If haven’t had the chance to read today’s Times sports section, Matt Sweeney told us yesterday that he has stepped down as the football coach at Foothill High School after 21 years. It came as a surprise to those us in the media (okay, maybe just me) who have covered Sweeney teams in the past, particularly this year. As he guided the Falcons to 12 straight wins in 2006, his level of intensity never waned and his ability to play-call and make in-game adjustments were as deft as ever.
Yet he just couldn’t get the juices flowing for football this spring as he did in previous years. Part of that was because he was guiding the Falcons softball team to a 25-3 record and the NCS 3A East Bay title, and was committed to those players his best effort. When it came time to devote his attention to the football team, the energy just wasn’t there.
Anyway, everyone who has covered high school football in the East Bay has a favorite Matt Sweeney story. Here are a couple of mine.
In 2001, California was having one of its best seasons ever and had designs on upsetting the Falcons. The Grizzlies took a 7-3 lead early as the Falcons kept shooting themselves in the foot. After a particularly ugly play, Sweeney called a timeout, brought his players around him and issued a paint-peeling lecture that I’m sure a few people in the bleachers could hear. Excuses? He didn’t want to hear ‘em.
The Foothill players got the message too, winning 24-19.
Then this April during the Livermore Stampede, Sweeney was in the press box talking to another sportswriter who had been covering Foothill games for years. Sweeney talked about a play that had been successful for him in 1987, and how he kept using that play with slight modifications over and over in big games since. He diagrammed every single one on a piece of paper, going over in detail what every player was supposed to do.
Foothill administrators are searching for a permanent replacement for Matt Sweeney. But there will never be another one like him.