Bart Curtis, head football coach for Mishawaka High School, always wondered what it would be like to coach 96 practices in a season. He finally experienced that thrill during the 2012 football season, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1974.

Although the outcome of the Nov. 24, 2012 state championship game against Indianapolis Cathedral didn’t give Curtis or the rest of the Mishawaka Cavemen the ending they had hoped for, it made Curtis the first Bethel graduate to lead a high school football team to the state finals.

“I’ve been at it a long time, and always wondered what it’d be like to be there for the last game of the season,” says Curtis of his nearly 30 years of coaching. “We just had a tremendous senior class—not the most talented I’ve had by far. If you lined them up, you wouldn’t say ‘this is a state caliber football team’… They made me as proud off the field as they did on.”

Curtis, a 1991 (Bachelor of Arts) and 2010 (Master of Education) graduate of Bethel, attributes the successful season to having a great football staff and administration. But he would be remiss if he didn’t credit some of his triumphant season to Bethel.

“My experiences in Bethel helped lead us to state,” he says. “Had I not had that experience, met my wife, created our life together—all of those little experiences over the last 20 some odd years have really come to fruition this year. Indirectly, [Bethel] has a lot to do with how I approach things,” admits Curtis, who adds that the older he gets the more level headed and less spontaneous he’s become.

So what’s in store for next season?

“I don’t really try to make individual season goals,” he says. “Every year our goal is to be better than we should be. Having said that, my goal is to win the very next game, which is against Portage on Aug. 23.” He adds, “I’ve never coached a day to lose; I’ve had aspirations every year—sometimes we meet them, sometimes we exceed them, and sometimes we don’t meet them.”