VANDALIA — With each new football season hope springs eternal. Every team is undefeated, dreams of perfection, a playoff run, and, ultimately, a state championship.
“You are always optimistic and feeling good but then you look at the big picture and think of the things we need to continue to get better at,” said first year head coach Nathan Hyatt. “The players have come a long way in a short period of time but still have a long way to go. The players and coaches are hungry to improve and get better.”
The Butler Aviators are no different. Yet this edition of the Aviators will have some adjusting to do and new things to learn if they want to win their Greater Western Ohio Conference division for the second straight year.
Much is missing from the 2015 Aviators who finished 7-4 overall, won the GWOC North with a 4-1 record, and advanced to the Division II, Region 6 playoffs where they fell to eventual state champion Cincinnati LaSalle. Gone are several starting seniors, and gone is long-time head coach Greg Bush.
But change is the nature of high school football, and in comes Hyatt as the new Aviator head man. Hyatt has been a teacher at Butler for 16 years and has had a long coaching career with stops at Bradford, CJ, Oakwood, and Butler.
Change also comes in the form of a new GWOC alignment. The Aviators now reside in the six-team American North which includes traditional GWOC North foes Greenville, Piqua, Sidney, and Troy. Added to the mix is Tippecanoe High School in Week 10 – a game that many Aviator fans have wanted to see for a long time.
Northmont, or “that team across the dam” as Hyatt refers to them, returns to the schedule as well with a Thursday night televised contest on September 15.
“We want to get that rivalry going again,” said Hyatt. He joked that green is a color that “kids get thrown out of practice or have to remove. We don’t have green anywhere in our facilities. We want to embrace that rivalry and have fun with it. When you go to Butler, that team over there is your rival.”
The Aviators’ non-league slate will also include a trip to Massillon Perry, last year’s Division II runners-up, Tecumseh, Wilmington, and Stebbins.
“We have an extremely difficult schedule this year,” said Hyatt. “We’ve added Massillon Perry, a state powerhouse every year. We have added that school across the dam back to the schedule, and Troy, who has been down the past few years, will be much improved. Piqua and Sidney will be better, and we are adding Tipp City. All we can do is day in and day out practice to get better. If we come out and play the way we are capable we are going to win a lot of football games, but we don’t have a lot of margin for error with that schedule.”
The Aviators will have a new look on defense.
“We will be a much more attacking, pressing style,” said Hyatt. “I think we are going to have a very good defensive line and I think Gavin Kohler will be one of the best defensive players in the league.”
Other players to watch on the defensive side of the ball are Quentin Glover, Caiden Serrer, Matt Grossman, Dylan Sagers, Bryce Frogge, Ronnie Wallace, Paul Sacks, Robert Spencer, Nick Coyle.
“These guys are learning some technique things, but there is no hesitancy in flying to the football and using their size to make an impact,” said Hyatt.
Mark Verdes and Jack Mitchell are expected to have strong seasons at safety.
“I couldn’t be more excited about those two at safety,” Hyatt said. “They will rotate in with Trey Sanders and we have some younger kids that can play.”
Aaron Fields and Dayton Vincent will play corner back.
On the offensive side of the ball, Tyler Burley will take the reigns at quarterback and be backed up by Mason Motter. Logan Flatt and Jabari Wortham will share the running back slots. Receivers include Sanders, Verdes, Aaron Fields, Miles Joiner, and Mitchell.
“We have a lot of talent at our skill positions,” said Hyatt. “When you look at our skill kids I couldn’t be more happy with those positions. They are very good. Our concern is up front (offensive line). We have to get a lot better up front, more physical up front. We have seen growth, a big leap in physicality, and we hope that continues.”
Hyatt said he’s not concerned with being out-sized. He wants kids that are mean, physical, and will block through the whistle.
“If they can move a guy, we will be O.K.,” he said.
Joining Hyatt on the coaching staff are Matt Mitchell, Tyler Koch, Jon Cox, Zach Gueth, Charlie Amlin, Jeremy LaVoie, Ryan Pelfrey, Dillon Ankeney, Eric Gillespie, and Ken Mann.
“It’s the best staff I’ve ever been around,” said Hyatt. “I feel very lucky to have this quality of a staff here. They are a lot of fun to be around and great mentors for our players to be around.”
Hyatt said believes the league title is wide open.
“I don’t believe right now there is that one super team in our division, but I think there are a lot of good to very good teams,” he said. “What I do know is that one of those teams will elevate themselves and claim a championship. That’s what we are all chasing.”
Hyatt has a simple message for his players that’s been the same at every coaching stop he’s had.
“The last three things I tell them every game is to play hard, play fast, and play angry – every time.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @Darrell_Wacker or @VandaliaDrummer.