With mostly juniors and seniors, coach Scott Schmitz hopes to compete immediately.
By JOHN C. COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001
TRINITY -- You can try to tell Mitchell coach Scott Schmitz that his team is on the eve of its first varsity season, that his team can expect to suffer a little, that Wesley Chapel won one game in 1999 and River Ridge won none in 1991.
He isn't buying it. Schmitz was the coach of that original River Ridge team, building the program from scratch and making it the west side's best and a perennial Sunshine Athletic Conference contender.
Schmitz knows original River Ridge. He worked with original River Ridge. And trust him, original Mitchell is no original River Ridge.
"I see things being done more quickly here," said Schmitz, who left River Ridge after a 7-3 record in 1999. "Things are going to go better. A lot of that has to do with when River Ridge opened, we got kids from Gulf and Ridgewood. There were no ties to River Ridge. Here, sure we've gotten some kids from Gulf and River Ridge, but most of them went to school together at Seven Springs. They know each other.
"There wasn't a whole lot of team unity right away at River Ridge. That took us awhile to get that going. That makes a big difference."
With much of his coaching staff from River Ridge in tow, Schmitz is hoping to improve on his reputation as a master builder, uniter and coach. His field will be ready for the home opener, his team has been tested thanks to last year's junior varsity season -- something neither Wesley Chapel nor River Ridge had -- and he hopes the discipline and organizational class his staff brought from River Ridge rubs off on his youngsters.
"Our only goal is to compete," Schmitz said. "I said the same thing at River Ridge but I didn't really realize what I was getting into. I probably didn't sound very smart the first few years there. But I think we're much further along this year. I really feel like we're in our second season."
The Mustangs were 6-2 last year and rolled up big victories over Pasco (19-7), Zephyrhills (35-7), Ridgewood (57-21) and Hudson (47-0). But they were clearly more experienced than most jayvee teams. Consider that other than five sophomores on this year's roster, everyone on the team is a junior or senior.
This is not your daddy's first-year team.
Mitchell is actually one of the more experienced teams on the west side of the county, if you can believe that. There's a senior at quarterback in Sean Gillen, and a backfield of juniors and seniors. East Lake transfer Derek Shortz -- Schmitz compares him favorably with former Royal Knight Frank Temple -- will start at fullback. Reggie Moise brings his scatback abilities to the halfback position, and senior D.J. Satinoff, the best all-round back, starts at wingback.
They will run behind an experienced offensive line with two starters from Schmitz's days at River Ridge.
Still looking for freshmen and sophomores? Well, sophomores Jeremy Miracle (defensive tackle) and Mike Despota (nose tackle) will start, but they will be surrounded by a host of junior and seniors, including Andrew Brougham, Scott Frazier and a good group of linebackers led by Ed White.
Jayvee starter Leon McIntosh, a sophomore, will man one of the defensive back positions, as will junior Ed Garton. Both are good cover guys. Green, Satinoff and Donnie Josephik will play safety.
With enough seniors and juniors to bring along the younger players, Schmitz doesn't foresee an 0-10 start. While he's not about to predict a playoff berth, he's not ready to rule one out either.
"I truly believe what we did last year (playing a jayvee schedule) is really going to pay off," Schmitz said. "I've been in the county a long time, and I've seen a lot of the football, and I think we can compete."
CLASS: Class 4A, District
PLAYOFF HISTORY: None
HEAD COACH: Scott Schmitz (43-51, 10th season)
ASSISTANTS: Scott Bisbe, Chris Murphy, Jeff Deremer, Dillard Caldwell, Mike Cuddy, Jim Michaels, Phil Bell, Dick Buckenroth, Ian Mooney, John Stanjeski
DID YOU KNOW? Scott Schmitz knows how to win. Before he came to Pasco County, Schmitz coached in West Central, Ill., at Westmer High (1978-82) and La Harpe High (1982-85). Westmer hadn't won a game in two years, but when Schmitz showed up the school won as many as seven. La Harpe has only won one game in two years, but in his third year, Schmitz took the team to a 6-2 record. In his first year at River Ridge, Schmitz went 0-10 playing a varsity schedule before going on to enjoy five winning seasons in the next seven years, taking the Royal Knights to three playoff games, the most in the 62-year history of west Pasco County football.
DIRECTIONS MITCHELL STADIUM: From S.R. 52 or 54, turn south onto Little Road. The school is about half a mile on the right.