Butler’s roster growing under new coach Christy
Give him your hockey players, your basketball players and your track stars. He will even take your cheerleaders. Eric Christy wants them all.
Christy, a 1999 Butler graduate who took over as his alma mater’s interim coach during last season and was approved as the permanent head coach in the offseason, is wanting to bring as many athletes into the football program as he possibly can.
“We have a bunch of kids, who never played football before, stepping in this year,” he said. “We went out and recruited pretty hard and got our numbers up.”
The varsity roster has grown substantially from last year, when Butler finished 3-6. Its head coach, Rob Densmore, stepped down with two weeks remaining.
“The biggest challenge was facing the state champ in my first game as a head coach,” Christy joked, referencing a 64-0 Week 8 loss to Pine-Richland.
The following week, he earned his first victory, a 28-26 thriller over Canon-McMillan.
“We rode that right into the offseason, trying to build on that with what we’re trying to get with energy and positiveness,” he added. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
The philosophical change in “recruiting” may go a long way in earning more wins like that.
“Hockey has been a tough nut to crack, but we just got one of them,” Christy said. “I’m just trying to work with the other coaches and get the athletes that are there. There’s a place in football for everyone.”
Butler could use an infusion of talent. The program has not made the playoffs since 2012, and its last non-losing season was 2003, when it finished 5-5.
Christy’s first task will be to replace a large senior class, including guard Jake Kradel, now at Pitt. But he likes the look of the offensive line.
“Our line is our biggest place of experience returning, so we’re kind of anchoring behind them,” Christy said.
Tackle Nate Cornibe has an offer from Toledo. Center Sam Enslen is receiving college interest, and Trevor Moore returns.
Who that group blocks for is uncertain. A year ago, six different Golden Tornado players attempted a pass. The team, collectively, passed for just 202 yards.
“We wanted to, we just weren’t able to,” Christy said of the passing game. “We just kind of abandoned it. It was a miracle to win games as it was.”
Matt Rarrigh, coming off ACL surgery, Dylan Fediaczko and Bryan Presco are in the mix to be the new signal caller.
In the backfield, four players are in the running to replace 1,000-yard rusher Luke Michalek.
Anthony Daviduk will be the top receiver. Whoever fails to win the quarterback battle will catch passes and be joined by some of the many new additions from other sports.
Defensively, the unit is led up front by defensive end Darin Skidmore. Up to nine other players will compete to fill out other defensive line spots.
Chris Mertz and J.R. Herald will be middle linebackers. Christy admits his team is thin at outside linebacker.
While the secondary is “totally wide open,” according to Christy, Logan Donnel, a UCA All-American cheerleader last year, is now playing football and may contribute.
Christy acknowledges that Butler will be picked toward the bottom of a challenging Class 6A. He’s looking at the job as more than wins and losses though.
“I want these kids to become men; that’s the main thing,” he said. “Football is a game. It’s not real life. … It can teach you life lessons and, to me, that’s the important part of what football does.”
Coach: Eric Christy
2017 record: 3-6, 1-5
All-time record: 515-436-47
Date, Opponent, Time
8.24, at North Hills, 7:30 p.m.
8.31, at Baldwin, 7 p.m.
9.7, Mt. Lebanon*, 7:30 p.m.
9.14, at Pine-Richland*, 7:30 p.m.
9.21, Seneca Valley*, 7:30 p.m.
9.28, Norwin*, 7:30 p.m.
10.5, at North Allegheny*, 7:30 p.m.
10.12, Central Catholic*, 7:30 p.m.
10.19, at Hempfield*, 7 p.m.
10.26, Canon-McMillan*, 7:30 p.m.
*Class 6A Conference game
Passing: Brandon Fleeger*
10-30, 109 yards
Rushing: Luke Michalek*
160-1,000 yards, 12 TDs
Receiving: Logan Dubyak*
Josh Rowntree is a TribLive HSSN broadcaster and writer.