Greg Smith has spent the last 13 Missouri high school football openers on the field with the Smithville Warriors.
The only difference this time around was that he was on the other sideline.
As he walked to the field clad in the purple and white of Pleasant Hill, he could not help but wonder how the reception would be and was pleasantly surprised when he was handed a plaque and honored at midfield.
“I was expecting boos,” he said with a smile. “That was a classy move by Smithville.”
However, the warm welcome was extended with a caveat.
The announcer wished him the best of luck, but only in his future endeavors after the game. And it was apparent the Warriors felt the same way, capitalizing on a few costly Pleasant Hill errors and handing their former coach a 28-0 season-opening loss on Friday night.
That did not stop either side from a postgame hugs and handshakes though.
“You build bonds with kids that you coach, and we certainly did that there,” Smith said. “At this point I’m a proud Rooster trying to build that relationship, and we have some work to do in the next couple days.”
Smith takes over a program that went 3-7 last season, but said the tradition and community are what drew him there.
“It’s a special place, and I knew that from the outside looking in,” Smith said. “The opportunity arose, and I jumped at it.”
The Roosters found themselves deep in their own territory on the first possession of the game and botched a snap at the 16-yard line. Smithville turned that into a safety to take the lead.
Not long after, Smithville quarterback Mitchell Orr reached the end zone with a two-yard quarterback keeper, and the defense forced another safety. This time it came after an intentional grounding call in the end zone.
Sam Aviles extended the lead to 14-0 before halftime with a 33-yard field goal.
“That game was won up front,” Smith said. “Their defensive line is outstanding, and they all have good experience. They played well, and defensively that is a lights-out group.”
Orr added another quarterback keeper to extend the lead in the third quarter and then handed the ball off to Zach Granger for the final tally.
It was the first victory for Smithville coach Jason Ambrosen, who joined Smithville after 14 years at Moberly High School.