High School Football

Family ties: Coaching staffs at Althoff and Mater Dei are closely connected, but chasing the same goal

Austin Frazier and Jim Stiebel when both were coaching for Mater Dei High School in Breese.
Austin Frazier and Jim Stiebel when both were coaching for Mater Dei High School in Breese. provided

How closely connected are the football coaching staffs at Althoff and Mater Dei?

Althoff defensive coordinator Austin Frazier not only coached at Mater Dei under Knights coach Jim Stiebel, the pair shared a house in Breese and Frazier was the best man in Stiebel’s wedding.

On Saturday, only one of them will be celebrating a trip to the Class 4A state football finals. Stiebel is the head coach at Mater Dei and Frazier is the defensive coordinator at Althoff, with their teams set to clash in a 1 p.m. semifinal game Saturday at Lindenwood Stadium.

“The connections are kind of endless between the two groups,” said Frazier, who played for Althoff when Stiebel was still on the Crusaders’ coaching staff. “I don’t think anybody knows each other better.”

Stiebel, whose team lost 68-46 to Althoff earlier this season on the same field, said at the time the Knights (9-3) would like another shot to play the Crusaders (12-0).

“Why not play there in the semifinals? I couldn’t ask for a better scenario,” Stiebel said. “It’s perfect other than having it at home (in Breese). I feel very comfortable there. We’re familiar with the surroundings and the Candy Cane field.”

On top of preparing for one of the biggest games of his coaching career, Stiebel has another high-priority event this week. He and wife Amber will welcome their second child into the world on Tuesday, joining 1-year-old Trey.

“I’m excited,” Stiebel said of the newest addition to the family roster.

There are far more connections than just Stiebel and Frazier, both of whom grew up in Belleville and played football at Althoff under Hall of Fame coach Glenn Schott.

Stiebel and current Althoff head coach Ken Turner both worked for several years as assistant coaches under Schott. Mater Dei assistant coach Tom Mabry played at Althoff and the University of Kansas, where Stiebel also played.

Mabry’s high school coach? He played for Coach Schott and Coach Turner.

Another of Stiebel’s former Mater Dei assistants was former Althoff quarterback standout Dale Fink, now an assistant coach at Belleville East.

“It’ a credit to Coach Schott to be honest with you, because the whole tree starts with him,” Turner said, noting Althoff’s three state football championships won during the Schott era. “He schooled us, we all coached under him. We’re just carrying that with us through our careers.

“There’s such a strong tradition and it’s cool that it’s coming out.”

Schott is proud to have eight former assistants who became head coaches. Four of them are still active with Stiebel, Turner, Paul Bassler at Triad and Springfield Southeast coach Matt Lauber.

“Jimmy played for me and then came back and was one of my assistant coaches and did a great job,” Schott said. “I brought Ken Turner on staff and he was our receivers coach and worked with the offense. He did a great job.

“They’ve both done extremely well as head coaches. It’s a tribute to them and their hard work - and I hope that in a way we had a little something to do with that.”

Current Althoff assistant Jake Campbell played high school football at Belleville East, but did some weight training and conditioning each summer at Stiebel’s Firehouse Gym in Belleville.

It’s almost fitting the game is being played at Lindenwood, the field Stiebel, Frazier and Mabry called home during their high school careers.

“It’s cool that it’s there because it links everyone together,” Turner said. “Everyone’s had some part of history there, whether it was coaching or playing there.”

Some of Stiebel’s fondest football memories were created at Township Stadium in Belleville.

“It’s still Township Stadium to me,” said Stiebel, recalled the high-crowned grass field once surrounded by cables strung between wooden posts as well as equally dangerous light poles not far from the sidelines.

A two-time state champion at Althoff and all-state offensive lineman, Stiebel spent his Friday nights and Saturday afternoons crushing defenders on teams that featured 10 Division I players and a future major league baseball player in DaRond Stovall. Stiebel was either paving a path for record-setting running back Hickey Thompson or keeping pass rushers away from quarterbacks Bernie Ysursa and Stovall.

“Me and ‘T’ (Turner) were really good friends when we coached together,” Stiebel said. “The stars kind of aligned for this one.”

Stiebel spent eight years as an Althoff assistant and one of those years was 2002. That year Althoff turned in a stunning 35-31 come-from-behind upset of Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin in a 5A quarterfinal game still commemorated as “The Holy War.”

Frazier was on that Althoff team as was Lauber, whose team plays Griffin each season in the Central State Eight Conference.

“They were down 28-7 and they came all the way back,” Stiebel said. “I just remember how resilient they were. There were so many great athletes out there and they were so well coached. They were battle-tested in the weight room, too.”

It was a victory over a powerful Springfield area foe, not too different than Althoff’s emotional come-from-behind 46-42 victory over five-time defending state champ Rochester last Saturday in the quarterfinals.

There will be few secrets when Althoff and Mater Dei get together. Not only did they play earlier this season, many of these coaches have spent hundreds of hours together putting together game plans and breaking down game film.

They’ve shared dinners and long rides, wins and losses and kept each other awake during late-night scouting sessions.

’We lived together, he rented from me,” Stiebel said of Frazier, who came out to Breese to coach with him at Mater Dei. “He helped me fix (the house) up, even. He’s competitive in everything.

“I don’t care what we’re doing, he’s competing. If it’s Madden football or if it’s basketball, he’ll compete at anything. Has a great fighting spirit.”

Frazier knows that Stiebel will be doing everything in his power to help the Knights win.

“If you’re going to have to see each other, you’d like it to be in the biggest game it could possibly be — and it’s the semifinals,” Frazier said. “We’re happy it’s them and it will be fun on Saturday.”

Althoff-Mater Dei tickets

Tickets for the Althoff-Mater Dei semifinal game are $6 and will be on sale 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday at the Althoff High main office and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday at the Mater Dei main office.

State Football Playoffs

Class 4A Semifinals

Saturday, Nov. 21

Game 1: Mater Dei (9-3) vs. Althoff (12-0) at Lindenwood-Belleville, 1 p.m

Game 2: Marengo (12-0) vs. Chicago Phillips (12-0) at Gately Stadium in Chicago, 5 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 28

at Northern Illinois University Huskie Stadium, DeKalb


Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m.

Class 2A Semifinals

Saturday, Nov. 21

Game 1: Nashville (9-3) at Auburn (9-3), 2 p.m.

Game 2: Annawan-Wethersfield (11-1) at Tri-Valley (12-0), 2 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 28

at Northern Illinois University Huskie Stadium, DeKalb


Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 1 p.m.