‘Why not Colfax-Mingo?’
New Tigerhawks’ coach Jeff Lietz making his mark with program
|Colfax-Mingo football coach Jeff Lietz commands his defense from the sideline in the team's 50-14 win over Southeast Warren on Sept. 6. Lietz has the Tigerhawks out to a 2-0 start in his first year as the head coach. (Dustin Turner/Daily News)|
Fast, hard, finish — welcome to the new era of Tigerhawk football.
When new Colfax-Mingo football coach Jeff Lietz took the job, he had a clear vision in mind, and that vision is beginning to manifest itself into reality. After playing the role of assistant coach for the past four years, Lietz saw a few things he wanted to change about the program. So when the job came open following the past school year, he didn’t hesitate to drop his name in the hat.
“I’ve been an assistant coach with the program for four years prior to this, and I also helped with the middle school program prior to that. So, I’ve got a real familiarity with it, and when the job came open, I wanted to take it in my own direction,” he said.
So far, that direction means one thing — points, lots of them. The Tigerhawks have started the season 2-0 for the first time in the last three seasons. His quick-strike offense is simple, yet explosive. Colfax-Mingo has scored 113 points in those two games, with scores coming on some long touchdown runs or deliberate, well-thought out drives.
Of course, Lietz doesn’t take hardly any of the credit for his team’s early success. It’s all about the players. If they don’t buy in, none of this is even a possibility.
“Absolutely, getting the first two victories under our belt was great. The first one was huge, and the second one was good,” Lietz said. “The boys have really bought in to what we are doing both offensively and defensively.”
It’s less about what has changed schematically for the Tigerhawks, according to Lietz. It’s about attitude. He’s been incredibly impressed by the teamwork that his young squad has exhibited in the short amount of time since he has taken over. According to Lietz, when his boys are playing like a true team, it makes his job much easier.
“You know one thing we’ve noticed as coaches is that the boys are playing together as a team as well as I’ve seen in the years that I’ve helped,” he said. “There’s no finger-pointing or anything like that going on. They’re being true teammate. When you see that kind of character and see them playing like that, it’s very gratifying. They’re buying in and doing the things that we’re asking them to do.”
You have probably seen, or more likely heard Lietz on the sidelines with his players as a very intense individual. He doesn’t hide his passion for the game. However, it’s not an intensity that inspires aggression necessarily. Lietz likes to think of it as more of an inspirational technique, but it’s not as if getting fired up doesn’t come naturally, as well.
“It comes natural in the course of the game. Intensity and heart is something I want the boys to play with, and that’s just kind of my character too. When it comes to playing football, you play with a lot of heart and a lot of intensity,” he said.
The main difference Lietz has implemented involves expectations. In the past, perhaps the players for Colfax-Mingo measured their size as players and as a school against some of the larger ones in the area and assumed that they did not stack up well physically. There has been no inkling of that under Lietz.
He has set expectation for his players, and made them set expectations for themselves. From Day 1 of camp, this team has seen no excuse not to win. That comes from the top down. The Tigerhawk players see their coach not only believes they can win, but knows it, and it’s not hard for them to buy in.
“We just set an expectation upfront. It all comes down to attitude. I’ve been able to use past records and performance to our advantage,” he said. “One of our sayings that I put on our camp shirts this year was ‘expect to win’. The minute you step foot on the football field, you have an expectation that you’re going to be victorious.
“That attitude and mindset has to be there if you’re going to have success. They’ve brought that attitude, and everybody else bought into that same attitude of ‘Why not Colfax-Mingo? Why can’t we do it?”
It’s not hard to see that Colfax and Mingo are proud communities, and Lietz is well aware of this. He has spent the past 17 years living in Colfax, nine of them on the school board. The high school, and particular its sports are a very important part of that pride, and that is something that resonates with Lietz.
“What it comes down to is playing the game with character and playing with heart. It’s about being proud to be a Tigerhawk,” Lietz said. “I talk a lot about playing with pride. I tell my boys that football can teach you a lot of things in life. It can teach responsibility, respect and good character. All that plays a part in being a Tigerhawk.”
This year’s Tigerhawk team is still in its infancy stages. You wouldn’t know it by the team’s maturity and ability to adapt, but this is a very young team. They start a lot of sophomores, a couple of juniors and very few seniors on both sides of the ball. Lietz does not see this as a detriment, but rather an opportunity to grow together.
Lietz knows there will inevitably be some lumps along the way for both his players and him as a coach, but he’s looking forward to maturing as a coach alongside his young men, not only in football but in character as well.
“As the team is going to grow, I’m going to grow. I’d like to have success for my own personal things, but my main goal is for the boys to have success and play the game hard and give it their all,” Lietz said. “I tell them just give all you can, maximum effort. Don’t take any plays off, and be proud of the way you play. If you do all of those things and we’re still not able to get a victory, at least you can feel good about yourself coming off the field and know that you gave it everything you had.
“I hope the boys understand when they’re done playing for me that football teaches them a lot more about life than what some people may think. It is a game, but it certainly has a lot of characteristics that can teach you. Football is certainly an ‘X’ and ‘Os’ game, but the life values and lessons it can teach you, as well, involve being part of a team, leadership and respect.”
It’s clear that Lietz has set high expectations for his players, and he has maintained one mantra throughout his first few months as the coach — trust.
“I tell the boys a lot that you can’t listen to what people outside the program say,” he said. “The people outside of the 37 players and the six coaches on the field don’t know what we’ve taught to you. They don’t know what we’re doing. You have to trust in what the coaches are telling you and trust each other and have that expectation”
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