BISMARCK, N.D. — After 45 seasons at the helm of St. Mary’s football, with eight state titles, Dan Smrekar decided to retired following the 2022 season. When it came to choosing the Hall of Fame coach’s replacement, the Saints went with a familiar face in Smrekar’s longtime assisatant coach and the program’s defensive coordinator, Toby Schweitzer.

It’s Schweitzer’s first job as a football head coach, but with coach Smrekar’s mentorship, he says he’s excited and ready for the opportunity.

“He was a good mentor,” Schweitzer says. “So, I think I hit the ground running. We do a lot of things the same. We’re still building a culture, good young men, and we’re trying to teach them to become better football players, and that’s our mantra.”

For the players, having a new head coach that has been a part of the program, is making the transition smoother and generating excitement.

“I think it’s going to make the transition easier having a coach that’s been with us, knows us as players, and knows our families,” quarterback Sam Fedorchak says. “I think it’s going to be good to keep the culture rolling. He’s definitely a players coach. He knows what we need and I think he’s going to be good for us.”

“It makes a difference that the culture’s still the same,” linebacker Hank Barry adds. “Everybody comes to work every single day. You know, it feels good to have a completely clean slate witha different plays, and a lot of different coaches. My two brothers graduated from here. They were both coached by coach Schweitzer, and they have only good words to say about him.”

Schweitzer is making is own impact on the program. He is keeping the culture that was created by coach Smrekar, but making change son the field. With the hiring of a new assitant coach, there will be a different look for the Saints offense.

“How we play the game, tempo, that kind of thing offensively,” he says. “With our new assistant, Bud Etzold, longtime great coach in North Dakota, and many other places. He’s going to do some tempo things and a new looking offense. So, there will be a new look for St. Mary’s.”

The Saints open their season at home against Minot on August 25th. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. central time.