2017 Football Squad Has New Look
By Sam Brauen Tuesday, August 15, 2017 11:52:15 PM
(Photo by Marvin Foster)
Every tweet coach Jeff Richards posted this summer ended with #BreakThrough2017. This fall, the Pirate football team will indeed look to break through and improve upon their win total of last season. In 2016, BHS stood 3-1 after four weeks with wins over Cory-Rawson, Fort Loramie and Paulding before dropping the final six contests of the season to finish 3-7. Seven seniors graduated from last year’s squad.
Thirty eight players are on the roster for the 2017 campaign including nine seniors Brice Rayle, Gavin Conrad, James Badial-Luna, Dakota Bricker, Joel Piercefield, Kaden Reneker, Kaleb Jefferson, Justin Haggard and Hunter Busch. Coach Richards praised the upperclassmen saying, “These seniors have a lot of playing experience. We challenged them after the Grove game last year to get into the weight room and they led the way. We had great attendance for our workouts throughout the summer and several guys put on 20+ pounds of muscle.” Those players include Justin Haggard who will be a three year starter on the offensive line for the Pirates. Chad Veit and Hunter Busch have moved to the offensive line to provide a more aggressive and explosive mentality, per Coach Richards.
The Pirates will have a new look on offense this season, the second under head man Richards. In scrimmage action, the Pirates have featured the Flex Bone offense. The standard set features a dive back and two A-backs who can run option play with the quarterback in addition to taking a pitch or handoff. This run heavy setup fits the speedy Pirate roster. “We looked at what we ran well last year. We did a lot of research and traveled to Georgia Tech and met with their staff to get a better handle on the setup,” Richards said. “We’ll be able to get the ball into the hands of Kaleb (Jefferson), DeAndre (Nassar), Dakota (Bricker) and our other top speed guys. With so many options available, we hope to keep defenses guessing based on who’s in motion. Defenses have to pay attention to Dakota and Kaleb, they both had double digit touchdowns last season. Logan Rhodes, Brice Rayle and Gavin Conrad have all had excellent fall camps and will contribute right away.” The flex bone, also referred to as the Triple Option, is not a new style of offense. It takes a lot of reps in practice and the Pirates have been diligently working to iron out the kinks before Week 1. Richards went on to comment how no team in this area runs the offense.
Defensively, the Pirates will look to tighten up after giving up an average of 40 points per game in the final six games last season. BHS allowed just 40 points in the first four games combined. “Defensively, we ran a 4-3 last year and you need multiple good sized linebackers to make that work. Late in the year, we ran into some serious size that we struggled with. We’ve transitioned into more of a 4-2-5 look which will help us on both pass defense and run defense.” On the line, Gavin Conrad is a returning all conference defensive lineman and Brice Rayle will be joining the group. Kaden Renecker and Baylor Garmatter played extensively last year and will join returning starters Jefferson, Bricker and Rhodes in the secondary.
The 2017 schedule features a foe the Pirates have not faced since the opening round of the 1991 OHSAA State playoffs in Ayersville. BHS will travel to face the Pilots in Week 3. Bluffton defeated Ayersville 27-7 in the lone meeting of the two squads in Week 11 of that 1991 season. Ayersville finished last season with a record of 12-1 losing their only game in the OHSAA Division VI Regional Final by a 21-19 score to Patrick Henry and averaged over 50 points per game. However, the Pilots graduated several players and have an entirely new coaching staff so the team is a bit of an unknown as of today. The trip to Defiance County will be Bluffton’s only game away from Harmon Field in the first five weeks of the season. BHS hosts Cory-Rawson, Van Buren, Crestview and Paulding in the first five weeks. The second half of the season includes a trip to Allen East and the year’s final home game against Jefferson in Week 7 before three straight away games to Spencerville, Ada and Columbus Grove. The Pirates will certainly look to get off on a good foot early in the year with early run of home games.
Bluffton is in Division VI Region 24 in the OHSAA Playoff format. Fellow Northwest Conference members Allen East, Jefferson and Spencerville are in the region along with MAC schools Marion Local, Coldwater, Fort Recovery and St. Henry. To qualify for the OHSAA Playoffs, the team must finish in the top eight spots of the region.
Assisting Richards will be Pat Prichard, Mike Richards, Brad Jones, Bryan Lloyd, Lane Oberly and Jake Slager.