Friday Night Hero: West Rowan’s Chris Smith
By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA ó West Rowan’s Chris Smith led the state in quarterback sacks last season with 28.
This year, he has 101/2.
Hmmm, Smith must be having an off year, huh?
Not quite. In fact, talk to the always-smiling 6-foot-2, 245-pound defensive end and you realize he’s as happy as he’s ever been.
Smith is playing on an undefeated team that’s ranked No. 1 in the state. He just made a visit to Arkansas, where he was treated like a king at his future home. And he loves the fact his fellow defensive linemen are getting their due.
But he’s still the most-feared Falcon.
And that’s the biggest reason for the low number ó for Smith ó of quarterback sacks.
“At the beginning of the year, Chris was not playing up to his potential,” said head coach Scott Young. “A lot of that had to do with his reputation. They’re always putting more than one person on him.”
It opened things up for the rest of the D-line and they have been flourishing.
Smith is their biggest fan.
Of his opponents’ strategy, Smith said, “I love when they do that. It opens things up for Eli (Goodson) and Mackel (Gaither). They have a field day.”
But when Smith gets loose, watch out.
In a 55-6 win against North Iredell, Smith showed the crowd one of those athletic plays that had Arkansas offering him a scholarship.
North Iredell’s Matt Ramseur headed out on a sweep when he suddenly changed directions.
“For a moment,” Young said, “it looked like he was going to have a good play.”
Not with Smith in the vicinity. He ran down Ramseur for a 7-yard loss.
“The offensive lineman chop-blocked me,” Smith said. “Ramseur’s a great athlete and he cut it back. I just ran with all my effort.”
“It was real impressive,” Young said.
What’s really impressive is when you see Smith in a basketball uniform. Hoops coach Mike Gurley started the nickname “Hercules” for Smith as a freshman. Put pads on him and he is an even scarier individual.
“He’s got what you can’t coach,” Young said. “He’s got that God-given ability and speed. He plays so much faster than other people we watch.”
Young put Smith at defensive end from the start. His mission: wrap up the quarterback.
“It doesn’t matter what level you are. A guy who can rush the passer is at a premium.”
Also at a premium is Smith’s other talent ó playing the drums. He will be banging the drums for his graduation project, just as he does for his church. His father asked him four years ago to bang the drums because the church didn’t have a drummer.
“I basically taught myself,” Smith said.
Banging a quarterback to the ground came naturally.
Now that the regular season is over, teams have figured out that you can’t double Smith. The other Falcons, including Emmanuel Gbunblee, are too good.
“Playing in the county and the conference, people know about Chris,” Young said. “Chris usually beats people when they single him up.”
Which might happen in the postseason.
“The thing for us to succeed in the playoffs is up front,” Smith said. “If we play well up front and take it one game at a time, we should advance where we want to go.”
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