By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Being moved from the quarterback position could be a blow to some players’ egos, particularly a high school senior. But T.J. Smith welcomes any move that will lead Summers County to as many wins as possible.
Besides, it isn’t like he was benched. No, he was right in the middle of the action, leading the Bobcats to their biggest win of the season.
Smith ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a scoring pass from new quarterback Matt Ryan, and Class AA No. 3 Summers took advantage of three Greenbrier West turnovers to win 27-20 Friday in front of a packed crowd at Garten Stadium.
The Bobcats, 5-0 for the first time since 1980, made their first playoff trip in 15 years in 2012, losing at Frankfort in the first round. They have never hosted a postseason game and would like to change that this season.
“(The win) means everything. It means a lot to the community,” Smith said. “We haven’t beat these guys in a long time. It feels good to take the next step in our ultimate goal.”
Summers gave the Class A No. 5 Cavaliers (4-1) a different look, although they did see it while scouting last week’s 17-14 Bobcat win over Wyoming East. Ryan took over at quarterback in the second half of that game, giving Summers an added threat in the backfield with Smith complementing fellow senior Isaiah Brown.
The new look worked right off the bat, with the West defense unable to stop the Bobcats on the game’s opening drive. Brown had a key 18-yard run on the drive, which ended with Ryan, a sophomore making his first varsity start behind center, hooking up with Smith on a 25-yard touchdown pass less than three minutes in.
It was the beginning of a big night for Smith, who also scored the go-ahead touchdown from 29 yards out with 49 seconds to play.
“All along, we’ve known he can run the ball just as good as he can pass it,” first-year Summers coach Nate Tanner said. “It’s a good problem to have, having so many athletes that can make plays. I was just trying to twist things up and figure it out.
“I think we figured it out.”
Moving Smith to running back makes Summers all the more difficult to stop. As good as Smith was, he was not the Bobcats’ leading rusher. That distinction went to Brown, who ran 17 times for 142 yards. His 68-yard touchdown run put the Bobcats ahead 20-14 with 1:41 left in the third quarter.
Summers ran for 295 against a defense that had only allowed 19 points through its first four games.
“We had seen it on film ... so it wasn’t totally unexpected,” West coach Lewis McClung said. “They didn’t catch us by surprise or anything like that. It gives them another weapon back there. I thought they were a little more physical than us; they got after us. You just have to give them credit.”
West was never out of the game, withstanding Summers’ early start to take a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Senior quarterback Malik Boatwright moved the Cavaliers on both scoring drives. His 10-yard touchdown made it 7-6 Summers with 9:58 to play in the second quarter.
The Cavs took advantage of the Bobcats’ only turnover to add another score in the second. Mike Goddard recovered a fumble at the Summers 23-yard line, and Boatwright again scored, this time from 1 yard. His two-point conversion made it a seven-point game.
The third quarter proved pivotal, with the Cavaliers turning the ball over on three of four possessions. The Bobcats turned only one into points, but were also able to score on a memorable run by Smith.
On first-and-10 at the West 26, Smith took a handoff from Ryan and got loose in the middle for a sure first down. But he kept running, even colliding with an official at one point, until he was met by three West defenders short of the goal line. They were unable to bring down the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Smith, who carried all three into the end zone for a touchdown and tie the game at 14-14.
“We had put in some new packages where I play some running back, and coach just told me to come out here and make plays,” Smith said. “None of this would be happening if our coaches didn’t put us in position to make plays. We have great guys up front blocking, so really all the credit goes to our coaches and the linemen.”
West tied the game at 20-20 on Chase McClung’s 3-yard touchdown before Smith’s game-winner.
The Cavs had one more chance and got a big play when the field opened up for Boatwright on a 20-yard run to the Summers 36. But before that play, the Cavs were forced to use their last timeout, and they ran out of time after Boatwright was tackled in bounds after a 2-yard gain.
Summers will visit Covington, Va., next Friday, while West goes to PikeView.
— E-mail: gfauber
GW (4-1) 0 14 0 6 — 20
SC (5-0) 7 0 13 7 — 27
SC: T.J. Smith 28 pass from Matt Ryan (Tristan Sears kick), 9:23.
GW: Malik Boatwright 10 run (kick failed), 9:58.
GW: Boatwright 1 run (Boatwright run), :51.
SC: Smith 26 run (Sears kick), 5:04.
SC: Isaiah Brown 68 run (pass failed), 1:41.
GW: Chase McClung 3 run (run failed), 7:22.
SC: Smith 29 run (Sears kick), :49.
RUSHING — GW: Boatwright 20-118, Cox 12-41, McClung 3-23, Jordan Grimmitt 3-22, Logan Brown 5-10, Dustin Yoakum 1-(-2). SC: Brown 17-142, Smith 21-122, Jaquan Ayers 4-17, Ryan 3-14.
PASSING — GW: Boatwright 4-8-1-52. SC: Ryan 3-3-0-54, Smith 2-5-0-24.
RECEIVING — GW: Yoakum 2-36, Cox 1-9, Marquis Frazier 1-7. SC: Smith 2-29, Brown 1-25, Erik Lindsey 1-12, Ayers 1-12.
TAKEAWAYS — GW: Mike Goddard (FR). SC: Smith (FR), Brown (INT).