Butler football ready to test waters in District 10

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 | 10:23 PM

When Butler Area School Board members voted to leave the WPIAL for District 10 in football, they did it with a plan.

Give third-year coach Eric Christy an opportunity to build up a program that has made the WPIAL playoffs once since Christy graduated from Butler in 1999.

“Butler football hasn’t been too good the last 20 years,” Christy said. “It’s not that we’re leaving a tough district and joining a weak one. District 10 is really good. Erie McDowell, Erie Prep and Erie High all have good programs.”

Instead of playing powers North Allegheny, Central Catholic, Seneca Valley, Pine-Richland and Mt. Lebanon each week, Butler is playing the Erie schools home-and-home this year.

Because of the coronavirus, Butler’s original schedule was altered. The Golden Tornado will play Cathedral Prep, Erie High and McDowell each twice and have a game with Slippery Rock scheduled for the end of the season if neither team makes the playoffs.

Butler enters the 2020 season riding a 20-game losing streak. Last year, roster numbers were down for one of the largest schools in Western Pennsylvania. The team started with 39 and ended with 24.

Christy is excited that the roster increased to 57 this season, which is encouraging.

“For a long time, Butler football hasn’t been successful,” Christy said. “We just want to give these kids an opportunity to compete by finding new scenery.”

Butler has 12 seniors on the roster, and Christy has worked hard to get some of the athletes in the school to come out.

“We want leadership out of the seniors,” Christy said. “They can be the start of something good. In 20 years, they can look back and say we were the group that turned things around.”

While Butler has struggled to compete in Class 6A, it does feature some top notch juniors.

Cooper Baxter, who Christy called another coach on the field, returns for his third season at quarterback. Baxter is a three-sport athlete who also excels in wrestling and baseball.

“Cooper is well beyond his years,” Christy said. “He says the right things and does the right things. He’s thinking like a coach.”

He comes from a good bloodline. His brother Cole wrestles in college and his cousins are the Saul twins who starred at Butler in the early ’60s.

Baxter’s best attribute is his running ability. He played fullback at all levels before Christy moved him to quarterback.

While Butler did graduate a couple top receivers, Baxter has a big target to throw to in 6-foot-6 junior Charlie Kreinbucher, whose cousin Jake Kradel starts at guard at Pitt. Christy feels Kreinbucher has a bright future. He runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds and benches 300 pounds.

“He’s new to the position,” Christy said. “We got him out last year and now we’re working on his confidence. He had a good scrimmage against Upper St. Clair.”

Also back are senior middle linebacker/fullback Justin Kabay, senior safety Colin Look, junior middle linebacker Evan Orloski and junior linemen Jake Pomykata and Ashton Gray.

Sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Lance Slater, junior running back Isaiah Kelly, senior running back Julian Jones and sophomore running back/safety Steven Green should also contribute.

“The key is finding some linemen on both sides of the ball,” Christy said. “We’re going to be young up front.

“We’re going to play a lot of players. I brought in a new offensive coordinator and he’s installing the Wing-T and spread formations.”


Coach: Eric Christy

2019 record: 0-10, 0-8 in Class 6A

All-time record: 515-456-47

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, at Cathedral Prep, 7

9.18, McDowell, 7

9.26, at Erie High, TBA

10.3, Cathedral Prep, 7

10.10, at McDowell, 7

10.17, Erie High 7

10.24, Slippery Rock*, 7

*If neither team makes the D-10 playoffs

Statistical leaders

Passing: Cooper Baxter

65-164, 680 yards, 4 TDs

Receiving: Zack Slomers*

25-239 yards, 5 TDs

Rushing: Baxter

184-758 yards, 8 TDs


Fast facts

• Butler’s original schedule included games against Kiski Area, Meadville, Brashear, Harbor Creek, Westinghouse and Franklin. They were supposed to play all three Erie teams at home and finish the season at Slippery Rock.

• Tight end Charlie Kreinbucher had nine catches for 169 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore.

• The last time Butler reached the WPIAL playoffs was in 2012. Butler dropped a 31-7 decision to Mt. Lebanon. It finished 4-6 that season.

• Butler’s last victory was a 28-26 decision against Canon-McMillan on Oct. 27, 2017. The Golden Tornado finished the season with a 3-6 record.

• Butler has won or shared two WPIAL titles. The Golden Tornado tied Penn Hills, 7-7, to share the title in 1977. The game was played over two days because of a power outage. They were awarded the title in 1950. They also dropped six title games.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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