By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Jason Smith has paid his dues in becoming head football coach at Miller High School.
“Absolutely, I’m looking forward to it,” Smith said Tuesday. “Sure, it’s a challenge. My role will change. I’ll have more responsibilities. I believe I’m prepared.”
Smith, who turned 32 on April 22, has been the offensive and defensive line coach for the Cardinals for several years. He’s been in the system since 2001 except for the 2002 campaign.
Dustin Baldwin recently left the Class 1 Cardinals after four years to become head coach at Class 5 Neosho High School.
“The last four years have been great working for coach Baldwin,” Smith said. “Those years capped my preparation for this step.”
Smith was a three-year starter at guard-middle linebacker for Miller under Jim LaSalle.
“I was an eighth-grader when Miller won a state title (the 12-1 1994 Cardinals beat Tarkio 20-0 at Missouri State) under coach LaSalle,” Smith said. “We thought we had a chance to repeat when I was a freshman (and a member of the specialty teams). We were rolling, too. But we ran into Valle.
“I believe we finished 9-2,” Smith said. “We also lost to Marionville.”
Smith then walked on at Missouri Southern and participated in spring drills in 2000. Several factors convinced him to quit playing and concentrate on coaching. He didn’t secure a degree from Missouri Southern until 2010.
Smith assisted John Willis and Harv Welch at Miller before the arrival of Baldwin.
“We lost 13 seniors,” Smith said in a brief glance at the 2013 season. “I’m excited for the kids who now have the opportunity to play.”
An appreciative Smith said his staff is complete at the high school level. He’s joined by Derek Hill, Chris Potts and Justin Gerald.
“I’m unsure if we’ll have coach (Jim) LaSalle at the junior high,” Smith said. “He’s debating to join (son) Jamie (who recently became head coach at Marionville).”
Smith, who’s single, said parents Karen and Jim are former teachers and live in Miller.
“They’ve been coming to every Miller game for a while,” Smith said. “They were very excited, to say the least, when told I’d been promoted.”