Madison High School Athletics Director Jaime Cotto can’t wait for Sept. 12.
That’s when there will be a high school football game at the Madison High campus for the first time in more than 20 years. Madison teamed up with Metro East Lutheran in Edwardsville to form a co-op football team this year.
“It’s tremendous,” Cotto said. “I never really thought that we were going to do that, but having the opportunity of getting it back is tremendous. The community is excited and the kids are excited.”
Earlier this year, the boards of education for Madison and Metro East Lutheran approved a two-year agreement to have a football team that includes athletes from both schools, making it the first time since 1992 that Madison will have a football squad. The team will be called the Metro East Lutheran Knights.
“Both communities embraced it and it’s been a very smooth transition,” Cotto said.
The co-op team will start its season Aug. 28 at Bunker Hill. On Sept. 12, the Knights will play Bunker Hill again, this time at Madison High School.
Cotto said several Madison students have been working on the football field this summer.
“The kids over the summer really worked hard on the field,” the Madison athletics director said. “They painted the goal post. So the kids have put in a lot of work into preparing the field.”
The Knights will have three other home games at the Metro East Lutheran campus in Edwardsville. The squad also will have its practices at MELHS.
The Madison football team made one state playoff appearance and that was in 1987.
Matt Tschudy returns for his second season of his second stint as Metro’s football coach. He also coached the Knights from 2007-2009.
Tschudy said he’s looking forward to coaching the new co-op football team.
“This is an opportunity for Metro East Lutheran for continuing to have football and for Madison, this is an opportunity for them to resurrect a program which they didn’t have since the early 1990s,” Tschudy said. “We’re pumped about having a team. The merger over the summer has gone remarkably well. The players are getting along really well and we’re really excited to get under way here.”
Like Madison, Metro East Lutheran also made one state playoff appearance, and that was in 2003. The Knights have won just two games in the last four seasons.
MELHS is a member of the Prairie State Conference, where it plays Marquette Catholic, East Alton-Wood River, Bunker Hill, Mount Olive, Kincaid (South Fork), Nokomis and Pawnee.
The Knights were 0-9 last season and had to forfeit five games because of lack of numbers.
“The numbers have been declining over the past couple of years,” Tschudy said. “We wouldn’t have been able to have a season if we didn’t co-op with Madison.”
Tschudy said he has set two goals for his football team this year.
“One is to make the playoffs and two, I’m really big on coaching men having good character,” Tschudy said. “We want to win football games, but at the same time, we want to help develop young men into good leaders.”
Cotto said the football team turned in a solid off-season this summer.
“They played 7-on-7 in Dupo twice,” Cotto said. “They worked out Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They had a good turnout. A good number of our kids attended daily, so it’s been a very good experience for the kids.”
Cotto is in his seventh year as Madison athletics director. He’s also the Trojans’ head boys’ basketball coach. Cotto has coached the Trojans to four regional championships and two state tournament appearances. Madison finished second in 2013 and third in 2010.
Madison, a Class 1A school with 139 students, also has boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball, cross country, track and volleyball. The school will also co-op with Metro East Lutheran in cross country this fall.
MELHS is a Class 1A school with 200 students.