Racine Lutheran head coach Scott Smith argues that St. Mary's Springs' Marcus Orlandoni fumbled the ball during a WIAA Division 6 playoff game Nov. 8 at Union Grove High School. 

Cindy Smith knows her husband after all these years.

She knows that when August rolls around every year, Scott Smith is going to be the invisible man for the next three months. Between coaching the Racine Lutheran High School football team to the greatest sustained success in program history the last 25 years to being heavily involved in Racine Youth Sports, Scott invests himself totally in the game.

Uh, is this a delicate issue, Cindy?

“It can be,” she said. “That time of the year, I’m widowed.”

But then Cindy turned serious when discussing her husband, voted the All-Racine County Coach of the Year in football for the fifth time since taking over Lutheran’s program in 1995.

“I am proud of how dedicated he is and what he does for the community,” she said of her husband of 33 years. “He’s trying to work with these kids and teach them discipline so that our community can become a better place.

“With all the violence that we’ve got, to have these kids involved in sports is, I think, the best thing that parents can do.”

Catholic Central coach Tom Aldrich knows his counterpart well, too. The 2009 Associated Press Coach of the Year in Wisconsin has been matching wits with Smith every season since 1995 and he long ago became aware of what to expect.

“Scott is obviously an outstanding coach,” Aldrich said. “His continued success over time is a true testament to this. His teams are always fundamentally sound and physically tough.

“Competing against teams coached by Scott Smith has always been a challenge I have looked forward to. You always know his teams will be well prepared and will do their best to expose any flaws.”

“Scott was at his best again this season. One year after leading the Crusaders to their first appearance in a WIAA championship game at Camp Randall Stadium, his Crusaders were ranked No. 1 all season among small schools in the Associated Press state poll. They also won their first outright conference championship since 2006.

Their season came to a disappointing end Nov. 8, when the Crusaders lost 20-0 to eventual Division 6 state champion Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs in the quarterfinals. But that doesn’t detract from the big picture, which has been rosy at Lutheran since he took over at his alma mater.

“Winning the conference was one of our goals,” said the 59-year-old Smith, who became a first-time grandfather in November. “Even though we didn’t get the other goal of making it to Madison again, it was just a great group of kids.

“Nobody got down when things weren’t going our way and everybody was an important part of it. I give a lot of credit to the coaches for putting the different pieces together, game-planning and so forth.”

Smith, who is 145-78 at Lutheran, has had a profound impact in countless young athletes over the years. One of them is Tyler Tenner, who became the state’s all-time leading rusher this season.

“He has faith in his guys 100% of the way,” Tenner said. “That’s what I admire most about him. “He told me when I was an eighth grader that one day I was going to play for him and do tremendous things.

“He gave me a lot of motivation to be a better athlete. Going into high school, you’re kind of nervous and he was able to guide me and tell me what I can be and what I was going to be.

“With that message coming early on, it was something that was able to drive me to become that.”