WHITESBORO, NY — When it was announced that Curtis Schmidt, the former offensive coordinator at Whitesboro, would be replacing Tom Schoen after the long-time head coach hung up his whistle in January after 45 seasons, Schmidt had the natural reaction to the announcement.
“I was very excited,” Schmidt, who was the Warriors’ offensive coordinator for the past nine years, said in a phone interview. “I was very grateful to have the group of guys and staff we have here. Communication is critical for all those involved, but our expectations across the board are all the same. The trust we have for each other, from the modified program up, is second to none.”
The only people who were more excited than Schmidt were the new crop of Warriors that will come to Chiz Frye Field in September. “They’re pretty enthusiastic,” Schmidt said. “We’ve known the kids here since they were young, so it’s not really a big change for them.”
That trust is what has brought the Warriors, led by Schmidt’s offense, to three sectional titles in the past four years (and came within two touchdowns of playing for a fourth in 2018). Schmidt, who will continue to run the offense as the head coach, doesn’t expect that run-heavy offense to go anywhere any time soon. Despite the fact that the Warriors will lose arguably one of the speediest runners in the section, senior Lucas Casab, to graduation, Schmidt looks forward to finding the next Lucas Casab during the off-season and summer workouts. At the same time, Schmidt looks forward to adding his own little twists to Whitesboro’s hard-hitting offense.
“That’s the great thing about football…no two coaches are the same,” Schmidt said. “We’ll keep all our traditions the same. We’ll still be a hard-nosed running team, but we’ll be doing different things with the X’s and O’s. The offseason so far has been great…The kids have been working out since January, four days a week. We feel we’re a tough, hard nosed football team. I don’t think we’re going to be as fast as we used to be, but we’ll be okay. It’s a 12-month a year job, and we’ve been preparing since our season ended in October [with a 31-19 loss to Carthage].”
It certainly helps that the Warriors are being coached by a player that’s been in the Whitesboro system for over 20 years. Schmidt, along with his coaching tenure, was a quarterback and a defensive end under his predecessor in 1999 and 2000. Both times, Schmidt and the Warriors made the Section III semifinals (losing to Oneida and Carthage, respectively). After Whitesboro, Schmidt went to Springfield (Massachusetts) College, where he was a part of two NCAA tournament teams. He would also make trips to Utica College twice, beating the Pioneers in his junior season. Under the tutelage of Schoen and Schmidt, the Warriors have made at least the Section III semifinals in every year but one since 2007, winning six titles in that span (2009-2011 and 2015-2017) .
What also helps the Warriors is that most of the staff is around their players every day. Schmidt and assistant coach Tom Maggiolino (who just led Whitesboro to the cusp of the New York State Final Four in baseball) are both physical education coaches at the high school, while defensive coordinator Kurt Herthum teaches social studies. According to Schmidt, that’s what makes the Warriors more of a well-oiled machine than most of their opponents in Class A competition, in Section III and beyond.
“I’m grateful to be doing this with this group of guys,” Schmidt said. “It’s a we, not me philosophy here. I’ve been getting all the interviews, but it’s all about us. You’re only as good as the people around you, and I’m grateful to have these guys next to me. I’m the next head coach, but really, there’s four or five guys that could do this job too.”
On Tuesday, that staff got even stronger, as the Whitesboro school board approved former Oriskany head coach Jerry Tine to be an assistant coach under Schmidt. Tine, who led the Redskins to the cusp of their first-ever eight-man playoff berth in 2018 (the Redskins would lose to South Lewis on tiebreakers) and has seen success in both Class C and D as well, will join the staff as an assistant. That experience, according to Schmidt, could result in big things for the Warriors in 2019.
“We’re excited to have Jerry on board. [He’s] a Whitesboro guy…he coached me when I was in school,” Schmidt said. “He leaves no stone unturned…he’s a guy you can lean on. He knows both the offense and defense. We’re very happy to have him on the staff.”
The job will likely be a trial by fire to start for Schmidt, as the Section III schedule-makers did not do any favors for the Warriors in 2019. Whitesboro’s season begins with two games against Class AA teams, first with a cross-town matchup at D’Alessandro Field in Utica with Proctor, then they will welcome the Henninger Black Knights to Chiz Frye Field on September 13. The Class A schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Warriors, though, as they will make an almost two and a half hour drive for a rematch of the 2017 New York State Regional Championship with the Union-Endicott Tigers from Section IV. (The Warriors won that matchup, with the Tigers as the home team, 28-7.) When they get back from the Binghamton area, all five of Whitesboro’s remaining games are against teams that made the Section III playoffs, including a rematch with their ouster last season in Carthage (at Chiz Frye Field on October 18) and the defending sectional champion in Indian River (on the road on October 11). Despite all of that, Schmidt looks at this baptism by fire as a true test of the Warriors’ mettle.
“We’re always excited to play really good competition,” Schmidt said. “We find out where we stand [as a team] right away. We’ll find out what we’re made of. This schedule is one of the toughest…we’re really excited as a staff to see where we stand.”
Despite the tough schedule and the placement of a relatively new system, Schmidt is truly a success story, going from player under one of the best coaches in New York State to succeeding him almost 20 years later. However, according to him, when he walks onto D’Alessandro Stadium’s turf on September 7th, it will be just like it’s 1999 again, and he’s rushing onto the field as a player.
“I’ve played at Whitesboro, and I’m always excited on Friday nights,” Schmidt said. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel [on September 7], but I know I’m still going to be excited.”
When the Warriors step onto the field in September, it won’t just be Schmidt who will be excited — it is certain to be all of Whitesboro.