MILLPORT, Ala. — Jordan Smith knew he had to take control.
Faced with the challenge of transitioning from halfback to quarterback, the 5-foot-8, 165-pound junior wasn”t sure how he would fair in his first action at quarterback since his pee wee football days.
Smith also admitted being a little nervous at the prospect of leading the South Lamar High School football team. To add to the uncertainty, all around him he heard whispers of doubts people had that he wouldn”t be able to do the job.
Consider the issue closed.
Smith showed Friday night he is more than capable of leading the Stallions and delivering a big play with a game on the line. Smith connected with Nick Fisher on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 53 seconds remaining to help South Lamar defeat Lamar County 27-20.
The pass capped a 9-for-9 evening in which Smith had 142 yards and three touchdowns through the air and a 14-yard rushing score.
For his accomplishments, Smith is The Dispatch”s Prep Player of the Week.
“He is a playmaker,” South Lamar High football coach Josh Harper said. “The sooner we can get the ball in his hands, the better.”
Smith had a 6-yard scoring pass to Ken Mitchell, a 45-yarder to Daniel Atkinson, and his scoring strike to Fisher as he was being brought down by a defensive end to help South Lamar win its season opener. The win was doubly sweet because it avenged a 61-20 loss to the Bulldogs in 2009.
Last year, Smith played halfback and cornerback on a team that went 1-9. He hopes he can provide a spark and leadership to help the program reverse its fortunes.
“It took a lot of practice,” Smith said. “Going from halfback to quarterback, it took a lot of throwing, and at first I didn”t have a lot of confidence in my arm. Then I just got in the moment, and I felt pretty good with how I played.”
Smith said he didn”t realize he had completed all of his passes until one of the South Lamar High coached told him walking back into the field house. He credited great blocking from his teammates and God for giving him the time and the strength to play as well as he did.
Harper said Smith has great vision and is an ideal dual-threat, especially at the Class 1A level, to help keep defenses honest.
“When you can bring somebody like Jordan into the mix and already have a good fullback and a good tailback, it is just an added dimension,” Harper said. “Most importantly, Jordan is a team player. We saw a lot of that Friday with the decisions he made. He is another running back, he has the vision of a quarterback, and he is playmaker for us. Hopefully he is not satisfied with what he did Friday, and he wants to continue to get better. That should be the worst he plays all year, and that”s what we”re going to hold him accountable for.”
It”s going to be hard for Smith to top the way he finished his first varsity start at quarterback. Harper and offensive coordinator Lane Wright called for Smith to roll out on that decisive play. Even though he was contained by the defensive end, Smith had the option to run, but he decided to hold on to the ball. As he was running out of room, he put everything he had on the throw and cleared the final defender and hit Fisher for the touchdown.
“I know the coaches had faith in my by calling that play because we practiced it all week and we hadn”t run that play the whole game,” Smith said. “At first, I tried to shake off the defensive end that was on me, but he still had a good grip on me, so I had to throw it.
“He was kind of containing me and then he got on my left side, so I had my right arm free.”
Smith said he didn”t see Fisher catch the pass, but he knew something good must have happened because he heard the crowd roar seconds after he threw the pass.
Harper said he had the “best seat in the house” to watch the game-winning play.
“The play all of a sudden went slow motion,” Harper said. “It is sort of like playing a Playstation game. You”re like, ”Step up, cut back.” It was exciting to watch. I had the best seat in the house.
“It was the culmination of everything. The proper blocks were made. The one guy we did leave alone we knew was going to be in Jordan”s face, and Jordan did a remarkable job of keeping the ball alive, and our receiver ran the right route. It was just one of those plays everything went together the way you hoped it would.”
Harper praised Smith for showing faith in his teammate by stepping up and making that throw while absorbing a hit. As good as the throw was, though, he said it wasn”t Smith”s best of the night. He said Smith”s ability to step up in the pocket and deliver an over-the-outside-shoulder throw to Daniel Atkinson in the second quarter was even better.
Harper also said Smith shook off pressure several times to hit tight end Josh Elliott with two completions that were impressive.
Harper wants Smith to build on his first varsity start and to reach for higher goals.
“Go 10-for-10 this week,” Harper said. “That is the goal. He has 15 yards rushing, but you take away one of the sacks and it was more than that. Don”t ever be satisfied with what you have done, and always realize you can do better. We have to do that this week, and every week this season.”
Smith said he will continue to work hard to improve his arm strength and to improve his speed. He will need that speed because the Stallions plan to use Smith”s athleticism on the edge in a lot of sprint-pass situations.
“We just have to stay focused on each and every game,” Smith said, “We can”t lose our focus because we have a region game (at Hubbertville) Friday.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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