VANDALIA — The post-season awards continue to roll in for the Aviator football program. Head football coach John Puckett was recently named the 2018 Division III Coach of the Year by the Miami Valley Football Coaches Association.
In his first year as a varsity head coach, Puckett was joined on his staff by his father Jerry which carried extra meaning during the season.
“I’ve shared every significant moment in my life with him,” said Puckett, “so my dad has been a significant person in my life every since I can remember. Every significant achievement or milestone, good or bad experience that I’ve ever had, he’s been a part of. So it was really cool to enjoy this season with him.”
Joining Puckett is Offensive Coordinator Matt Mitchell who was named the top assistant coach in Division III. Mitchell, who has coached six years at Butler, has coached under three different head coaches while at Butler.
“Anytime you are recognized by your peers that is the ultimate recognition. It’s humbling, very humbling,” said Mitchell.
“Everyone I talked to said to hire an offensive coordinator who thinks exactly like you do,” said Puckett. “I couldn’t think of anyone better than Matt. We coached a few years together in Centerville and even coached a third grade basketball team together.”
Puckett and his staff are the first coaches in school history to win six games and earn a playoff berth in their first year at the school. Competing in a loaded Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division, the Aviators posted a 3-2 league record while earning just the eighth playoff berth in school history.
Last season featured a thrilling overtime win versus Xenia, a nail-biter versus Piqua, and a 33-22 loss to Badin the first round of the playoffs that was much closer than the score might indicate.
“I’m really happy for both of those guys, it is well deserved,” said Shumaker. “There aren’t any two guys at any school that work harder or put in more time than they do. There’s nobody on a scale of high school assistant coaches that outworks Matt. John has been awesome in his first year. My biggest thing is our kids played so hard for him and that’s not easy to do in the first year to relate to kids the way he did. It does a lot to help our kids continue to buy in when they see our coaches are winning awards like this.”
Mitchell said they key to the Aviator’s success was attitude and effort.
“Every program talks about working hard and doing things right, but really it comes down to attitude and effort,” he said. “Are you willing to make sure its a level of attitude and effort you want on an every day basis? You can’t let it slack. It’s not just what you do, but how you do it. I don’t think we are anywhere near where we want to be right now, this is just the beginning, but our kids really bought into the first year and we are definitely moving in the right direction.”
Puckett said the support he’s gotten from the community from the beginning has been instrumental to the program’s success.
“From the first parent’s meeting on I could feel the support,” he said. “The administration has been incredibly supportive, the eagerness in their eyes, they felt refreshed, wanting to put a good product on the field but also someone who could affect these kids for the rest of their lives. (Athletic Director) Jordan Shumaker has done everything I asked but he doesn’t meddle either. The support from the community, the school, the student body, its all been phenomenal.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-89893 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.