DELPHOS – Luke Taviano took Perry where it had never been before last season: The playoffs.
Taviano, in his first year as Perry head coach last year, guided Perry to a 6-5 season, the playoffs and its first winning season in 11 years.
For his efforts, he was named Northwest Central Conference coach of the year and northwest district coach of the year.
Now he’s at Delphos Jefferson.
And winning has come to be expected with the Wildcats.
The Wildcats went 6-4 (4-3 Northwest Conference) in 2017, but from 2013 to 2016 they won straight NWC championships.
“They’re hungry,” Taviano said. “They’re working hard. They don’t want to go 6-4 again. They want to go to the playoffs again and they want to be at the forefront of the conference again. And they’re doing everything we ask them to do to get there.’’
Taviano, a 1997 Perry grad, played football at Perry and went to Tiffin to play football before knee surgery ended his career.
He was a student coach at Tiffin and went on to Bluffton University, where he was a student coach for the Beavers.
Taviano has served as an assistant football coach at Beavercreek, Spencerville, Perry and Delphos Jefferson.
Taviano was an assistant at Jefferson two years ago, when the Wildcats won their fourth straight NWC title. From there, he took the head job at Perry.
“I welcome it (the pressure to win at Jefferson),” Taviano said. “I know the pressure, but I know the kids we have here. I think the kids welcome the pressure and I think they like the opportunity of the challenge that we’re up against. We’re trying to get our 17th NWC (football) title and that would be five out of the last six years. And we want to get back to the playoffs.’’
There will be several big holes which need to be filled.
Gone are running back Brenen Auer, who ran for 1,180 yards, and defensive lineman Davion Tyson. Both made The Lima News’ Dream Team.
Auer is at the University of Findlay, while Tyson is at Ball State.
Also gone is quarterback Tyler Bratton.
The good news is the Wildcats return seven starters on offense and nine on defense.
Kole McKee is back to lead the wide receiving corps. Hunter Haehn is also back at wide receiver.
Junior Tanner Mathewson started at fullback last year and moves to halfback.
Four return on the offensive line with guards Brady Welker and Cody Osting and tackles Skylar Voorhees and Kane Plescher.
Doug Long Jr. saw time at tight end.
Conner Anspach moves from wingback to quarterback.
“He’ll pass and run,” Taviano said. “He’ll throw a while lot of intermediate routes and he’ll also be a runner. … He’s probably the best leader I’ve ever had as a football player. He takes command of the offense.”
So don’t expect Jefferson to strictly run out of its old favorite Wing-T.
“We’ll run multiple sets,” Taviano said. “We run out of the Wing-T a little bit, we run out of the spread a little bit and we run out of the pro.
“We’ll be more balanced (between the run and the pass). Last year at Perry we ran the ball for 1,900 yards and passed the ball for 1,900 yards.’’
Taking over at running back will be Mathewson, sophomore J.T. Taviano and Zach Stemen.
Brayden McClure, Jacob McClure and Logan Herron all could get carries, as well.
Taviano, the coach’s son, was named all-NWCC at fullback/linebacker as a freshman last year.