Players and coaches took their first steps on Saturday toward building a foundation for the new Sierra Lutheran High School football program.
Instead of a football field, however, those steps will be taken behind the Indian Hills school during a hike to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.
“We’re having a team building day,” said Jacob Schumacher, Sierra Lutheran’s head football coach. “There’s a cross at the top of that mountain and we’re going to do some team-building exercises and we’re going to talk about what the kids want as far as being the first players in this program, what they want to see this program become, and we’ll go from there.”
This is literally a building season for the Falcons, who have only one 8-man football game on their schedule — a Sept. 13 date at Excel Christian in Sparks. Sierra Lutheran will be an independent program this season and probably 2015 as well while waiting for the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association realignment cycle to come back around before being admitted as a Division IV member.
“I don’t want to rush into anything with these kids,” Schumacher said. “None of them have ever played tackle football before, so I want to take the time to teach them the right technique and the right fundamentals.”
This has been a challenge, however, it’s one he is clearly excited about.
“This is an opportunity very few coaches get to do, to start a program from the ground up,” he explained. “And being a Christian school, starting it the right way is a very essential, so I take a lot of pride in this. I want to make sure we do our playing on the field and people know that we are Christians, that we are competitive, and we want to win.
“We’re not going to talk trash on the field, we are going to pray before and after games, and we will show our faith by what we do. That is the approach that I have been taught in my years of playing and that’s the approach I want to take in starting this program.”
The coach expects to be working with 15-16 players this fall and hopes to expand that number next season.
Cameron Drudge, who is entering his junior year, was one of a handful of players who turned out recently when the school’s new weight room opened for conditioning work. It doesn’t matter what position, he simply wants to play some football.
“I’ve never played football before, so wherever they put me at will be fine; I have no preference,” Drudge said. “It’s really nice that we can have this. It’s exciting to have new things and get to play new sports.”
The building process actually began last year after Schumacher began his new job as a teacher at the school. His wife, Rebecca, is head coach for the school’s volleyball program as well as track and field. Sierra Lutheran’s boys and girls track and field teams swept the Division IV state titles in May.
The past 12 months have been a “big whirlwind” since a couple of fathers approached Schumacher about starting a football program at the school.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen for a while,” he said. “We needed a lot of work and a lot of money to get it going. But a lot of things kind of came together, and the next thing you know, we had financial backing and here we are now.”
Schumacher received some outside assistance from contacts he had at Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas and Orange Lutheran in Orange, Calif. Faith Lutheran won the NIAA Division I-A state championship last year with a 12-2 record. And Orange Lutheran fielded an 89-player roster during the 2013 season en route to qualifying for the CIF Southern Section’s elite Pac 5 Division playoffs.
“Those are two very big programs, so I contacted those coaches and they were more than willing to donate equipment,” Schumacher said, motioning to a shelf in the weight room. “Those boxes of pants and shoulder pads up there all came from Orange Lutheran. A lot of practice equipment came from Faith Lutheran, and so, I drove down to Las Vegas and Orange in February to pick them up.”
Schumacher added that the players are buying their own helmets.
“We will recondition them every year, but when they graduate they would keep that helmet as kind of a token of their service to the program,” he said.
His brother, Joshua Schumacher, currently the defensive coordinator at Concordia University-Ann Arbor, Mich. and former coach at Faith Lutheran helped arrange for a donation of lower pads.
“I ordered knee pads, belts, practice jerseys and mouth guards so we have all the equipment necessary now,” Schumacher said.
Schumacher attended Bristol East High School in Connecticut and then at Concordia University-Chicago, although his playing time at both schools was curtailed by knee injuries. Looking back now, he does feel the injuries provided some valuable lessons for his preparation to coach.
“I definitely know what it’s like to be injured, and that is one of my chief objectives, to make sure our kids stay safe,” Schumacher said.
Ultimately, the program is entirely about the young players, he emphasized.
“I may be the head coach, but this is also about those kids,” Schumacher said. “Those kids have to want to build this program and create the foundation to where we can succeed in the future.”