Everything that has gone on at Bluffton over the last two seasons – Casey Kolkmans first two as coach – has gone according to expectations.
Not that the coaches would have chosen to start off surprisingly well in 2010 with a 4-7 season (as many wins as the team had in the previous three seasons combined), and then sputter to a 3-7 record last year, but it comes with the territory when a new staff comes to a school.
The first year, you come in and its new and exciting and the seniors are just excited to have something different and you have some success, said Kolkman, who experienced the same thing at North Side. And then the second year can be brutal because the kids realize, Whoa, theres a lot more to this. Theres the offseason. Theres keeping your grades up. All the other things you have to do to be successful.
Despite the trials of last year, which included a four-game losing streak to end the season, including a 16-13 overtime loss in the sectional at Eastside, the Tigers did a good job of maintaining their positive outlook.
We always have our chins up high and were good at coming back from bad games. We just look forward to the next game, said Jesse Fredrick, a senior offensive and defensive lineman.
The returning offensive linemen, such as senior Quinn Baller, senior Briar Gerber and senior Isaiah Marshall, should mean the Tigers will be able to run the ball.
But the Tigers will play to their strengths by using a spread offense this year.
We kind of modified things, Kolkman said. We take the spread, and thats one of the cool things is you can modify it to fit what your kids can do. Last year, we were more power, and weve changed it to fit our quarterback.
That will likely be junior Malcolm Marshall, the younger brother of Isaiah.
Were going to tailor the offense toward him and give him opportunities to be successful, but not ask him to do too much, Kolkman said.
Fredrick said, however, not to discount the abilities of the Tigers rushing attack.
Were going to have a good offense, I believe, he said. Were running the spread and with our line this year, its going to be easy for us to run the ball, I think.
Defensively, the Tigers have a bevy of returning starters aside from the linemen, including junior linebackers Tanner Fear and Michael Pearson, plus defensive backs Josh Streveler and Nathaniel Clark.
With participation numbers up and everyone at Bluffton expecting the program to make strides – Kolkman said the third year is the key – the excitement is palpable.
Were anxious and excited to see how we play ball, Kolkman said.