Friday Night Hero: West Rowan’s Chris Smith
By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA ó Chris Smith saw the photo in the paper last week of himself celebrating a quarterback sack during West Rowan’s 27-14 win against Statesville.
The junior defensive end was grinning from ear to ear.
“I just try to keep the defense motivated,” Smith said after the second-round 3A playoff win. “And it all starts up front with the defensive line.”
Smith had another reason to keep his team motivated: get West coach Scott Young past the second round. Smith was tired of hearing how the Falcons seemed to always fizzle out before Thanksgiving.
To win this year, plus get Young his 100th career victory, was motivation enough.
“I told Coach before last Friday’s game that we had to break the curse,” Smith said. “We wanted to get him his 100th win. We had to do it for Coach.”
Smith did all he could, adding another sack to his amazing total. He has 23 going into Friday’s game against Carver.
“When I get a sack, it feels good,” Smith smiled. “It gets our team motivated. When the D-line does well, it pumps up the offense. K.P. (Parks) runs harder.”
Smith’s sack stats are what Young envisioned when he first saw the hulk walking the halls ó but not walking out on the football field for practice every day.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder explained he didn’t play as a freshman because his parents wanted him to become acclimated to high school life before jumping into athletics.
How did Young get Smith out for the team as a sophomore?
“We begged,” Young laughed.
Smith would tell Young that he basically wanted to be the next LeBron James.
“We told him, ‘You’ve got the body to be a great football player,’ ” Young said. “He was like, ‘I’m going to be the next great thing in basketball.’ Every school has a dozen of them.”
But Young was persistent.
“Chris understands now this is his primary sport,” Young said. “He understands this is his ticket. But we encourage him to play basketball. He’s still going to be a beast out there.”
Basketball won’t start for Smith until the postseason ends. He hopes the Falcons play three more games. That would mean he’d be suiting up in a state championship game on Dec. 13 at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem ó the same place former West star Tristan Dorty is now makes tackles for the Demon Deacons. And he’s preparing to get there. In fact, he was seen during his lunch period on Tuesday watching film on the talented Carver team.
“We are so excited to be in the third round,” Smith said. “We’re just ready to play another game.”
And if Smith gets a sack, he’s going to shove the credit elsewhere.
“My teammates get pressure and the quarterback rolls my way,” he said. “Those guys are hard workers.”
Just like Smith. And if the coaches constantly get on him, it’s because of huge expectations.
“We can’t forget that we try to hold him to Tristan Dorty’s standards,” Young said. “We have to remember this is just Chris’ second year of playing football. He’s still a work in progress.”
A work in progress that almost every college with a football team knows about.
“I get a whole lot of letters every day,” Smith said. “My grades are fine.”
It’s a combination that makes his coach excited. And Young knows why Smith has become such a force on the field.
“Speed and explosiveness,” Young said. “He’s just a gifted athlete.”