Without question one of the most talented and successful team to ever play football at Bluffton, the 1988 squad posted a perfect 9-0 regular season and finished the season 10-1 and ranked 13th in the country.
The 1988 season capped off a 32-7 four-year overall record for the 14 members of the senior class who guided the Beavers to their first ever post-season appearance as juniors in 1987 before suffering a heartbreaking loss to Geneva College. Records fell in almost every game in 1988 as Bluffton established 75 team and individual records, many of which still stand today.
The regular season included many memorable victories, beginning with a 30-6 season-opening victory over Tiffin, which was the 200th victory in the history of Bluffton football. Mid-season blowouts included a 62-20 win at Manchester in which the Beavers scored on nine of 10 possessions in the game, a 34-0 shutout of Waynesburg 34-0 the next week and finally a 63-6 homecoming win over Anderson which set the school scoring record. The following week, Bluffton ended a seven-game winless streak at Hanover with a 40-21 win, then ended the season with a forfeit win over Wilmington and a 17-7 decision at Defiance.
Bluffton entered the playoffs at 10-0 Cumberland College and walked away with a historic 30-14 win. Eventual NAIA Division II national champion Westminster College ended Bluffton’s season the following week, however, with a 40-7 win over the Beavers.
The 1988 squad outscored its opponents by an average 17.5 points per game (third best all time), and held school records for most wins in a season (10), most road wins (5), most points scored (375), most plays (799), most yards (4,562), most touchdowns (50), most kicking points (65), most conversion points (44), most rushing plays (614) and turnover ratio (+21).
Head Coach Carlin Carpenter was named the NAIA District 22 Coach of the Year, while ten players earned first team honors, including Chris Dales (g), Andy Nowlin (wr), Darrin Gates (te), Cliff Hemmert (qb), Roger Gilanyi (rb) and Greg Gilcrease (rb) on the offensive side and Sly Hubbard (de), Todd Buschur (lb), Bruce Gardner (lb) and Jesse Williams (db) on the defensive side. Honorable mention awards were given to Jim Tabler (g), Rob Hayden (dt), Shawn Hertzfeld (db), Dave Ward (k) and Darryl Gard (rb).
Gates, Gilcrease, Gilanyi, Ward and Hubbard earned honorable mention All-America status.