Beth Smith — like every mother — wants to see her son do well.
“I’ll be proud to watch him over there, but I have to live with my husband,” she said before laughing.
It’s Frontenac at St. Mary’s-Colgan on Friday night, but the football rivalry has a unique twist this time.
Panthers coach Chuck Smith, who surpassed 300 career victories last season, is coaching against his son Mark, the Raiders’ first-year head coach.
There are other factors to help Beth Smith lean toward the Panthers. She’s a 1974 Colgan graduate, and she works at the elementary school as a secretary.
“Ever since the game was set, I’ve heard ‘who are you rooting for,’ ” she said. “I’m not rooting against Mark. It’s just one game. With Chuck on one side and Mark on the other, what more could a real football mom ask for?
“I stayed home for a couple of Chuck’s games because he wanted me to listen to Mark’s game. I’d listen to both games, and Chuck would call and say what’s the score of Mark’s game. Isn’t that sweet? I’d go back and forth between the games, and when Chuck’s game got out of hand, it was a lot easier to listen to Mark’s game.”
“I know it will be hard on her,” Mark said. “She’ll be a nervous wreck before the game and during it. Someone will win, and someone will lose. I’m sure both teams will play well, and whatever happens happens.
“There’s been a little talk about the game — not much about me versus my dad. There’s some excitement at Frontenac, and I’m sure there’s excitement at Colgan. And the game being on statewide TV (Cox Cable channel 22 in Pittsburg) has amped this up even more. It was already amped up just because it’s Colgan and Frontenac.”
Chuck admits he’ll be thinking about the opposing coach more than normal. After all, Mark was the starting quarterback for his father on the Panthers’ state championship teams in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
“I’ve thought about him for 26 years,” Chuck said. “We’re going to do everything we can to win. He’s going to be a good coach. I think Frontenac is lucky to have him and he’s lucky to be at Frontenac as well.”
Ironically, Chuck encouraged Mark to apply for the Frontenac job when it became open earlier this year.
“I always felt like Frontenac was one of the better jobs in this area,” Chuck said. “Mark was driving to Carl Junction every day. He lived right behind the Catholic church in Frontenac and was three blocks from the school ... why not apply? It’s a good job, and you don’t have to drive an hour and a half (round trip). Everything about it was good ... I’m glad Frontenac gave him the opportunity.
“He has ties to Frontenac,” Chuck continued. “His grandfather graduated from Frontenac High School. They later came to Colgan because of the Catholic high school.”
Colgan enters the game 3-0 while the Raiders are 0-3, but as the cliché goes, throw out the season records in a rivalry game.
“I think it’s going to be a very physical game,” Chuck said. “The teams we have played are 1-8; the teams they have played are 9-0. They played Galena pretty tough, and Galena is a very good team. The Galena game was much better than the score looked (32-6). Last year we had an awful good team, and Frontenac played us a tough, physical, spirited game.”
“We made some strides we needed to make last week,” Mark said. “You never feel good after a loss, but we got better against Galena. Midway through the fourth quarter it was 16-6 and we had the ball on the 40 but just couldn’t convert on the drive. We need to do the little things a little better.”
The best part of the weekend for the Smiths is their other six children — daughters Lori, Christy and Sarah and sons Nick, Jeff and Chas — are coming to the game.
“With all seven at home, Beth and I will be glad to see everybody,” Chuck said. “They are pretty lucky to have a mom like her. She was a pretty good athlete herself, a good softball player. Lori and Sarah are both family and consumer science teachers and neither one is as good as my wife. When they want to know how to do something, they ask their mother.”
As far as the other children’s rooting interests, “I just think they’re going to come to the game, and whatever happens happens,” Chuck said. “They don’t have any control over it. Don’t worry about it ... come and enjoy the game and when it’s over, we’ll get together and talk about it.”
“I don’t know what they’ll do,” Beth said. “I bet they stand right there by the goal post and cheer him on. They are not going to root against him. I think there will be enough people there rooting against him.”
“I think they’ll root for both teams to do well,” Mark said. “My brothers said they are hoping for a high-scoring game, just to have a fun game to watch. Hopefully we’ll put on a good show to watch.
“Those Colgan alums better cheer for their school. It won’t offend me at all. If I was not at Frontenac, I’d be cheering for Colgan.”
Mark, a 2004 Colgan graduate, has one family member who will be cheering 100 percent for the Raiders. His wife, the former Lindsay Hill, is a 2004 Frontenac graduate.
“She’s definitely a Frontenac Raider for life,” Mark said. “She gets a hard time when she’s at my parents’ house, but she handles it very well. She gives it right back to them if she has to.”
Beth Smith — like every mother — wants to see her son do well.
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