Area players look back on Bluffton’s 1972 season

Bluffton hasn’t always been the mecca of college football.

But for that one season back in 1972, the Beavers became outright Hoosier-Buckeye Collegiate Conference champions with a 5-2 conference mark, the only time in the 15 years Bluffton was in the conference.

This Saturday, the 1972 football team will be inducted into the school’s hall of fame.

Niles native Joseph Caicco and Brookfield’s Tim Filipovich were backups on the team, watching the season unfold.

It began with Bluffton holding Taylor to 15 net yards in the opener, 12-0. The Beavers then won their next four games to start 5-0, but lost its next four to finish the season 5-4.

Bluffton was 6-30 in the four years leading up to the 1972 campaign.

“I don’t know if we knew that at the beginning,” said Filipovich, who was a backup quarterback. “My freshman year, we won three games (3-6). We had a pretty good freshman class with some older kids mixed in there. We started out and we ended up winning our first five games in a row. I know you work hard to get to a season like that. I think as we got more confidence, it kind of went on. We kept winning games one by one and we won the league.”

Caicco, who was a backup linebacker, saw things start to develop that freshman season.

“When we got there in 1971, there was a group of 26 freshmen and a pretty good nucleus,” he said. “They had lost 31 games in a row. We went 3-6 our freshmen year. They felt pretty good about that 3-6 team. The next year, as that group was sophomores, we had a pretty good varsity team.

“For one year, in 1972, that program blossomed way more than they expected it to.”

Filipovich remembered having a hand in Bluffton’s success and that of a Canadian-born tight end Ross Weber.

“I was always on the sideline and we were playing this one team,” Filipovich said. “Offensively, we ran the triple, the old Woody Hayes, pass the ball eight, nine times, play action at the most when we got behind. The way the safety was rotating up all the time, the backside tight end was going to be open all the time up the middle because he was always over playing and making tackles. I said we have to fake that one time and hit that tight end and coast down the middle. I think he’s wide open.

“Next play we called that. That kid caught his first touchdown pass. That was his only touchdown pass. I saw him three years ago and he reminds me, ‘I remember that. I’ll never forget it. If it wasn’t for you and you weren’t even playing.’

“That’s the kind of memories you have of those old days.”