With the kick-off of the 2017 football season ten days away, veteran St. John’s coach Todd Schulte reflects on the past two years, and looks with anticipation to the latest edition of his Blue Jay squad.
Delphos – While the past two years have not been up to the high standards that are associated with St. John’s football, 1-9 in 2015 and 5–5 last year, Todd Schulte feels that better days are on the horizon.
And why would anyone dispute someone entering his 19th year as a head coach, all at St. John’s, where he has compiled an amazing record of 164 and 67? The Delphos grad has seen it all, as he and Tim Goodwin, the current deans of coaches in the Midwest Athletic Conference, is well aware of what it takes to not only win in the rough and tumble MAC, and state titles, as well.
Certainly a key for any D-7 program is to stay away from devastating injuries. In 2016 the freshman team, which started the year at 2–0, had to scrap the remaining schedule as they suffered broken legs to three players, leaving only a JV schedule. Those players are back joining 46 others, to form the 2017 roster allowing the Blue Jays to once again field three teams.
“There is a lot to like about this group,” says Coach Schulte. “We have always had great attendance at our off-season workouts because our athletes know what it takes to win in this league. Our players love playing this schedule, and our staff enjoys the challenges it presents. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The ‘Jays will be depending on a number of underclassmen to step up from the JV team that finished at .500 to fill some holes left by 2017’s ten graduating seniors.
However, there are 18 returning lettermen, five on offense, and seven on defense, that offer a wealth of experience. Summer camp and two-a-days have seen a competitive battle at the QB spot between Jared Wurster and Troy Elwer.
Both run the option effectively, which will once again be a staple of the Blue Jay offense, and each bring different strengths to the position. Regardless who ultimately wins the spot, the other will also be playing somewhere on the offensive side when the season commences.
Troy Schwinnen looks to be the feature running back in their traditional I set, and Connor Hulihan will be the go-to receiver.
On the defensive side, the Blue Jays are returning to their base 4–3. “We tried some other things the past several years defensively and found that we just were not very good at them,” says Schulte. “So we are going back to our base defense where we feel we react much quicker, and are just more effective.”
Veterans Issac Musser (LB), Colin Will (DB), and Derrick Lindeman (DE), look to lead the defense.
The schedule for the Blue and Gold has been tweaked a bit this year as the ‘Jays open on the road at Toledo Woodward. The D-3 school finished 8-2 in 2016, thus providing a most formidable opponent to open the campaign, and a shipload of computer points if Schulte’s troops can emerge victorious.
“We wanted to change up our schedule a bit and with the addition of Woodward, and playing nearby rival LCC on a Saturday afternoon in week two has accomplished this task. We have to be successful in our non-league games to get where we want to go,” says Schulte’s.
“When we reviewed last year’s tapes in the off-season, we felt a key stop on third and short, or a conversion of first downs in several games could have made a big difference in our season. But, we know that we are an improving program as evidenced by our records of the past two years.”
So, when gazing into his crystal ball, what does the personable St. John’s coach see for his nineteenth Blue Jay squad?
“Our players are well aware of what it takes to win. Many people think the league could be more balanced this year; we would like to think we could be one of those teams that moves up a bit. We have 17 seniors who are hungry and have shown great leadership. Thus, with a break here and there, we stay away from injuries, who knows?”
When you leave Stadium Park and see the six state championship banners – when you reflect on Schulte’s two perfect seasons, (15–0) in 1999 and (15–0) in 2010, and the leadership he brings to the program- a return to the D-7 play-offs does not seem far-fetched.