Stevenson coach Bill Mitz enjoyed Columbus Day as much as any coach in the area.
With his Patriots having defeated rival Libertyville on Friday and improved their mark to 7-0, being able to have an early practice Monday was an added bonus for Mitz. After his short day, Mitz had time to discuss his team's big win, proving doubters wrong, the possibility of retiring at the end of the season and more.
Scott Powers: How long have you been teaching and coaching?
Bill Mitz: I started in 1977. I've been coaching varsity football at Stevenson for the past 28 years.
SP: What impressed you about your team's win on Friday?
BM: Just the way we came out and played very good football in the first period.
SP: How good did it to feel to defeat Libertyville?
BM: It's a big game for everybody. At Stevenson, we're a very diverse population. There are kids who don't know what a football game is, and they say, "Good luck, coach." It's bragging rights for a year. This year we got it. As [Libertyville coach] Randy [Kuceyeski] said, "It's a great series, and there have been a lot of great player who have played in the game." It's a lot of fun to be involved in.
SP: Do you know this team was capable of this?
BM: We're a team experts thought would come in behind Mundelein and behind Zion. I don't know what they were smoking. We were a little offended to see where we were picked in the division after last season. Each game we win is very satisfying. Now we have two more left. Hopefully, we can get them both. We have a game this week against Round Lake. Their coach is one of our ex-players, so he'll be fired up, and we finish up with Warren. You want to get the best record for the seeding in the tournament.
SP: When did you know this team was going to be good?
BM: The way the kids' work ethic had been since we lost to Maine South last year. We knew we had a great group of kids. The turning point was when he went for two points and beat Glenbrook South in overtime. That gave a lot of kids the belief that we have something special.
SP: This team seems very balanced. Is it comparable in that way to any team you've had in the past?
BM: I never like to compare teams we've had previously. This one is pretty balanced with the two backs and the quarterback and receivers we have. It's a nice option for us to have.
SP: What are running back Matt Harris' strengths?
BM: He blocks well for Mark [Weisman]. Plus, he's a power back. He's a very powerful runner. When he gets going, he's very powerful and tough to take down.
SP: What about Mark Weisman?
BM: Mark has the speed. He's a 4.65 guy. He's explosive. He's strong. He's everything you want in a back. He's very quick and very powerful
SP: Your quarterback Kevin Earl?
BM: He's poised without a doubt. He's just playing back there. I wouldn't trade him for anybody. He's only a junior. I think the sky's the limit for him.
SP: There are rumors you'll be retiring after the season. Is that true?
BM: There's always rumors. I am retiring from teaching. I'm done with teaching. I will make a decision as far as coaching at the end of the season.
SP: Have you thought about it?
BM: In all honesty, I'll think about it at the end of the season. Am I ready to stop coaching? No. There are certain things I have to look into when the season ends. If I'm not on this sideline, I could be on [a] sideline somewhere else. The focus right now is on this team this year.
SP: Are you having fun?
BM: I always have fun out there. We have the best profession -- coaching. We're working with the youth of America, making them better men. I was blessed on Friday night to have 200 ex-players there. There were people from California, Oregon, Washington. It was great to see a lot of ex-players. It was a lot of fun.
SP: What do you hope a player takes from the program when he's done?
BM: I hope when he leaves whether he's an All-American or all-state, he has a burning desire to achieve the best possible goals on the football field. It's a special team. It's working with other people. It's having the ability to work with people of all different religions, races, and they all combine as one. It's a special game. All 11 pistons have to be running the same way.
SP: Who influenced you early in your coaching career?
BM: I had two people -- Mike Basrak at Niles West, who was an All-American and All-Pro with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and my brother Gene, who has coached at 23 different schools from Northwestern University to Triton College. He's 14 years older than me, and I watched him a lot growing up. Unfortunately, Niles West isn't what it used to be. Back when I played, we were always on top.
SP: Have your coaching philosophies changed over the years at all?
BM: We discipline those kids pretty hard. We work them hard. We're going to play defense with an offensive mentality. We're going to strap it up and run the football with our fullbacks. You better be ready to play. If you beat us, you're the better man.
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.