Jeff Schmidt has Cleveland football going in the right direction
First-year coach has led Cleveland to a 4-2 start this season.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Cleveland football program has made major strides this season.
If Cleveland, off to a 4-2 start, can win its final two games of the regular season, it will match the combined win total of the previous five seasons.
A big factor for this turnaround? First-year coach Jeff Schmidt.
“It’s been remarkable to watch it evolve in such a short period of time,” Cleveland athletic director Annette Duvall said.
Schmidt said that after the preseason coaches’ poll came out – in which Cleveland was ranked second to last in the Sound Division of the Metro League – he put the poll up on the bulletin board.
“This is what people think. It’s not what I think or what I expect,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said there are three points he stresses to his players: relationships, fundamentals and discipline.
“If these kids buy in, if these kids actually buy into the blueprint, they have the opportunity to make a little noise,” Schmidt said.
Even opposing coaches are taking notice.
“They look like a completely new team,” Nathan Hale coach Hoover Hopkins said while talking about what he saw when scouting Cleveland for their game in Week 5.
Nathan Hale went on to win, 22-20. But after the game, Hopkins’ impression hadn’t changed.
“Cleveland has improved so much,” Hopkins said. “It’s just an incredible turnaround. Their coach has done a great job; they have great athletes.”
Schmidt has tried to make an impression on his team off the field as well.
Duvall said that on game days, players arrive at Cleveland 30 minutes before school starts to put on their uniforms. They then stand in the halls and hold doors open, welcoming the student body to school while also letting them know where and when their game is that night.
Such a simple act has had a big impact.
“Now, we have a group of people showing up to games that historically hadn’t happened,” Duvall said.
Pregame, it’s easy to see just what that’s done. Loud fans are in the stands before kickoff, excited cheerleaders run around getting ready to actually cheer for a crowd. But there is a deeper impact as well.
“We have a population of students that need caring adults,” and he provides that, Duvall said. “He’s connected with the kids, promoted participation, set high standards.”
Next up for Cleveland is Lakeside on Saturday.
Whatever the outcome, there’s no denying Cleveland football is changing.
“Am I shocked?” Schmidt said. “Shocked we’re 4-2. Shocked we’re not 5-1.”
• Two local contests this weekend are being highlighted by the Great American Rivalry Series as part of the 100 best rivalry games across the county. Bothell (5-1) plays Inglemoor (0-6) Friday at 7 p.m. at Pop Keeney Stadium. Then on Saturday at 6 p.m. it’s the Taylor Trophy game between Auburn (4-2) and Kent-Meridian (2-4) at French Field in Kent.
• Winless Emerald Ridge has lost some tough games this season, but none have been as gut-wrenching as the 40-39 defeat at the hands of rival Puyallup last Friday, when the Vikings’ Brad McDougall kicked a 46-yard field goal as time expired.
Staff writer Sandy Ringer contributed to this report.