Coach Huffman passes expectations in first year

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Photos by Nick Wilkinson

In August, an unfamiliar face stood in front of a few dozen young athletes. He pressed on about his expectations for the young men and the future of the Bellevue West football tradition.

They could have easily questioned this unknown man’s authority. But they didn’t. The rookie and veteran Thunderbirds saw the passion in the coach’s face and found confidence in his tone of voice. He knew what he was talking about.

Though the football orientation was short lived, this man changed his image from a speaker to a coach.

What coach Michael Huffman has done for the football program already is surprising.

I had reason to believe he would lead a 4-5 squad into the playoffs at a 14 or 15 seed, not because of the talent level, but because of the strength of schedule. I wasn’t sure how his new implementations would be able to succeed early on.

But the 2013 Thunderbirds found a way to win.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a senior this year, but I’ve never had as much fun at football games as I have had this season at West.

Senior Rusty Barber’s scoop and score against Bellevue East to take the lead started a trend for West’s success right out of the gates.

Junior Clester Johnson’s hook and ladder play that led to junior Malik Hluchoweckyj scoring on the then-number one team in the state Omaha North, showed exactly how good the Thunderbirds really were.

The T-birds’ playoff hopes ended quickly–too quickly–based on their ability to win.

Seeing the last two minutes of the Grand Island playoff game was like an NFL game; senior Brad Brazeal and the offense marched down the field only to leave empty handed. The T-birds were a 20 yard touchdown and a two point conversion from their first second-round playoff berth in school history.

Brazeal led Class A all season with the most passing yards and touchdowns in the state. Their first round loss to Grand Island on Nov. 1 doesn’t explain the story of such an incredible football team.

The future only looks brighter for the Thunderbirds, as four freshmen have gained varsity experience and the Freshman A squad led a 9-0 season.

So far, coach Huffman’s tenure at Bellevue West has been surprisingly entertaining. He has done exactly what he was hired to do: coach.

Nick Wilkinson
Sports Editor