The past two years have proved to be anything but a walk in the park for head coach Kyle Mullins and the Scottsburg football team.
Mullins, Scottsburg administration, the Scott County school district and the community as a whole helped revive the program after a 31-year hiatus in April of 2014. Two years in and a year away from a full varsity schedule, Mullins will be the first to tell you it’s been a huge undertaking thus far.
“How much time do we have here?” Mullins quipped when recently asked to describe the process through its first two seasons.
“It’s been a privilege for me to come back to this area,” he continued, “after coaching up in Indy for a while to bring football back to Scottsburg. … We’ve had a lot of bright spots in the past two years, and we’re looking forward to building on those and taking the next step as a varsity program.”
That step comes in 2017 when Scottsburg opens play in the Mid-Southern Conference as a Class 4-A program. The team will also appear in the postseason for the first time since 1983. Its revival called for a three-year, non-IHSAA junior-varsity schedule before a return to a full varsity slate, but it appears the Warriors are ahead of that schedule.
Scottsburg posted a 6-1 record in its first season with a JV schedule and went 4-4 last season with a mixed bag of JV and varsity opponents. The Warriors finished 2-4 in varsity play.
Mullins and Co. have a similar schedule in 2016 — one game shy of a normal varsity slate — beginning at Salem on Aug. 19. Scottsburg tallied 300 yards of offense and 21 first downs against the Lions, an established program, in the 2015 season opener, though it couldn’t muster a point.
“We’re trying to value the process,” Mullins said, “trying to understand that every day is an opportunity to get better. You have to enjoy the process. You have to have fun. But it is an absolute process. Each day is an opportunity, and I think they’re getting that.
“We’re just trying to get them to adjust to the demands of varsity Friday night football.”
Scottsburg football coach Kyle Mullins speaks at the CJ’s high school football media day at Indiana University Southeast.
Mullins has cultivated that process throughout his young career. A former varsity letterman for 40-year head coach John Mastin at Charlestown, Mullins served as a student assistant at Purdue under former head man Joe Tiller. Powerhouse Ben Davis in Indianapolis then reached out and Mullins spent eight years as an assistant for longtime coach Mike Kirschner, who he calls a “father figure.”
Those influences helped Mullins land his first head coaching gig with Scottsburg — literally. Mastin, a Scottsburg lifer, was on the hiring committee for the new football program, and once Mullins was hired, the newly-appointed head coach brought Mastin on as an assistant.
Thus, the process, dubbed “The Warrior Way” was born, just according to plan.
“My goal was always to get back to this area,” Mullins said. “I saw it as, get as far as you can and learn as much as you can at a young age and then eventually, early 30s, get back to this area and bring all that back.”
Mullins started with “two or three” assistant coaches but has since upped that tally to one for every position on both sides of the ball. Now the hurdle is generating success, translating into 60 kids trying out instead of 40, he said.
Perhaps the least of Mullins’ worries has been the players buying in. While Mullins said it’s been somewhat of a task getting on the same page with the community and parents, whose sons are required a good deal from the program, the kids are all in, and the tight-knit team is “miles ahead” of where it started because of it.
“We’ve come a long way since our freshman year,” said junior quarterback Skylar Combs, who’s among a group of three-year players to start every game since 2014, “and I think we’re going to just keep getting better as we go.
“I want people to look at us, as a team, and want to be like how we are as a family.”
The past two years have been a process for the Warriors, and it’s not expected to get any easier when Scottsburg takes on the likes of Brownstown, Charlestown, Corydon, North Harrison and Silver Creek.
But if you ask Mullins, it’s all according to plan.
“We’re ready to compete and beat that first team on the schedule we’re not supposed to beat,” Mullins said.
“Just looking to take the next step and be a respectable football program.”
Scottsburg football at a glance
Conference: Mid-Southern, Class 4A (2017)
Coach: Kyle Mullins, third year
2015 record: 4-4 (non-IHSAA) — will be eligible for postseason in 2017
Key returners: Jr. QB Bradley Whitler, Jr. RB/DB Hunter Myers, Jr. TE/DE Tristan McKinney, Jr. QB/WR Skylar Combs