Sacred Heart hires Smith as head football coach

By CAMAL PETRO,

When Sacred Heart head football coach Lonny Schraeder announced he wasn’t going to return next season, Ed Smith knew he wanted to be a part of the program. The only way Smith could guarantee that he’d still be on the sidelines on Friday nights is if he became the head coach.

After a search that lasted a few months, Smith was announced as the new Sacred Heart football coach Thursday.

“I still wanted to be a part of this group and this coaching staff,” Smith said. “These young kids, the group that’s in ninth grade right now is a big group that will be sophomores. Even the juniors and seniors coming back, just being around the last the two years, they’re a great group of guys with great work ethic, they play hard and they’re fun to be around.”

Smith has more than two decades of coaching experience under his belt, but he spent a few years away from the sidelines to work in administration at Jones College. He wasn’t too far from the game, though, as he worked radio broadcasts for Jones and Petal before getting a call from Schraeder.

The Meridian native didn’t know Schraeder well, but he knew the kind of man and coach he was, so when he got a call in summer of 2017, he accepted the opportunity to join the coaching staff. As it turns out, Smith would spend the next two seasons coaching under a person who knew the goal was more than winning football games.

“The biggest thing, he’s the most inspirational person I’ve ever been around because of the sincere love and care for the kids,” Smith said. “He really treats coaching as a mission. You want to win, you want to be the best you can and winning is more fun than not winning, but his main goal is developing kids and trying to make sure they’re going to be successful.”

This is Smith’s first experience with 1A football, and it presents a lot of challenges. On top of that, coaching Sacred Heart adds even more difficulties. Nearly every 1A football team deals with low participation numbers, but Sacred Heart doesn’t have an athletic period during the school hours either.

There is potential for the Sacred Heart administration adding an athletic period for the next school year, but that still won’t help the size of the football team. One thing Schraeder has taught Smith is 1A games are marathons.

“It really its because it’s a gut check when you get into the fourth quarter and have so many guys playing all three ways,” Smith said. “You can work, condition and do all you can in the summertime, but you just can’t replicate what it is on their bodies when you get into the fourth quarter. It’s that gut check where you have to reach down deep. That’s a challenge and we’re still trying to get numbers up.”

The upcoming junior and senior classes are small, but Smith eyes next year’s sophomore class as a big one. Regardless of the size of his football team, he’s excited to work for the people of the Sacred Heart community.

“I think being with the kids, the coaching staff and the parents,” Smith said. “There are so many parents and boasters who really step in with things you don’t really think about or you take for granted. The closeness from everybody - we’re going to keep trying to build on that. But it comes down to the people you’re around, and we have some great people around here.”

Smith has a lot to do during the next couple of months. The varsity schedule is set for the fall, so he’ll start setting dates for spring and summer football, as well as asses what the football needs for the upcoming season.