arcanum and Midwest Athletic Conference power Coldwater (7-0) are the area’s only two remaining unbeaten teams.

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“That’s what you dream of,” said Schondelmyer, previously the head coach at Cross County Conference rivals Twin Valley South and Tri-Village, Versailles and an assistant coach at the University of Dayton and Alter. “Last year was a grind, but it’s facing adversity and coming back from it. It’s a credit to our kids.”

There’s an extra Week 8 buzz about Trojans football. Friday’s CCC showdown against visiting Covington (5-2) is essentially for a CCC co-championship, although two games will remain for each. Covington is 4-1 in the conference, having lost to defending champ Fort Loramie (6-1) and Minster of the MAC. Loramie, a Division VII state semifinalist last season, figures to win out and make another deep D-VII postseason run, although the Redskins are lumped with Marion Local (6-1) in D-VII, Region 28.

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Arcanum, currently fifth, and Covington (ninth) are in contention for D-VI, Region 24 playoff spots. Arcanum last qualified for the playoffs in 2005 during Schondelmyer’s first stint with the Trojans. Among his best players was All-Ohio running back Tyler Cates, now Covington’s head coach.

Covington warmed up for Arcanum by roasting National Trail last week, 75-0.

“It’s great that he’s having success,” Schondelmyer said of Cates. “We talk about climbing the mountain. Those guys for us, as original CCC members, they’re at the top of the mountain. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

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Arcanum senior running back/linebacker Cory Ross has surpassed 1,000 rushing yards. There’s also massive senior two-way lineman Jayden Heltsly, a 6-foot-4, 280-pounder who is drawing recruiting interest.

There are four Trojans freshmen who start, including quarterback Bryce Schondelmyer, Jason’s son.

“I’ve coached him for many years, but it’s different now,” Jason admitted. “There are more sleepless nights than ever. It’s got its pluses and its minuses. Really, it’s great and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Our freshman class is really strong.”

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The CCC will split after next season, half the teams evolving into the new Western Ohio Athletic Conference. Those that were not invited, including Covington, will form the Three Rivers Conference.

“It’s amazing,” Ross said. “My first three years we really struggled, but now it really came together. (Last season) gave us a spark and motivation for (this) year. We’re ready to rock and roll.”

»»RELATED: Week 8 state football polls

• The Southwestern Buckeye League heats up with Bellbrook (5-2) at Brookville (6-1) and Valley View (5-2) at Milton-Union (6-1) in two great crossover matchups. Along with Franklin (6-1) and Waynesville (6-1), all those teams are bidding for divisional titles and playoff spots.

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• In the Greater Western Ohio Conference, Springfield (6-1) owns a five-game win streak and was scheduled to host Centerville (4-3) on Thursday. Trotwood-Madison (6-1) hasn’t lost since the season opener. Springfield will host Trotwood in Week 10.

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• Alter (4-3) will have to win out to keep its streak of 18 consecutive playoff seasons intact. Alter hosts Carroll (3-4) at Miamisburg. Chaminade Julienne (6-1) has separated itself from the rest of the Greater Catholic League Co-Ed. CJ is at McNicholas (3-4).

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