When the Racine Lutheran High School football team was struggling through a 1-8 season in 2015, Scott Smith never lost sight of his vision.
“I’ll build it back up,” Smith would occasionally say with a touch of swagger during that long season.
And that’s exactly what he did.
After righting Lutheran’s ship with a 6-4 record in 2016, Smith and the Crusaders took another big step forward this season. Despite key graduation losses, especially leading rusher Shamaj Williams, Lutheran went 10-2 and advanced to the third round of the WIAA Division 6 playoffs.
The Crusaders’ season ended Nov. 3 with a 28-0 loss to eventual Division 6 state champion Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs. But the bottom line is a team that was six points from being winless just two years played longer than any other county team this season.
Smith, who is 122-75 since first taking over Lutheran’s program in 1995, is all about teaching and making his players believe in themselves. And he delivers that message with the help of the assistant coaches he has.
“I owe it all to the coaches,” said the 57-year-old Smith, a 1978 Lutheran graduate. “I’ve got a great coaching staff and they all put in a lot of work to help get this done.
“And I think the kids have bought into it as far as getting back into the weight room and believing in what we need to do to become successful.”
For defensive linemen Austin Honore, the Metro Classic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year who is Smith’s nephew, Smith knows how to reach players.
“Coach Smith has always been persistent with us,” Honore said. “When we had a very young team in 2015, he treated us like men. He was open with us that we needed to work harder in the offseason and during practice if we ever wanted to be a successful team.
“So we did exactly that. We all took the offseason extremely serious and our 2016 year was a little better. He spent so much of his own time just trying to make us better. His persistence and belief are what got us to where we ended this past season.”