Bluffton poised to compete in the NWC

BLUFFTON – Bluffton head football coach Jeff Richards is not looking to change his coaching philosophy.

However, after losing a four-year starter at quarterback, Richards will be looking to add a few new wrinkles to his offensive scheme.

The past four seasons, Nate Schaadt called the signals behind center, and spearheaded the triple-option offense that Bluffton has become well-known for.

Now, with Schaadt graduated, Richards will turn the quarterback duties over to junior Garret Bogart (5-10, 150).

“Garret Bogart is our quarterback. He does a phenomenal job,” Richards said. “He is a different type of quarterback than Nate (Schaadt). We’re not going to call a quarterback Iso (isolation play) with third-and-three, because I don’t expect him to run anybody over. … He’s a slippery runner, and he’s a great passer.

Garret is going to be a junior. He practiced right along with Nate for two years, and had a lot of success.”

Last season, Bluffton went 5-6 overall and 2-5 in the Northwest Conference. The Pirates lost to Liberty Center in the first round of the Division VI playoffs, 40-14.

The Pirates return 21 letterwinners from last year’s team, with 12 of those being starters.

“We had a smaller senior class last year. … We only had six seniors,” Richards said. “There are two big losses on the offensive side. Nate Schaadt, a four-year starter at quarterback in a triple-option system, and Aaron Tabler, a 6-3, 300-pound first-team all-conference lineman, that you just don’t replace. Everyone had key roles on the team (last season).”

Richards points to senior running back Landon Shutler (5-11, 165) as one of the key cogs to the Bluffton offense. Last (regular) season, Shutler rushed for 607 yards on 120 carries (5.1 yards per carry) and had three touchdowns. In 2021, Shutler was a second team all-NWC selection at running back. Shutler also plays in the defensive backfield.

“This year, we only have five seniors,” Richards said. “So, we’re still very young. But our senior class has some good leaders. Kameron Coughlan (5-10, 175) has been a three-year starter for us at linebacker. Shutler, has been a solid performer for us. Our junior and sophomore classes are very big. Our freshman class also is a good-size group.”

Like last year’s squad, Bluffton will have some size in the trenches this season.

“Up front, we’re going to be athletic. … Size-wise, we’re not small,” Richards said with a grin. “We’re averaging between 230 and 250 (pounds). So, we’re pretty solid up front. Everything we’re doing is structured around to what we have. We’re still going to be running variations of the triple-option, but it’s based on who we have. We’re not going to try to run something that is not going to work with our personnel.

“Throwing the ball – if it’s there, then we will throw it more. I’ve never been opposed to throwing the ball, as long as it fits with what we are trying to accomplish.”

One of those athletes that Bogart will be targeting is junior Hayden Dearth (6-3, 180), who was an NWC honorable mention selection last season as a receiver. Last spring, Dearth was a Division III state-qualifier in the long jump for

track-and-field. Along with being at a wide receiver spot, Dearth will play in the secondary.

Richards plans on changing up the defensive scheme as well.

“Defensively, we’re going to be different this year. The past few years, we’ve been a 4-2-5 (defensive scheme). This year, we’re running a 3-4-4. That’s strictly based on our personnel, and what we think we can do well,” Richards said.

Among the key returners on the defensive side of the football for the Pirates, are two linebackers.

“Landen Worcester (5-10, 180, So.) and Kameron Coughlan both return at inside linebacker,” Richards said. “Worcester was the team’s leading tackler with over 100 tackles in 2021, and Coughlan is a two-time all-NWC linebacker.”

Richards said that this year’s team has a great deal of chemistry.

“The dynamic of the team is very close,” Richards said. “Everybody expects a lot out of each other. They help each other along, especially with those younger guys.”

Richards, a former Bluffton football player, projects the NWC to be very balanced this season.

“Historically, you would have a couple top-tier teams, then everybody else,” he said in reference to the NWC. “But if you look at every single team in the conference – I think every team has a couple guys, that if you cannot account for, you’re going to have some serious problems. I still say that until somebody knocks (Columbus) Grove off, that they’re the team to beat, because they’re the defending champs.”


Coach: Jeff Richards

Years at school, record: 7, 24-35

Last season’s record: 5-6, 2-5 Northwest Conference

Division: V

Returning letterwinners: 21

Returning starters: Landon Shutler (ATH/DB), Beau Stever (WR/DB), Kameron Coughlan (RB/LB), Xavier Luginbuhl (OL/DL), Garret Bogart (ATH/DB), Braeden Jordan (ATH/DB), Hayden Dearth (WR/DB), Gavin Bogart (ATH/LB), Ian Rieman (ATH/DL), Jacob Granger (OL/DL), Riley Greer (OL/DL), Landen Worcester (RB/LB)


August 19 – at Cory-Rawson at 7 p.m.

August 26 – at Pandora-Gilboa at 7:30 p.m.

September 2 – Ayersville at 7 p.m.

September 9 – Spencerville at 7 p.m.

September 16 – Ada at 7 p.m.

September 23 – at Crestview at 7 p.m.

September 30 – at Leipsic at 7 p.m.

October 7 – Allen East at 7 p.m.

October 14 – at Delphos Jefferson at 7 p.m.

October 21 – Columbus Grove at 7 p.m.