By Steve Maugeri
It is a new season, and a new era in the volatile storybook of the Kutztown University football team. They enter the year with a good taste in their mouths, a taste they did not experience until the latter part of last season. The maroon and gold are looking to buck a trajectory that has hurt them in the past, as their win total has dropped by at least three games each season since they were crowned PSAC champions in 2011.
Another year, another new coach. That has been the trend that the Kutztown University football team has faced over the past two seasons. The group is playing under its third head coach in the past three years, and will look to finally settle down and set the ball rolling towards a return trip to the PSAC championship. In order to hopefully quell this head-coaching carousel, Jim Clements enters his first season at the helm after coaching for ten years at nearby Division III Delaware Valley College. Heading into his first year, Clements expects perpetual improvement as the season progresses.
“I expect to win; I expect improvement everyday. I expect us to be better on Tuesday than we were on Monday and better week two than we were week one and continue to win one at a time,” Clements said.
Clements was thrust into his new role late in the spring with little time to acclimate, but he has confidence that he can bypass any kind of growing pains. He brings a tradition of winning from DVC, as he never finished with a losing record once, and led his team to four MAC championships from 2008-2011, which included an undefeated season in 2011.
Coach Clements is not the only new face that will patrol the sidelines of university field this fall. Brad Mangle will join the staff as its new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Mangle arrives from nearby Millersville University, where he spent 20 years as the offensive coordinator. Mangle is well aware of the Golden Bear way, and plans to assist the revitalization of the program. Although the Golden Bears lost the conductor of their high-speed offense, the system is still ingrained in the playbook, and the new staff doesn’t plan on making any distinct changes.
“This is a great opportunity, a great staff, and a great university to be a part of,” Mangle said. “I have been competing against Kutztown for nearly 30 years and have always had great respect for the program and university. I expect there to be some familiarity with the offense since I coached some former KU offensive coaches (Drew Folmar and Dan Csencsitz), and I am very excited to get moving.”
The coaching staff may be in flux, but the roster has retained multiple starters. Offensively, the Golden Bears will return almost all of their skill players with the only losses consisting of running back Curtis Wortham. The offensive line will return four starters, and will look to build on the rapport they built as a unit to end last year. As a group, the offensive line anchored a rushing attack that totaled 756 yards rushing over the last four games.
The spotlight will encompass Josh Luckenbaugh, who stepped in as the starting quarterback past the halfway point last season. He was thrust into the lineup in the second half against Shippensburg, and did not relinquish the position for the rest of the year. In his four starts, he finished the year with a 3-1 record while passing for 1,202 with 12 touchdowns and only one interception.
Now that he is entering his first year as a starter, Luckenbaugh will look to extend the three-game winning streak he led the team on to end last season. “I’m trying to build a foundation in the offensive side. Winning games is the number one priority. From my standpoint, I just want to be a leader and do what I can to help us win games,” he said.
Luckenbaugh will enter the year with a luxury that not many college quarterbacks have, as the Golden Bears maintained their entire receiving core from last year. Receivers Kodi Reed, Brett Fox, Anthony Kelly, Alex Tonnies and Kellen Williams will all return with a strong follow-up season in their forefront. Reed endured the most experience of the two, as he finished with 60 catches for 797 yards and nine touchdowns, which were good for fourth in the PSAC. Overall, Reed finished in the top ten in three receiving categories.
Defensively, there will be a number of holes to fill, but defensive coordinator Ross Pennypacker has a plethora of young talent at his disposal. The unit will be led by a duo of preseason All-Americans in linebacker Sam Dougan and defensive end Zach Greenwald. Both are repeat members of the All-PSAC second team. Dougan led the team in tackles for the second straight year with 88, which was 7th in the PSAC. Greenwald, a transfer from Division I Sacred Heart, led the team with 20.5 tackles for loss, which was second in the PSAC. The secondary will be led by four-year starter English Peay, who albeit coming off an injury, is primed for a career year as the most experienced player on the team. Senior safety Alex DiNolfi may have graduated, but there are a number of Golden Bears ready to step in his place.
“Right now we gotta feel each other out. As a group, the seniors that we have need to step up and become a leader,” senior safety Cody Waltimyer said.
“Towards the second half of the year our defense really stepped up, if we can carry that over to what we did last year, then we should be pretty good this year.” Greenwald said.
The Golden Bears will enter 2014 with plenty of momentum, but will be tested early against Slippery Rock on the road before their home opener against perennial powerhouse Indiana University of Pennsylvania. However, coach Clements has a proclivity to formulate success, and his passionate attitude will help the program emerge back into the one of the heavyweights of the PSAC. Coach Drew Folmar helped propel the plane off the ground; coach Clements will bring it to 30,000 feet.