After five years as the Althoff High defensive coordinator, Matt Lauber has been hired as the new head football coach at Springfield Southeast High School.
"The biggest thrill was getting the phone call and meeting the kids," said Lauber, whose hiring was finalized Monday night. "Up until then I had a lot of sleepless nights. You've got to sell yourself to them and they were pretty receptive and seemed to be genuinely excited about the new direction."
Lauber, 29, was a standout receiver at Althoff and later was a two-year starter at McKendree University. He spent time coaching under former McKendree coach Carl Poelker, then coached in the underclass program at Althoff before serving as defensive coordinator the past five seasons.
He also has been Althoff's junior varsity basketball coach and helped in a variety of other positions.
"It's really exciting to put in the time and then to finally get the opportunity," Lauber said. "I looked in this area and interviewed at a couple places and it didn't work out. My wife Laura is from Rochester, so I was being a little more picky at times.
"I think Southeast is a school you can win at and that (Springfield area) is home for my wife. It was a good mix and fortunately enough they're taking chance on me."
Better known as a basketball school, Southeast competes in the talent-rich Central State 8 Conference with multiple state championship winners Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin and Rochester.
Griffin has four state titles, including last season, and Rochester has won four straight Class 4A state championships.
Lauber said up to 14 players return from last season for Southeast, including a top-flight running back. He wants to use a versatile offense with multiple formations to take advantage of his top athletes.
"It's a tough conference and now with the Decatur schools coming in, it's loaded from top to bottom," Lauber said. "There's no down time, you have to come out and be ready to compete every day. It's a tough conference, but it's going to be fun. You have to be prepared and get the kids motivated every week."
Springfield Southeast Athletic Director Fred Devoe got a really good read on Lauber from their first meeting.
"He had a great pedigree," Devoe said. "We knew he was schooled right. I thought he was an awesome person. Sometimes you can be a good coach and not be a good person -- and he's both."
Devoe talked about what led him to recommend Lauber for the head coaching job.
"His passion and his energy for wanting to lead our young men, wanting to have a shot at being the leader we're looking for in our program," said Devoe, who also liked the way Lauber interacted with the players during his meeting with them. "He was spot-on as far as the things we were looking for from the next coach of our program with his motivation, his love for the game and building a family atmosphere."
Springfield Southeast hasn't had a winning record since going 8-3 in 2002, the last time it qualified for the state playoffs. The most recent coach was Elbert Kern, whose teams were 10-35 over the past five seasons.
Southeast was 3-6 in each of the last two seasons and 0-9 in 2010 and 2011.
Lauber said playing for and learning from Althoff Hall of Fame football coach Glenn Schott and working with current football coach Ken Turner and basketball coach Greg Leib gave him a wealth of experience to draw from.
"Coach Schott is always excited when his former players get good news or head coaching positions," Lauber said. "One thing he told me was to make sure my little girl doesn't suffer, to make sure there's family time. That's No. 1."
Lauber said the experience and freedom he got by coaching with Turner was also invaluable.
"I've got to learn a lot of great things from Coach Turner that I can take with me and build into my program at Southeast," Lauber said. "He's really helped me and prepared me for this role."