INDEPENDENCE — Quarterback Logan Schmitt has helped accelerate Independence’s rebuilding project to warp speed.
The Mustang offense’s dual-threat leader put his talent on display Friday night, as he passed for 190 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 150 and two scores on 30 carries during a 31-14 rare rivalry win over West Delaware. Independence (4-1) has already matched last season’s win total, when Schmitt and company began to chart a new direction.
The quarterback’s versatility and growth shined Friday, bouncing back from a loss to Center Point-Urbana with a win over a West Delaware squad that had defeated the Mustangs by 37 points last fall.
Reflecting on a signature win, Schmitt credited his offensive line and how well the team responded to adversity over the final two quarters. The Mustangs surrendered the lead toward the end of the second quarter, and a penalty stalled the offense’s final scoring opportunity prior to halftime.
“In the locker room everyone was like, ‘Guys, we’ve got to respond, how are we going to do it?’” Schmitt related. “We came out and we responded. We just took over the second half. Those were the things that impressed me.”
Not much seems to rattle Independence’s youthful quarterback, and it’s been that way from day one.
Independence coach Justin Putz had no hesitation in handing the reigns over to Schmitt as a sophomore after the Mustangs went winless in 2016. As an assistant baseball coach, Putz had already seen the talented athlete reveal a high level of composure and intelligence on the diamond.
“I knew he was a good football player, but I really learned how tough he was, how smart he was,” Putz said. “As you’re looking at a quarterback coming up, having that mental toughness in somebody I thought was going to play for us as a sophomore was really key.
“One play doesn’t carry over to another. He was the starting shortstop, arguably our ace pitcher as a freshman at the varsity level. To play those positions where you are in the most high-stress positions at that young age, and be able to handle all that and take everything in stride, that just shows you right there the mental makeup that he has.”
Schmitt reflects back on his freshman baseball season as one in which he found good role-models in the upperclassmen and matured. Competing against older athletes for the first time taught valuable lessons in responding to failure.
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“When you start playing up against older guys, it’s just not all on talent,” Schmitt said. “The little things count. You’ve got to do everything right. You can’t just overpower kids.”
While Schmitt admits the idea of taking over the quarterback position as a sophomore for a team coming off a winless season was a little intimidating, he says he had faith that he was surrounded by a group of teammates capable of accomplishing something special.
Schmitt threw just six interceptions versus 17 touchdowns, passing for 1,361 yards and rushing for another 710 during a turnaround 4-6 campaign a year ago when five playoff teams were on the schedule.
“He was a difference-maker and he just got better and better, game to game, series to series,” Putz recalled. “He really doesn’t make the same mistake twice.”
This season, Putz has put a lot of decision making in Schmitt’s hands — giving his quarterback as much freedom with play calling, reads and audibles as any he’s ever coached. The junior has invested the time to find success.
“There’s a certain way to watch film,” Schmitt said, reflecting on the lessons he learned from last season. “You can just watch film casually or you can actually study it and get something out of it. It also goes with the game plan and practice. ... If you focus on what you’re supposed to do and make your reads during practice and game plan correctly and watch film, then you’re going to be a lot more successful.”
Schmitt is also a valuable addition to the defense. He’s playing safety for the first time this season at the varsity level.
“Defensively, the whole group is a lot of fun,” Schmitt said. “It’s really fun when you’re flying around hitting people and making the right reads and executing, holding opponents to minimal yards.”
With juniors filling the majority of the starting roles on this team, there’s little doubt Independence’s future is bright. The Mustangs may have the pieces to accelerate that timeline to the present.
“To see it turn around this fast has been awesome,” Schmitt said. “The junior and senior class, especially, has directly impacted the culture and tradition. It’s great to see that all these guys have bought in and listened to what the coaches have said.”