During Joel Cutler’s five-year tenure as Upper Arlington High School football coach, the Golden Bears hit their peak during his second and third seasons when they went a combined 16-6 and reached the second round of the 2015 Division I playoffs.

Cutler believes he went through a series of other learning experiences that he’ll take into his return as Ready’s coach.

In 2017, UA was forced to deal with season-ending injuries to three starters and also forfeited a 24-19 win over Central Crossing because it used an ineligible player.

The Bears were 4-4 last fall when Cutler was placed on administrative leave while the handling of health and wellness issues for his players was investigated.

He was announced as Ready’s new coach Jan. 17.

“I definitely feel like (I’ve) grown and made mistakes and am still learning from my mistakes and will continue to get there,” Cutler said. “In general, I think I’m definitely a better coach than I was the last (time I was at Ready) and I look forward to being back there.”

Cutler informed the UA district Nov. 30 that he did not intend to re-apply for the coaching job after guiding the Bears to a 29-21 record that included going 8-4 in 2015 and 8-2 in 2016 but missing the playoffs by one spot.

He takes over a Ready program that went 30-22 in five seasons under Brian Cross, who informed his players Dec. 10 that he would not be returning as coach.

Cutler, who was among three finalists for the job, according to athletics director Steve McQuade, was the Silver Knights’ coach in 2012 and 2013 when they went a combined 19-5 and made consecutive playoff appearances.

“Coach Cutler was a very successful coach with our program previously and was a great fit with the mission of our school, which involves excellence in all endeavors, faith, formation and service,” McQuade said. “Being a Catholic school, we’re excited for coach Cutler to bring his faith-based coaching style to Ready and we look forward to building upon that.”

Cutler is a 1994 Jonathan Alder graduate who played for the University of Dayton and then served as an assistant at UA from 1999-2011.

When Larry Wolf stepped down after a 14-year tenure at Ready in which he went 101-51 with seven playoff appearances, Cutler replaced him.

The Knights went 7-3 in his first season, including making the Division IV playoffs, and then had one of their greatest seasons in 2013, going 12-2 and reaching a Division VI state semifinal.

The only other times Ready has gotten to at least a state semifinal were in 1983 when it won the Division IV state title under Paul Nestor and in 2007 when it reached a Division V state semifinal under Wolf.

Cutler’s 2013 team featured a pair of future college players in running back Akili Taylor (Navy) and offensive lineman Brady Taylor (Ohio State).

“My family and I are excited,” Cutler said. “It’s going to be great. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience the first time around. To return to an environment where I can teach to my faith and high academics is something I’m looking forward to. I chose not to re-apply (at UA) when the position came open at the end of the supplemental year. While I’m very grateful for coaching at UA, I’m very excited for this opportunity.”

Cutler, who has been teaching in the UA district for 20 years and teaches physical education at Greensview Elementary, inherits a program that went 11-8 over its first two seasons under Cross before hitting its stride.

In 2016, the Knights went 8-4 and reached the second round of the Division VI, Region 23 playoffs.

Ready was bumped up to Division V, Region 19, the past two seasons because of competitive balance and went 7-4 in 2017, having its season end with a 34-0 loss to Wheelersburg in the first round of the playoffs.

Last fall, the Knights lost two games by three points or fewer and finished 4-6.

Ready also competed as an auxiliary member of the MSL-Ohio Division the last two seasons, going 4-2 in 2017 and 3-3 in 2018 against those programs, and will do so again next fall.

The Knights also will begin going on a rotation with CCL programs beginning next fall when they won’t face Hartley after playing the Hawks each of the past 55 seasons.

Among the expected returnees are junior running back Jack Foley, who rushed 265 times for 1,640 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, junior linemen Josh Baum, Gabriel Hawkins, Billy Fannin, Nick Kamer and Jacob Robinson, junior tight end and linebacker Thomas Stiltner and junior kicker and defensive back A.J. Craddock.

“I’m more than excited, as is everyone else,” Stiltner said. “(Cutler) has a great coaching past and everyone wants him and his coaching staff here. He brings a lot to the table and (we’re) more than excited to get straight to work.”

Cutler and his wife, Elaine, have 5-year-old twin boys, Zack and T.J.

He met with his new players for the first time before they took exams Jan. 17.

“Two things about Bishop Ready student-athletes is that they have some grit to them and that they’re tough,” Cutler said. “Being at a Catholic school, I believe in having the day-to-day built around our Lord and that they already understand there’s something greater than ourselves. (Meeting the team) was to develop relationships and trust with each other. There has to be accountability in the strength and conditioning program. Attendance is expected. I talked to them also about finishing every single day. You have exams today? Doggone it, win those exams. If we take that mentality, that’s going to transfer over to life.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek