It’s the end of a highly successful era for Reedsburg football.
Brian Pottinger is stepping down as Reedsburg’s head football coach after 14 seasons at the helm. Pottinger confirmed his decision to resign to the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jon Masson and the Reedsburg Times-Press Monday.
Pottinger has spent nearly three decades in the coaching ranks, including the last 14 as Reedsburg’s head coach. Within the last few years, he started contemplating stepping aside to make more time for other things in his life.
“There are a lot of factors that go into play. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” Pottinger said of his decision. “The biggest thing is it’s a lot of time and energy over the years. I’ve been (coaching) for 28 years or so. There is a lot of sacrifice on other people’s part, most notably my wife, for me to be able to do this.
“Still a tough decision. There are a lot of things I like about it and am going to miss. The bottom line is it’s time.”
Pottinger didn’t rule out the possibility of returning to coaching in the future, but said it will be a few years before he would even consider such a thing.
The school sent out a press release later in the day Monday officially announcing that their long-time football coach is giving up the reins of a program he helped take to new heights.
“His work ethic, humility, and detail-oriented approach created a winning attitude that spanned far past the field to foundational life lessons for all the student-athletes who were coached by him,” Reedsburg athletic director Bryan Yager said in the release.
In 14 years under Pottinger, the Beavers boasted an 87-63 record. They made the playoffs eight times, won two Badger North Conference titles (2009 and 2013), appeared in the state championship game twice (2008 and 2009) and in the state semifinals another two times (2014 and 2015).
But unquestionably his biggest accomplishment was guiding Reedsburg to the Division 3 state championship in 2009. The Beavers defeated West De Pere 34-27 in that year’s title game, a crowning achievement made all the sweeter by the fact that it came one year after a heartbreaking loss to Waupaca in the 2008 state championship.
After winning the school’s first state title, Pottinger was named the 2009 Wisconsin Football Coaches Association/Green Bay Packers Coach of the Year.
To properly appreciate all the Beavers accomplished under Pottinger, it’s important to place it in the context of where the program was at in the years prior to his arrival.
From 1990 to 2000, Reedsburg football found a level of consistent success and made the postseason seven times during that span (but didn’t win any playoff games).
However, the Beavers hit a brutal rough patch in the early years of the new millennium that coincided with the beginning of the Badger North Conference in 2001. Starting during that 2001 season, Reedsburg endured a 33-game losing streak that wouldn’t be snapped until the 2005 season opener.
The Beavers had a solid rebound year in 2005, posting an 8-4 record that included their first two playoff wins since 1983. When head coach Clint Beyer stepped aside, in came Pottinger to grab the baton and sprint forward with it.
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The program returned to the playoffs in 2008 and were a two-point conversion away from winning a state title. They made it all the way back to the state championship game and won it all in 2009. Reedsburg rattled off five straight playoff appearances from 2012 to 2016, including two state semifinal trips, and then made it to the postseason one final time under Pottinger this year.
This past season, the Beavers finished with a 7-4 record, including a 5-2 mark in Badger North play. Reedsburg opened postseason play with a dominating 37-7 win over Sparta in Level 1 of the WIAA Division 3 playoffs. In Level 2, Badger North champion DeForest stifled the Beavers in a 20-0 win in what wound up being the final game of the Pottinger era.
“I had two goals coming in and I think they were pretty simple: to win more games than we lost and to build a program that the community could be proud of,” Pottinger said. “We’ve had a lot of great support from people in this community from all over — businesses and individual people.
“A lot of people contributed to the success of the program. It’s certainly not just me. I could never have done this by myself. I’ve had great coaches, so there have been a lot of people involved with the success of this. It’s something everybody can be proud of.”
Reedsburg football under Pottinger is synonymous with plenty of things — such as a stingy, disciplined defense — but no part of the program was more iconic than its triple-option flexbone/wishbone offense that gave many an opposing defense absolute fits over the years.
Pottinger’s preference for the triple option has family roots. His father, Vern, utilized a similar style during his Hall of Fame coaching career that included a pair of state titles at Belvidere High School in Illinois.
His son would emulate that and use his particular brand of football to lead Reedsburg to consistent success year in and year out in the Badger North Conference. Among those he did battle with on an annual basis was Hall of Fame head coach Pat Rice and the Waunakee Warriors.
“The kids up there are great kids, tough kids. I just have a lot of respect for how (Pottinger) did it,” Rice said. “There are a lot of good coaches, but the type of person he is really speaks volumes about him and his character.”
Whenever the Warriors were set to square off against the Beavers, Rice knew his team would need to up their game.
“You just knew they were going to be well prepared. I remember his first year we were doing something structurally and I said ‘let’s just do this and see how long it take him to make an adjustment.’ It took one play,” Rice said. “Within that flexbone he does a great job. You knew you always had to be buttoned up and well prepared to stay competitive.”
Pottinger’s resignation is part of a seismic change within the Badger North. DeForest head coach Mike Minick is also retiring at the conclusion of his 20th season at the school. That leaves Rice, now in his 28th season at the helm in Waunakee, as the remaining mainstay to carry the baton for this era of Badger North football.
“They weren’t only peers, they’re friends of mine,” Rice said of Pottinger and Minick. “I think between all of us, we have a respect for each other and the job everyone does.”
As someone who has been around as long as he has, Rice can also appreciate just how far Reedsburg football has come since those dark ages early in this century.
“I’ll remember the battles and just how quick it went. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Potts was there and kind of in the rebuild stage,” Rice said. “He’s a tremendous leader and the turnaround he did — I think they had the longest losing streak in the state — to state champion is really remarkable.”