Owls get three TDs from freshman quarterback to take down rival Gordonsville
Smith County head coach Matt Dyer wanted his players to channel their inner Muhammad Ali earlier in the week prior to their season opener against rival Gordonsville on Saturday.
It worked, as quarterback Kaden Powell rushed for three touchdowns in the Owls’ 27-7 victory.
Powell – a 6-foot-3, 232-pound freshman – did not play like one even though Dyer only asked him to keep things in control.
“I was very impressed with Kaden, but the thing with Kaden is he has a great staff around him,” Dyer said. “He has a great team around him, an experienced team around him. We told him before we came out here for kickoff, ‘Kaden, you are a 15-year-old kid. You don’t have to shoulder the load. You have an outstanding offensive line that is going to protect you.
“He did not have to shoulder the load. He just had to get the ball to the playmakers, don’t turn the ball over, and just be an athlete and have fun. And I believe he did that tonight.”
Powell scored from 17, 13, and 30 yards out in a span of 7:39 to help the Owls jump out to a 19-0 lead with 5:19 left in the third quarter. From there, the goal was simple – take care of the ball, which the Owls did.
Gordonsville’s lone points came on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Albritton to Brady Gentry that gave the Tigers some life with less than four minutes left in the third.
But that life went away quickly less than two minutes later when Jamison Keeley found the end zone from five yards out to provide the final cushion as both teams went scoreless in the fourth quarter.
“I was very excited,” Powell said about his first varsity start. “But I was a little nervous.”
Dyer pumped up the home fans during a pep rally prior to the game by recalling a story of a fight Ali had in 1967 against Ernie Terrell. Back then, Terrell didn’t want to acknowledge Ali’s name change and continued to refer to him as Cassius Clay.
What did that have to do with Smith County? Not much, but Dyer and the Owls drew that parallel and played the angle that their neighbors to the south call them “Carthage” instead of the school’s actual name, Smith County. While the whole thing likens itself to more of a wrestling promo than a pep talk, it did exactly what it was designed to do – fire up the community and more importantly – the Owl players.
Powell described part of the speech this way: “(Gordonsville folks) like to call us Carthage, and we’re Smith County. (Dyer) said we’ve got to make them say our name.”
The backstory was really a side note compared to the physical nature of the contest, however, as the Owls’ offensive line – which has exceptional size for a high school program between senior Dane Woodard (6-foot-9, 348 pounds), junior Javier Gaspar (6-foot-2, 350 pounds) and senior Jimmy Enoch (6-foot-4, 301 pounds) – imposed its will on a humid evening that saw several players go down with cramps.
“I’m not taking anything away from Gordonsville – they are a great football team, with a great coaching staff over there,” Dyer said. “But our conditioning is what won us the ballgame. We’ve got 47 guys on the team and maybe six or seven guys that go both ways. We’ve developed a lot of guys that contributed tonight. We had maybe six or seven running backs that touched the ball tonight.”
And that conditioning ended up being the knockout blow, not unlike the beating Ali delivered to Terrell. Although in a rivalry game like the one Gordonsville and Smith County put on every year, extra motivation really isn’t necessary.
“It got the community up,” Dyer said. “We had a great crowd tonight. Nothing I do has to motivate anybody. I take out the trash and spend money on things. It’s nothing I do. This is a great group of kids and great community support.”
The loss spoiled the head coaching debut of Stephen Jackson, who returned to his alma mater after assisting at Oakland for the past seven seasons under Kevin Creasy.
“That was a good football team that we played,” Jackson said. “We’ve got to learn from our mistakes and get better from them. It’s probably on me as a coach more than anything. I’ve just got to get us more prepared.”