For the first time in seven years, Sacred Heart will have a new head football coach next season. Long-time coach Lonny Schraeder stepped down from the post a couple months back, but the Crusaders didn’t have to go far to find his replacement. Ed Smith, who served as an assistant coach the last two seasons under Schraeder, was introduced Thursday as the school’s new head ball coach.
“I’m really excited,” Smith said. “The biggest thing is these kids. I’ve been working for them for two years. I’ve gotten to know them, and they’ve gotten to know me. So I think that was part of the deal. It smoothed the transition. It’s a great group of guys.”
A native of Meridian, Smith worked as a graduate assistant at Mississippi State in the 1980’s and later as an assistant coach at Itawamba Community College, Austin Peay State and more recently Jones College. He continues to work at the latter part-time in an administration role.
But Sacred Heart will be his first head coaching opportunity aside from a stint as the junior high coach at Meridian’s Northwest Junior High School back in 1986.
“I always had that as a goal [of becoming a head coach], especially early on in my coaching career,” Smith said. “Then, with the way things played out for me, I ended up coming off the field and coming into administration. So I kinda pushed that to the back as one of those things that wasn’t gonna happen. But when this opened up like it did, it just seemed like a good fit.”
Smith coached quarterbacks and skill players in his first year at Sacred Heart, and this past season he oversaw wide receivers and defensive backs. Now, Smith is leading the program into the future, and he believes it could be bright.
“We’re still growing as a young program,” he said. “We’re just trying to move to that next block like more participation. The two years I’ve been here, at the beginning of the year, we were dressing 27 or 28 kids. Then, towards the end of the year, we may not have but 23 or 24 on the sidelines. I think one of our next steps in the growing process is getting to where we’re dressing 40 kids. Talking 10 per grade as an average, I don’t think that’s an unrealistic goal.
“Coach Schraeder has laid a really good foundation here. I said today in front of the guys, ‘Y’all don’t realize how lucky you are to have played for him’.”