Adapted Soccer: Schmitz leads Blazing Cats back to stateThere's little doubt Jon Schmitz has the busiest-looking letter jacket in Farmington High School.
By: Matt Steichen, The Farmington Independent
There's little doubt Jon Schmitz has the busiest-looking letter jacket in Farmington High School.
The senior will add another state tournament emblem to his collection at the conclusion of the fall sports season — once his Blazing Cats adapted soccer team has completed another run through the eight-team bracket at Stillwater High School.
It's the sixth straight year Schmitz has played in the adapted soccer state tournament. He was part of two state championship teams and a second-place team in his first three appearances playing for Dakota United, then he led the Farmington/Lakeville/Burnsville Blazing Cats to fifth- and sixth-place finishes in 2006 and 2007. The team made it three straight state berths last Tuesday when Schmitz scored six goals and dished out two assists in a 9-4 victory over sixth-seeded Wayzata.
"I enjoy (being the go-to scorer) because the other teams figure out they need to guard me more and that frees up everybody else," said Schmitz, who set a state tournament record with 13 goals in three games in ’06. "It gives everybody else chances to score, so it helps the team."
At first, Schmitz said he was reluctant to go from a powerhouse Dakota United team to the newly-formed Blazing Cats, but that his parents, B.J. and Robin Schmitz of Farmington, encouraged him to stick with soccer.
"My parents have supported me throughout my career. They brought me to my sporting events and made me go to practices. They convinced me to keep playing soccer in Lakeville and I'm glad I did," he said. "I didn't want to play after Dakota — I knew we weren't going to be as competitive at first — but I've really enjoyed the friendships and the chance to stand out individually."
Stood out, he has. Schmitz has scored 39 goals and handed out 14 assists in leading the Blazing Cats to an 8-2-1 record so far this season. Both losses came to Dakota United, which won the South Division with a record of 8-1-1, but the second game ended in a tight 5-4 score that proved to Schmitz just how far he and his teammates have come.
"We have improved tremendously since Lakeville started. Originally we had six people and now we're up to 11," said Schmitz, who is joined on the team by one other Farmington student, Christine Beltz. "The program has really improved."
The Blazing Cats earned third place in the South Division, which matches them up against defending state champion Anoka-Hennepin (No. 2 seed in the North Division) in the first round of the state tournament for the third straight year. The game is at 6:30 p.m. next Friday at Stillwater High School.
"We just have to stay focused and be aggressive all game," Schmitz said. "We have to play smart and not make too many mistakes, and also take advantage of their mistakes."
One thing that Schmitz won't have to deal with is nervousness due to playing in the state tournament atmosphere. Aside from adapted soccer, he's played in the state tournament three times apiece as a member of Dakota United's adapted floor hockey and adapted softball teams, and on the national stage as a member of the Minnesota Royals wheelchair basketball team. Schmitz has played for the Royals for 12 years and, in the last two years, has helped the Twin Cities-based team place 11th and 10th at the national tournament.
"When I think about all the accomplishments I've had, it really makes it so I don't care that I'm handicapped," said Schmitz, who was born with Spina Bifida. "I don't know if I would have been able to accomplish so much had I not been handicapped. It feels good when people ask me about it and look up to me for what I've been able to do.
“I always just wanted to play no matter what. I love the competition.”