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Edwardsburg coach credits a switch in offenses to his program’s turnaround in the last decade

By: Tom Markowski, November 13, 2017, 7:48 pm

Edwardsburg – Kevin Bartz finally gave in and did what all smart football coaches do and he paid heed to the wisdom of his wife.

Eight times Bartz’s Edwardsburg team opened the season with Constantine and eight times Edwardsburg lost. In 2000, the beginning of this notable run, Edwardsburg came close. The Eddies lost 21-13. Some of the losses were bad, real bad. In 2004 Edwardsburg lost, 61-14. Two years later Constantine won, 42-6.

After each of these games Bartz would complain to his wife, Kim, moaning about how badly his team got beat. Kim got tired of listening to his wining and told Bartz to do something about it, and that maybe he should run the offense that Constantine was running – the tight T-formation.

So, after the 2007 season, a season where the Eddies finished 2-7, Bartz made the switch. It took a while but the offense took hold of the program and, soon, the success at Edwardsburg, a town located in the southwestern part of the state, has skyrocketed. This past Saturday the Eddies scored on every possession and ran past Lansing Sexton, 52-30, in a Division 4 region final at Edwardsburg.

This Saturday Edwardsburg (11-1) will play River Rouge (10-2) in a semifinal at Jackson Withington Stadium at 1 p.m. It will be Edwardsburg’s fourth semifinal appearance in the past eight seasons.

There’s one noticeable void during this impressive run. Edwardsburg has reached a state final.

“It’s all come as a surprise to us,” Bartz said. “We put in that power T(-formation) nine or 10 years ago and it gave us a better mental attitude. We were able to have average talent have some success.”

This is his 23rd season as the head coach at Edwardsburg. The program had limited success in the past 35 years or so. In the 1960s the Eddies has a number of good seasons. In ’62 they were 8-1 and in each of the following two seasons they were 7-1-1. Then the program went south. From 1973-94 Edwardsburg had two winning seasons. When Bartz took over in ’95 the Eddies went 6-3. They made the playoffs for the first time in 2000 and won their first playoff game two years later.

The new offense didn’t make Edwardsburg a winner immediately. In fact, there was some unrest. The Eddies were 5-4 in in ’08 and before the next season some of the players signed a petition to rid the program of what they perceived was the wrong offense. That season Edwardsburg finished 4-5.

But Bartz showed patience and so did the community. In 2008 he hired Randy Brooks as his defensive coordinator and moved the previous coordinator, A.J. Gaideski, over to the offense to become the coordinator there. Both moves have proved fruitful.

“We’re more known for our offense,” Bartz said. “We’re averaging 48 points. But our defense is playing well, too.”

Edwardsburg has recorded three shutouts this season and has given up 12.5 points per game.  

Unlike some staffs that will use two, three or more formations coinciding with the tight T, while maintaining all of the principles, Bartz said he never deviates from his two tight end, three-back formation.

“The trap is a big part of what we do, and our fullbacks are our main ball carrier,” Bartz said. “We pound the ball with the other backs. At fullback, we want quick kids with good feet. If they are wrestlers, all the better.”

Senior Nick Bradley is the fullback this season and he’s averaging 10 yards per carry. He’s 5-9 and weighs 160 pounds. His backup is Caden Goggins , a 5-8, 160-pound junior. Bartz uses two quarterbacks, senior Matt Hepler and junior Tre Harvey. They switch every series and Bartz said this unorthodox system has been quite successful.

Bartz credits the help of now retired coach Irv Sigler and Zeeland West coach John Shillito for his program’s success. Bartz and his staff attended clinics where Sigler and Shillito were guest speakers.

That first regional final title still resonates with Bartz. Edwardsburg had defeated Otsego and Paw Paw to win its first district title and played Sexton in the regional. Edwardsburg won, 35-28.

“That was the game that turned things around,” Bartz said. “I remember being on that field, watching Sexton warm up. As coaches, we said to ourselves, what are we doing here? Do we belong here?

“It’s taken off since then. Our Rocket (Little League) program has improved. We have good people in the Rocket program. We do camps with the younger kids and the high school kids are involved.”