Leader Blues

Saturday, November 14, 2009

SPORTS >> ’Rabbits’ Smith gets his yards in farewell

Lonoke senior running back Brandon Smith had three touchdown carries.

Leader sportswriter

It wasn’t exactly a workhorse night for senior running back/linebacker Brandon Smith, but it was certainly heroic.

In his final home game as a Lonoke Jackrabbit, Smith carried 10 times for 172 yards and three touchdowns, as the ’Rabbits blasted Clarksville 48-21 in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.

Smith’s first score, on a 5-yard run to the left, gave the Jackrabbits their initial lead with 9:26 left in the first quarter and was his shortest scoring run of the night.

Smith’s two other touchdowns came on 70- and 65-yard runs to account for the bulk of his rushing numbers.

Smith’s modest carries of 4 and 14 yards on Lonoke’s first drive gave way to the field-spanner that pushed the Jackrabbits’ lead to 14-0 by the time there was 5:31 left in the first quarter, and his second big run made it 35-7 with 4:01 left in the first half.

“It feels good winning at home, and having fun winning at home,” Smith said. “It’s always good to win your last home game. A lot of things went well tonight. I’m glad that as a senior, we all won our last home game.

“This one goes out to all the seniors; we all enjoyed ourselves, and we all had a good game.”

Smith’s performance was accompanied by strong senior showings across the board, including a near-perfect night passing by quarterback Michael Nelson, and a solid all-purpose performance by fullback Morgan Linton.

Todd Hobson perhaps had the most versatile performance by a Lonoke senior with a pair of interceptions in the first half, both of which led to scores, and two touchdown catches on the offensive side.

But without Smith, the receptions might not have been possible.

“That’s why I think our passing game has picked up the last few weeks,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “Because people are stacking the box on him and that opens up our passing game. And when Michael can complete a few, which he has been, and they take somebody out and then we try to get it back in Brandon’s hands.

“That’s good when we have the balance like that, so hopefully we can keep that up.”

Smith also had a couple of receptions, including a catch in the right corner of the end zone on a conversion pass from Nelson that gave Lonoke a 28-0 lead with 9:30 left in the first half.

Smith and his fellow seniors were determined to celebrate their final home game regardless of the outcome. But the victory they ended up with made the night that much sweeter.

“We kind of talked in the locker room before the game,” Smith said. “We just came out here and had fun. It had been a long week for us.

“That’s all we talked about before we came out. Win or lose, we’re still going to have fun, and we just came out on top big tonight. I think we did a pretty good job.”

Warren’s 38-13 rout over Clinton on Friday sets up a rematch of last year’s second-round playoff game between the Lumberjacks and Jackrabbits.

Lonoke ended Warren’s season decisively last year with a 45-24 victory at James B. Abraham Stadium. This year, the ’Rabbits will have to visit Warren as the lower seed.

“We’re going to play our hardest, and they’ll play their hardest,” Smith said. “I feel like whoever comes out on top, that doesn’t mean they’re the better team, but I don’t take anybody lightly.”

As Smith’s senior year progresses, so does the interest from colleges. Smith, along with fellow Linton, received offers from Henderson State this past week, and Smith is also being courted by Louisiana Tech, Harding University, Ouachita Baptist and Florida International.

“He’s a smart kid,” Bost said. “Good head on his shoulders – I think it’s early yet in the recruiting process, but I think some of the bigger boys are going to come along. This summer he visited some SEC schools, so they know about him.”

Some of the SEC buzz is coming from Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Ole Miss.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet,” Smith said. “I’m still looking for a college. I hope I can go D-I.”