VANDALIA — When the Butler Aviators kickoff against Badin on Friday night, it will be special for a lot of reasons.
The Aviators are returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Moreover, by virtue of finishing in the top four of the Region 12 standings, Butler is hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2002.
And for head coach John Puckett, making the playoffs in his first year as a head coach is also special.
“Making the playoffs reinforces the things we have been teaching them since January,” said Puckett. “Control what you can control, being tough and gritty, showing up every day ready to work – it just reinforces all of those things. I love these seniors. They care a lot about each other and this program and they are excited. They should be.”
Butler (6-4) comes into the contest as the #3 seed in the region facing off against Badin (7-3) as the #6 seed. Badin plays in the Greater Catholic League Central division. Their resume includes a 38-21 win over CJ and an overtime win at Roger Bacon along with a close 17-7 loss at Alter, the top seed in Region 12.
The teams look very similar on paper.
Badin averages 28 points a game while holding opponents to 19. Davon Hartmann-Sacks has run for 1,075 yards and scored 13 touchdowns on the season. Quarterback Zach Switzer has completed just 43% of his throws for 700 yards and nine scores while throwing three interceptions.
Puckett called Badin’s leading running back “special” when asked to describe the Rams’ football team.
They are tough, hard nosed, and play really hard. They want to beat you up on every play and I expect this to be much like the Piqua game – It’s going to be a tough, hard-nosed beat the crap out of each other type of football game.”
The Aviators counter with Ryan Martin who has run for 1,064 yards and 16 touchdowns along with quarterback Mason Motter who has rushed for 676 yards and five scores and thrown for nearly 900 yards and nine touchdowns.
Puckett said that one of the most gratifying things to happen this season is to watch the culture of the program change from day one to now.
“Looking back on it from the first day of weights the kids are way ahead of where I thought they would be at this point but still far away from where we are going,” he said. “The growth I’ve seen in the kids, the buy in, their whole demeanor is different.”
The Aviators and Rams will face off Friday at 7 p.m. and the gates will open at 5:30 p.m. Pre-sale tickets, which are $8, are available in the Athletic Office Thursday and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tickets at the gate are $9. Reserved season passes for football will be honored. Parking is $5.
Puckett said the team reflects the best of the Vandalia-Butler community and urges everyone to come out and support the team.
“If they want to see a group of kids that emulate exactly what Vandalia and Butler Township, Ohio is – a bunch of tough, hard-working, blue collar kids that show up to work every day, care about each other, their teammates, their school, and their community, that its not just about them but something bigger than them – then they should come out and support this football team.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.