By Tommy Keeler Jr.
QUICKSBURG -- Eight yards.
Those two words haunted Derrick Smith for quite a while after last season was over. Smith finished just eight yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing last season. Those two words have also motivated Smith even more coming into his senior season for Stonewall Jackson.
"My goal last year was to get fifteen-hundred," Smith said. "I would like to at least get that. I don't think I want to graduate and look back knowing that I was eight yards short of 1,000."
If Smith stays healthy there's no question he'll have a good chance at reaching his goals.
Smith was brought up from JV as a freshman, and had a solid sophomore season where he ran for 184 yards and two touchdowns as part of three-pronged attack at running back for the Generals.
"That's when I started to kind of get into the flow of things," Smith said. "I felt a little more confident, because of my freshman year. I was playing with a lot bigger kids. It was a lot faster pace. Still, I was just a younger guy playing with older guys."
Last year the Generals looked to Smith to lead the way on the ground and he didn't disappoint.
Even though the Generals struggled as a team, Smith had a really strong season and had 12 rushing touchdowns. He suffered an ankle sprain midway through the season and missed two games, which ultimately hurt his chances of getting 1,000 yards rushing.
Smith said he's always enjoyed running the ball from the time he first did it in youth leagues.
"At running back I feel like I'm in control," Smith said. "I like to run. It's a different feeling when I have the ball in my hands."
Smith also plays at linebacker and had 77 tackles for the Generals.
Smith ran for 167 yards on 21 carries and had four touchdowns in a 42-0 win over Page County to end the regular season.
He said the whole team was motivated to do well and finish the season strong.
"We realized we were about to go 0-10 if we didn't step it up," Smith said. "Coach [Dick Krol] told us five minutes before the game, he said that he had never coached a winless team in his whole 28, 29, forever years. We realized that we had to step it up that night. We played a pretty good game that night."
Smith said as great as it was that the team got that first victory to end the season, there was still a sad feeling inside him.
"I was happy because we got the win and all that, and I couldn't have been happier," Smith said. "But, inside I was like, 'I needed eight more yards.'"
Smith also runs track for Stonewall Jackson, where he's had plenty of success in the 200. Smith said he mostly runs track to stay in shape for football.
This year Smith said he is also going to play basketball, which he said he stopped playing after his freshman season.
Krol said he believes Smith will bounce back from coming up short of 1,000 yards last season and have a really good year in all three sports that he plays.
"He'll come back with a vengeance this year," Krol said. "He's a competitor. ...He's going to have a great senior year. He's going to have a tremendous senior year."
The Generals don't have much depth on the squad this year, and considered not fielding a team. Smith said the goals for the team will be to simply win more games than last year, and of course he wants to get more than 1,000 yards rushing.
He said he's more motivated knowing this is his last year, and he's also trying to become more of a leader.
"It's a little different, because I've always been younger and there's always been leaders, so it's a little different knowing that I have to step up and take charge," Smith said. "It's a weird feeling being a senior. First day of practice I was like this is my last, first day. It was exciting and then sad -- mixed feelings."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd