Football prepares for next level

Hey ’Cats. For those of you who have never had a chance to speak with him, head football coach Joseph Smith is a man of very few words.

Players have described him as a blue-collar, strong, silent leader and an inspiration to them every time he teaches them on the field.

In two full
seasons of covering the football program for The Linfield Review, I’ve gotten a chance to speak to coach Smith frequently about football and learned a few of his standard lines when it comes to talking to the press.

He never talks about
injuries, always pushes players to reach their potential  and encourages them to focus on the game at hand.

It’s always a safe bet that in the course of any given interview, these three things will come up at least once.

But last Saturday, I was surprised to find one of those cardinal rules was broken during my post-game talk with Smith.

When I asked him about a few new trick plays the team had tried to incorporate, a reverse on a punt return and an on-side kick, rather than giving the team line about
playing to potential, he said
something completely
different.

After only four games in the season, Coach Smith said that the team is  beginning to try to elevate their level of play to match that of national powers Mount Union and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

These two teams have met in the Division-III title game for the past several seasons and consistently produce Arena League and sometimes NFL prospects, so their talent and quality of play is self-evident.

But the fact that Smith is thinking to those teams this early in the season and breaking the “focus on the next game” rule means that he knows how special this team is, and he’s hungry.

I’m hungry, too, to see the potential of this team when it clashes with national powers.

Coach Smith knows the game of football intimately, and if he has that magic feeling with the this team, then I damn well do too.

Elevating their game will be difficult and require constant attention, but I have no doubt this
program is capable of it.

In case you missed it, this team just set a
post-World War II record for points in a single game, PATs kicked in a single game and scored
touchdowns on offense, defense and two
different special teams
scenarios.

Wow. I shudder to think what next week’s game at second-year
program Pacific is going to look like. Does their
scoreboard go up to three digits?

In any case, this is one season that you folks are not going to want to miss.

Magic is in the air, and Coach Smith, like the silent Jedi he is, can sense it.
Can you?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Chris Forrer/Sports columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

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