Shrine Bowl: Smith, Parks MVPs in N.C.s victory
By David Shaw
SPARTANBURG, S.C. ó The season’s most amazing story keeps getting better.
A week after Chris Smith and K.P Parks led unbeaten West Rowan to another 3A state title, they each earned top honors in Saturday’s 73rd annual Shrine Bowl.
“It can’t get better than this,” Parks crowed at Wofford College, where he rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown and was named Offensive MVP for North Carolina in its 24-14 win against South Carolina. “This makes us 17-0. I really enjoyed myself today.”
So did Smith. The 230-pound defensive end was credited with eight tackles, two sacks and scored on 67-yard fumble return late in the first quarter. For his effort he was selected N.C.’s Defensive MVP.
“K.P. has been my friend since we were little,” he said in the clamorous North Carolina locker room. “We both have this passion to win. As soon as we hit the field, we wanted to win.”
It’s been 16 months and 30 games since Parks, Smith and West coach Scott Young have been on the losing side of a post-game handshake.
“I’ve been blessed with great players,” said Young, who coached the offensive linemen through two-a-day practices this week. “I honestly believed we had two or three more Shrine Bowl-caliber players, but you can only have two. But these two, they did our community, our school and me personally so proud this week. They were leaders in practice and it showed in the game.”
Smith was part of a defense that forced five turnovers, including three in the first half when the Sandlappers managed only 73 yards and North Carolina built a 17-0 lead.
“There’s so much talent on this team,” Smith said. “When we came in here on Monday, right away there was chemistry. Nobody was jealous of anyone and we were all on the same page.”
Smith made front-page news before the first period was over. There were 2.8 seconds on the clock when he snagged a loose ball in the S.C. backfield and lumbered 67 yards down the right sideline on a film-at-11 touchdown run.
“My best friend, Kareem Martin (Roanoke Rapids), hit the quarterback (Cody Craig) and it popped right into my hands,” Smith said. “Then it was off to the races.”
No one caught Smith, who last reached the end zone in a 2008 game against East Rowan.
“Chris is a freak of nature,” said Parks. “When he gets going like that, nobody can catch him.”
Smith may not agree with that assessment.
“Now I know how K.P. feels when he scores those long touchdowns,” he said. “I was tired, man.”
Parks, who reached the end zone 158 times in his record-setting career, added one for good cheer with a minute remaining in the first half. He capped a short-field drive when he somersaulted into the end zone on a 5-yard blast up the middle.
“I was just hoping to get in,” he said after leading all ballcarriers with 19 attempts. “I wound up showcasing how acrobatic I am.”
South Carolina stormed back in the second half, sparked by running back Marcus Lattimore. He rushed for a game-high 99 yards on 17 carries and scored touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters, trimming N.C.’s lead to 17-14. The Tar Heels clinched their victory ó and snapped the South’s two-year winning streak ó when Northern Guilford’s Keenan Allen busted a 32-yard TD run with 2:31 remaining.
Just when you think you’ve seen the last of Parks and Smith comes word they’ve been selected to play in the Offense-Defense All-American game in Myrtle Beach on Jan. 2.
“So they’re not done yet,” Young said. “They’re super kids who’ll get one more chance to show what they can do.”
Parks is cool with that.
“I’ve been telling everybody that we don’t want it to end,” he said. “We’re having too much fun.”
NOTES: Young had little time to enjoy last week’s historic victory over Eastern Alamance. Six hours after falling asleep, he was headed to Spartanburg for meetings with the Shrine Bowl officials and staff. “We had to install (head) Coach (Jim) Oddo’s wing-T,” he said. “And it was hard.” … Both Parks (Virginia) and Smith (Arkansas) said they were “solid” with their collegiate commitments. The national signing day is Feb. 3. … Parks said new UVA coach Mike London will visit his family’s home in January. … Allen has verbally committed to Alabama and Lattimore, a punishing 212-pounder with speed, has drawn interest from Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, Penn State and Oregon.