Nathan Hyatt takes over for Greg Bush as head coach at Butler. The former assistant has taught at Butler for 16 years, and returns to the Aviators sideline after a successful one-year stint at Bradford.
Vandalia – Nathan Hyatt couldn’t keep from smiling as he recalled the moment last September 18th.
“They hadn’t won a game since October 26th, 2012,” he explained, referring to the Bradford Railroaders, Hyatt’s team last season. “They made the playoffs that season, then went 0-10, and then dropped football altogether in 2014.”
The Railroaders were thrashed in each of their first three games in 2015 before finally breaking the skid against Hillcrest.
“We had it written on the board in the garage that served as our locker-room when the last win was,” Hyatt recalled. “After we won, one of our senior captains wrote that night’s date on the board, and then broke down in tears. It meant so much to those kids. That was a special night.”
The Railroaders finished 4-6 playing a statewide schedule, and Hyatt left to take the one job he had always thought about.
“It was emotionally tough to leave those kids and that community,” Hyatt said of his decision to take the Butler position after veteran head coach Greg Bush stepped down. “This is the one job that has always been in the back of my mind. I’ve taught here for 16 years, I was an assistant here from 2000 through 2008. I still have contact with a lot of people I met in Bradford, but this is where I want to be.”
The Aviators were 6-5 a year ago, losing in the opening round of the D-II playoffs to eventual state champion La Salle.
“The kids have been who I thought they would be,” explained Hyatt. “I know the kids, know their personalities. They are working harder than so far they have in the past. We want to give relentless effort at all times, and we are getting better at that. We need to compete better, and we are getting better in that area as well.
“We have some nice pieces to the puzzle. We have 30-some or maybe more, players that can contribute to this team. It’s our job as coaches to figure out where all those pieces fit.”
Veteran quarterback Chandler Craine graduated after throwing 20 touchdown passes last season, leaving the most important position on the offense to converted wide receiver Tyler Burley.
“Tyler hasn’t played quarterback since junior high school,” Hyatt said with a slight grin. “We had our first 7 on 7 last week against Wayne of all people, and he had some interesting moments. But he played ok. We had our second 7 on 7 yesterday (July 11) and he played a lot better. He’s got work to do, but you can see him getting more confident as we go along. He’s a good athlete, great baseball player, 4.0 student, smart kid, good leader, very nice kid. He gets it and he will get where he needs to be.”
Hyatt said that Burley will have plenty of weapons to throw the ball to.
“Collectively, the best set of wide receivers I have been around and I have coached some good ones. Aaron Fields, Trey Sanders, Miles Joiner, our tight end, Jack Mitchell, those guys will set their own limits. We have some young guys that have some skill as well. It’s a very deep position.
“We have to solidify the offensive line, and Devin Bean will move to center from tackle to be the anchor there. Defensively, Gavin Koehler at end, Matt Grossman and Dylan Sagers at linebacker, will be the leaders. We have some talent, and they are a good group of kids.”
“One of the cultural things we are trying to change is hanging our heads when we play a team like Trotwood. We have to want that challenge, not be afraid of it. We need to embrace that opportunity as a chance to show everyone just how good we are. That’s the mentality we need to get to.
“Our division, whatever its name, will have good football across the board,” Hyatt continued. “Tipp coming in is another neighborhood rival for us. We are really excited about week four, against what the kids call the ‘team across the dam”. We don’t let our kids refer to anything green, but it is great to have the Thunderbolts(Northmont) back on our schedule. That will be here on a Thursday night in week 4 and the entire town is already gearing up for it.”
The Aviators will find out right away on opening night just where they stand.
“Yes we will,” Hyatt agreed. “We are excited to be going to the mecca of high school football in Massillon to play Perry, the defending D-II state runners-up. That will be a great atmosphere and be a special way to start the season.”
Hyatt feels the talent part of the process is on hand, but the mindset needs some work.
“Every teams’ mindset is different. When I went to Chaminade-Julienne as offensive coordinator in 2009, they had allowed 100 points all season the previous year and went 4-6. Then we got shutout in our first two games there, and we really had to work on the mindset.
“I’ll be honest with you. We do really well when we are better than the other team. We don’t do very well when we think the other team is better than us. Simply put, we have to get over that. Right now, we are getting effort from the kids. But we need to raise the bar and get championship effort every play every night. That’s where we need to go.”