Every football head coach had to deal with a lot of obstacles this season.
From limited summer practices, to scheduling to keeping players healthy, each coach had his own set of issues to deal with throughout the season.
None more so than Lima Central Catholic head coach Scott Palte, who helped guide the Thunderbirds to their third state semifinal appearance in school history, and that was why he was selected the 2020 Lima News Dream Team Coach of the Year.
Palte described it as one of his most demanding and draining years he has had as a coach but added that it was a tribute to his coaching staff and players and how they dealt with it.
“There was just a real uncertainty throughout the season and it was quite the thing to overcome and I thought our kids did a great job of handling it and our coaching staff did a great job of handling it and was real fortunate enough that we had a season and proud of what happened,” Palte said. “It was just a lot of uneasiness and uncertainty throughout the season. You just never knew when you were going to get a call that this kid was out or quarantined and things like that.
The uncertainty of a season weighed heavily on all teams as each awaited word if there was going to be a season and once the go-ahead was given the work really began for Palte and his coaching staff.
One of the first orders of business was getting a schedule put together. Because the Thunderbirds are not part of a league, Palte, along with his athletic director John Schnieders, went about the task of searching for opponents.
An initial agreement was struck with the Blanchard Valley Conference, however, some of those conference’s teams balked at playing LCC, so additional searches had to be made, as well as having a bye week in the middle of the year.
“You go into the season missing out on seven on seven and not as many scrimmages and that is the time when you can evaluate your team and gel and see what you got and build some continuity with the kids and then we missed out on that like every other team and then the schedule thing changed and most of the leagues decided to go league only which is completely understandable and three weeks before the season started we were scrambling to find games and were fortunate enough to have the BVC teams decide to play us and a couple of other openings fell into place for us.”
Once the schedule was set, LCC was on its way or so Palte thought.
The pandemic struck the Thunderbird squad in week three and the Thunderbird head coach found himself having to sit players throughout a two week stretch. As many as six starters did not play in certain games, yet LCC managed to go 1-1, with its lone loss to state ranked Libert-Benton.
Entering the postseason, the Thunderbirds were fully loaded and ready to go.
But an injury sidelined top talent Shaun Thomas, the team’s top rusher and one its top defenders, and Palte found himself dealing with another hurdle to overcome.
True to form, Palte, along with his coaching staff and players, rallied and instead of dwelling, dominated as the Thunderbirds demolished opponents on their way to the state semfinals.
“We are very fortunate to have a good senior bunch,” Palte said. “They played a lot of football for us and those 11 guys really worked hard and they were willing to do whatever it takes to have a fooball season in 2020.”
New Bremen, the eventual Division VII state champion, held off the Thundebirds, 28-26, to end the incredible season.
“I am just really proud of our kids and the coaching staff and how hard they worked and even nothing seemed to stay consistent throughout the year, they just kept working hard and battled and it came right down to the end in the state semifinals with a chance to play for a state championship,” Palte said. “It really is a tribute to our kids and our coaching staff.”
While Palte and his personnel worked hard to keep the players motivated and focused, along with devising game plans and schemes, the Thunderbird head coach said he had plenty of support from his family and coaching staff.
“I am very fortunate that my family is very supportive,” Palte said. “My wife, Amber, and my kids, Everett and Rylan and my daughter, Kendal, and are very supportive and very involved in our football team and on the sidelines each Friday night and that helps a lot.
“Also the coaching staff and them doing their part with all the protocols with taking temperatures and system checks and 6-feet apart and mask. It required a lot from each person. I am really thankful how everyone was helpful and cooperated. They just did a great job.”
The Thunderbirds produced a lot of big moments this year and accomplished a lot of this season by winning the regional finals and making the final four but Palte said the thing he takes away from the season was the effort put in by the LCC program.
“Just how hard our kids worked and dealt with adversity,” Palte said. “We had six starters and nine position players out in week three and four and watching our young guys step into the moment and embrace it and play hard those two weeks and our kids didn’t hang their heads and they battled and then in week seven when we lost Shaun and most kids might get down when that caliber of player goes down and feel sorry for themselves but our kids didn’t do that. They kept working hard and those memories I am most proud of.