BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — When the Maumee football team started work at the beginning of the summer for its fourth season under head coach Cam Coutcher, there were no indications this would be his final season on the sidelines.
Coutcher announced on Wednesday night at the fall sports banquet that he will not return to the football program next season. He was named the school’s director of athletics and activities in August, preventing him from coaching as well beyond this season.
Coutcher called it “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.”
He starred on the football field and baseball diamond as a student-athlete for the Panthers. He then studied and played at Defiance College before returning to Maumee to begin his career.
He coached the baseball team for 17 seasons, leading it to a Northern Lakes League championship, six sectional titles, one district championship and one regional championship.
He took over the football program in 2019.
“I don’t feel like I’m ready to be done coaching, so I’ll look for ways to get involved here at Maumee,” Coutcher said. “Being the athletic director is a lot of time away from home, so I need to prioritize. My family is very supportive of me either way, so it was my decision to make.
“I’m not going to lie, many of my friends and family are a little disappointed because they understand the big picture of what was going on in our program. I truly love the young men I coach, and I will miss the interactions we had on the field.
“I’ll cherish the relationships I was able to build with the players and the positive impact we had on each other.
“Regardless of outcomes, I had a blast and it was a blessing being the head coach of the football team here at Maumee High School.”
Coutcher said the job will be posted at the end of November, allowing coaches currently involved with teams in the playoffs a chance to end their seasons and reflect before applying.
The Panthers recently completed a 0-10 season, their third straight season without a win. There were signs of improvement throughout the season, however.
Maumee held a late lead at Southview before a last-minute touchdown pass gave the Cougars a win. The Panthers also led Springfield into the third quarter before losing the lead in the fourth.
Even their losses weren’t as lopsided. The 139 total points scored this year were a best under Coutcher and the 29-point difference was the lowest as well.
The offensive output was led by senior quarterback Kyle Arndt and sophomore wide receiver Carson Graetz, who both finished among the NLL leaders in their statistical categories.
Arndt threw for 1,630 yards and 13 touchdowns while completing 64 percent of his passes (129-of-202). He also led the team with 730 rushing yards on 128 carries, scoring five times on the ground.
“Kyle led by example in and out of season, on and off the field,” Coutcher said. “Everyone respects him for this. He transported teammates to offseason opportunities and was overall a great teammate.
“Our seniors in general have set a solid foundation for leadership in our program, which is built off of those from past classes. I’m proud of that.”
Graetz quickly found the spotlight as a sophomore. He caught 46 passes for 732 yards and six TDs while also starting in the defensive backfield, accounting for 26 tackles and one interception.
“Carson has the mentality necessary to compete at a high level,” Coutcher said. “We need more of that around him. He brings a special skill set as well. I think he can go as far as his work ethic and attitude will take him.”
Whoever takes over the Panthers program will be doing so at an opportune time. They are entering the Northern Buckeye Conference and their current junior, sophomore, freshman and eighth-grade classes are loaded with talent.
Sophomore Keison Midcalf figures to be the next talented running back after gaining 135 yards in limited action this year.
On defense, junior linebacker Liam Murphy led Maumee with 51 tackles and three sacks this year. Of the Panthers’ top 10 tacklers from this year, four return next year: sophomore linebacker Cody Wulf (43 tackles, two fumble recoveries, one interception), junior linebacker Jack Lake (17 tackles) and Graetz.
“I expect them to have huge offseasons as leaders and in the weight room,” Coutcher said of Murphy and Wulf. “They need to set expectations for themselves and others and be a force when it comes to those expectations. Improvement happens with vision and direction.”
While Coutcher’s record as head coach will go down officially as 1-38, it’s much harder to quantify the impact he’s made on the lives of the student-athletes as well as the future of the program.
Last year, for instance, the freshman football team had more than 20 players on its roster and beat Clay, Southview and Napoleon while also holding late leads over Perrysburg and Northview.
“I think we have what it takes to have sustainable success as long as the culture stays intact,” Coutcher said. “Talent only takes you so far. Culture will take you the rest. I believe we can win a championship with this group and get back in the playoffs.”