Field of tomorrow

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, October 2, 2010

Losses aside, the coaching staff of the Austin football team are focusing on a positive outlook in order to build the program to success in the future. - Eric Johnson/

It’s a warm, sunny Thursday afternoon at Art Hass Stadium and young men wearing red and white march wearily back to their formations. The play these Austin Packers just ran didn’t go so well, as three men went up for a sailing football that, despite their best efforts, glided to the ground, thudding against the grass.

Coach Matt Schmit turns towards the players.

“Was that a vertical?” he yells.

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“It was supposed to be,” says Sean Coffey, hands on his hips, trying to get back into the quarterback slot.

“Line it up! Do it again!” Schmit shouts before he substitutes himself into play, intent on running the drill with the players.

Schmit, in his first year as the head coach of the Austin High School football team, sees his job as getting every high school player he works with to achieve on the field to their best ability. He’s brought some big changes to the football program this year and he hopes to usher in more in the coming seasons. Although the varsity team’s win-loss record speaks otherwise, Schmitt and his coaching staff are making good things happen for Austin football.

It’s no secret the varsity team has taken a shellacking this season, still searching for its first win. The team’s rocky start is further marred by the fact that they have put up only six points, losing 19-0 to Red Wing (2-3), 21-0 to John Marshall (3-2), 60-6 to Century High School (5-0), 40-0 to Mankato East (2-3) and 72-0 to Mankato West (5-0). Yet as position coach Travis Heichley puts it, Austin athletes haven’t yet given up. According to Heichley, they come to every game hungry for a win, showing the maturity, spirit and perseverance that belies a team of high schoolers.

Schmit has coached the Packers in some form or fashion for the past nine years. Before he became head coach, he spent three years as the defensive coordinator, five years coaching linebackers, one year as D-line coach and two years heading the ninth-grade squad. He even played for the Packers in high school in the ‘90s.

When Schmit got the head coaching job this year, he had changes in mind. He’s revised the offensive strategy, focusing on tactics and plays that rely on misdirection. He’s had game tape and practice footage put online for players to study. He even has a strategy to retain players from middle school football up to the varsity level.