CENTENNIAL | Physically, Mike Schmitt has been in Pennsylvania for the last four years, but his heart has remained at Eaglecrest High School, where he coached for nearly a decade.
Schmitt’s heart and body will be reunited with the Raptors, as he has been re-hired as head coach of a program he led to the Class 5A state championship game in 2017.
Eaglecrest athletic director in charge of football Vince Orlando sent a letter to families Wednesday afternoon announcing the second stint of Schmitt, who previously coached the program from 2009-2017. The Raptors spent the last three seasons under Shawn Marsh, who stepped down after a 1-9 season in 2021 (story).
“I’ve never really left Eaglecrest and I’ve constantly been talking with people around the school and the community even while my family and I were gone,” Schmitt told the Sentinel. “The doors all opened at the right time and everything fell in place.”
Schmitt guided Eaglecrest to the 2017 5A state title game at Empower Field at Mile High (previously Invesco Field), where it lost to Pomona 56-49 in a shootout. Soon after, Schmitt stepped down and moved to Pennsylvania to help his wife’s family.
While in Pennsylvania, he coached at Cowanesque Valley High School, a small school that hadn’t had much success in the win-loss column for many years. In Schmitt’s final season, he guided the program to six wins — its most since 1975 — and to the district playoffs for the first time. His son, Jacob, started at quarterback for the Indians.
“It was very similar to when I was at Eaglecrest the first time,” Schmitt described of the situation at Cowanesque Valley High School, a school with an enrollment of 385 students which he said played games in a field that was essentially pastureland, a far cry from Legacy Stadium, Stutler Bowl and especially Empower Field, home of the big school state championship game.
Off the field, Schmitt said the disruption caused by COVID-19 allowed him and his family more time to get things in order and made it possible for him to consider a return to Colorado and to Eaglecrest.
Orlando had discussions with Schmitt and things gained steam for his return to Eaglecrest as well as his wife, Lenore, as the school had an open social studies job.
“We are very excited to have Coach Schmitt and the Schmitt family back here at Eaglecrest,” Orlando said in the letter to Eaglecrest families.
Eaglecrest has had three football coaches in the four seasons since Schmitt left, beginning with Dustin Delaney, an import from Kansas who resigned after coaching just one game in 2018 (story). Offensive coordinator Garrett Looney (now the head coach at Mountain Vista) finished the season as the interim head coach and ahead of the 2019 season, the program hired Marsh, who came over from Grand Junction Central (story).
Marsh finished 14-15 in two full seasons and a shortened one due to the coronavirus pandemic and took the Raptors to consecutive 5A postseason appearances, but finished 1-9 in his final season.
Three Eaglecrest players earned All-Centennial League honors for the season (full teams, here) and all — sophomore defensive back Cam Chappa (first team), junior running back Diego Cearns (second team) and sophomore punter Logan Ryan (second team) — are underclassmen.
Schmitt believes last season was an anomaly and things can bounce back quickly for Eaglecrest, which he led to five 5A state playoff appearances in six seasons after missing the postseason in the first two seasons of his first tenure. He guided the Raptors to a 24-2 record in his final two seasons.
“I think in speaking with everybody, we are just ready to start the process that we put in place many years ago, to get back to work and get back to the things that made us successful,” he said. “The talent is still there I believe, it’s still a good group of kids to be around and the love and support of the community is still there. That’s all you can ask for, good kids and an administration that supports you. I can’t wait to get back.”
With Schmitt’s hire, two known openings remain among Aurora football programs ahead of the 2022 season. Rangeview is still in search of a replacement for Mike Holmes, while Cherokee Trail seeking the successor to Joe Johnson.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports