Printed on: December 09, 2012

Coach of the Year

Mitch Buck, Madison High School

By Michael Lycklama

Madison High School once held a storied tradition in football. But after missing the playoffs for six straight years, posting a losing record for four straight seasons and cycling through five head coaches in four years, the program was in a downward spiral.

Luckily for Madison, that spiral ended back where it started with Mitch Buck, who revived the Bobcats in his second year back in Rexburg, leading them to a perfect 12-0 season and the 5A state championship.

For pulling off the largest surprise in the state, Buck is the Post Register's 2012 Football Coach of the Year.

Skyline coach Scott Berger scouted Madison in a preseason jamboree at Sugar-Salem and came away with the same report he always does of the Bobcats -- lots of great athletes and a quarterback who can make things happen.

Coaches throughout eastern Idaho knew Madison could light up the scoreboard in 2012. But the defense, which gave up 27.5 points per game last year, looked like a weakness.

Buck and the Bobcats proved that scouting report dead wrong, holding opponents to 12.9 points per game with a physical style that dropped jaws.

"That was the biggest key to Madison," Idaho Falls coach Chuck Johnson said. "That's the most physical defense I've seen in my 28 years coaching football in this state."

Coaches didn't have to look any further for proof than the Oct. 12 game with eventual 4A state champion Blackfoot. Both teams entered ranked No. 1 in the state in their classification. But few thought Madison could match Blackfoot's traditional physicality.

The Bobcats did and then some, beating up Blackfoot in the trenches all night long. The final score of 35-14 didn't show how much Madison truly dominated the game.

"I didn't think I'd ever see that happen," Berger said. "Blackfoot prides themselves on being tough guys. And man, Madison laid it to them. It was a whooping."

That physical style carried Madison all the way to the 5A title game, where it faced two-time defending state champ Coeur d'Alene and came away with its first title since 1995.

The trophy gave Buck the fourth in his career, tying him with his brother, Blackfoot coach Stan Buck, and former Madison coach Preston Haley for the sixth most in Idaho history.