Too many high school football teams up against the Walla Walla Blue Devils the last couple of years have paid a price for overlooking six-foot, 205-pound lineman Cole Schmidt.
Despite being very much undersized opposite taller and much bigger linemen, Schmidt has long been one of the best in the Mid-Columbia Conference.
Last year, Schmidt made the All-MCC Second Team defensive line.
Even more often this season, an opposing quarterback or tailback has had to pick himself off the gridiron after a sudden hit from Schmidt.
“Basically, I’ve got a good inside move,” Schmidt said. “Generally, you rush outside. But I like to mix it up, sell it like a step or two upfield and then move inside. Sometimes it gets me washed down, but a good amount of times, I can mix them up and catch the QB unaware.”
Schmidt needed little time to make an impression on Greg Lupfer, in his first season as the Blue Devils head coach.
“You just don’t see it, but (Schmidt’s) got a natural talent for the pass rush,” Lupfer said. “He feels leverage really well. He understands the game of football, and understands what his role is, and always brings 100 percent.”
Schmidt fell in love with football when he started playing 10 years ago, while in the third grade at Rogers Adventist School over in College Place.
“Honestly, it was a bunch of young kids running into each other, but it got me into the game,” Schmidt said.
Rogers had no football team, so while in junior-high, Schmidt played for Sager Middle School.
Likewise, as a high school freshman at Walla Walla Valley Academy, Schmidt played for Wa-Hi.
Schmidt then transferred to Wa-Hi, and has been there ever since.
For Schmidt, like many veteran Blue Devils, this season has been the most enjoyable.
After winning only eight of 30 games his previous three years combined, the 2019 Blue Devils have had a lead in the second half every week but one.
Wa-Hi’s 4-4 record might not say much at first glance, but the Blue Devils keep in mind they had late leads over Hanford, Kamiakin and Kennewick slip out of their grasp.
Once thing is for sure, each game in Schmidt’s senior season has been exciting.
“It’s been going really well,” Schmidt. “The last few years, it’s been tough score-wise. But it’s really nice to be competing in games, and being able to help our team be competitive. I think we could easily be (7-1). We dropped some that we definitely should have won.”
Schmidt has been a big part of this year’s consistency.
“He is an amazing kid,”Lupfer said. “He has a great motor. He’s a great student. You can’t ask for anything more than what Cole Schmidt brings to your team, to the high school in general. He’s an all-star kid. That’s the bottom line. He succeeds and excels in everything he does.”
Schmidt credits their confidence for the turnaround.
“I think it’s just mentality,” he said. “You’re always told how to hit, but this year we’ve got new leadership — not just among our coaches. A lot of our players have stepped up, and are being leaders. People really believe we can win and want to show it. And we’ve got some physical players that want to make a name for themselves.”
Schmidt has been versatile, and the Blue Devils take advantage.
“It depends. He plays defensive end for us,” Lupfer said. “He’ll play some nose. He’ll play some tackle. We try to move him around a lot.
“We kind of give him the freedom, if he’s playing D-end and the tackle blocks out too far, we give him the freedom to be able to go inside,” Lupfer said. “We don’t want Cole to be a robot. We want him to be able to see what he feels, make an adjustment off to it, and there you go.”
“He (also) plays O-line,” Lupfer said. “He plays guard. And he’s a heck of an offensive lineman, too. He’s undersized for O-line and D-line, but he’s an overachiever. If you had a team full of Cole’s, you would never lose … ever.”
While playing football each fall, and competing in track and field over the spring, Schmidt has maintained a 4.0 GPA.
Schmidt has already committed to Bowdoin University in Brunswick, Maine.
After visiting over the summer, Schmidt found a fitting place to continue his excellence.
“The climate is really similar,” Schmidt said. “The town, Brunswick, their Main Street looks almost exactly like Walla Walla. It feels kind of like home away from home, a long ways away from home, but it just felt comfortable.”
Hector del Castillo can be reached at email@example.com or 509-526-8317.