Generals’ Smith fights past pain to career night
By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG — Stonewall Jackson senior Derrick Smith was pretty banged up by the end of the Generals’ Shenandoah District football game against visiting Stuarts Draft last Friday night.
Smith had his left ankle rolled up on three separate occasions against the Cougars, each time more painful that the last, before he eventually left the game for good with less than two minutes remaining and Stonewall trailing by 15 points.
“I couldn’t catch a break,” Smith said Monday before practice.
Well, that’s not exactly true.
Though Smith was hobbled for most of the night by that sprained left ankle, he still battled through the pain and turned in a career game in the Generals’ 35-20 loss.
Smith, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for Sept. 21-27, rushed for 254 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries in what Generals longtime head coach Dick Krol said was possibly a school-record performance. Stonewall Jackson’s single-game rushing record wasn’t immediately available Monday evening.
It was the second time that Smith has topped 200 yards in a varsity game.
Smith, who also plays linebacker and accounted for eight total tackles and a fumble recovery in Friday’s loss, also caught three passes — his first receptions of the season — for 41 yards. He accounted for 295 of the Generals’ 421 yards of offense.
“The kid’s a player,” Krol said. “He punts for us. He kicks off for us. He caught passes for us this weekend … He does it all, and he’s a great kid. He’s always got a positive attitude about things. As rough as this season has been, he’s always been very positive. He’s never given us any indication of being upset or that type of thing. You don’t find kids like that. He’s just a super kid.”
Stonewall Jackson (0-4) has continued to experience its recent on-field struggles, but Smith remains a bright spot for a team that has won just three games since 2012. The 5-foot-9, 187-pound senior has rushed for 572 yards on 72 carries (7.9 yards per rush) and has accounted for four of the Generals’ five touchdowns this season.
Smith said the Generals — who have just 24 players on their roster this season — simply came out with more confidence against Stuarts Draft last Friday, which led to Stonewall’s best offensive showing so far this season.
“We came out strong and we knew we had a chance to beat them, so we had a good mentality going into the game, unlike other games where everyone talks down on us,” Smith said. “We knew we had a chance to win this game and we came out and played with confidence, and it showed in the first half.”
Stuarts Draft held a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, but Smith — who had already suffered the first of those three tweaks of his ankle — reeled off a 26-yard touchdown run with nine minutes left in the second quarter. A successful two-point conversion run by Stonewall quarterback Nathan Miller gave the Generals their first lead of the season.
“I went back in and it was pretty slow,” Smith said of his ankle, “but then as I kept going it warmed up a little bit. Then I scored and that really warmed it up — adrenaline got me going and I was good for a while.”
The Generals took that 8-7 lead into halftime before the Cougars scored 21 unanswered points to create some breathing room.
But Smith wasn’t done. He broke through for an 82-yard touchdown run with 5:50 left in the game to cut Stuarts Draft’s lead to 28-14. Smith said the scoring run came on the heels of a big Stonewall penalty that had occurred on the play before.
“It was long and drawn out because they were going over and trying to figure out what exactly happened,” Smith said of the delay in the game following the penalty. “There was argument from our sideline and all that, so we actually kind of had a big break. We went back and … I hit the hole. There was somebody there so I had to bounce it out and I had the whole sideline to myself.”
Smith added a third rushing touchdown of 33 yards with just more than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter and recovered a Stuarts Draft fumble on the Cougars’ following possession, but the Generals couldn’t capitalize.
The fact that Smith was able to do what he did on a sprained ankle on Friday was impressive enough, but fighting through pain has likely become a natural thing for the senior. Smith has competed his entire career despite suffering from hip dysplasia, a congenital misalignment of the hip joint.
Smith — who also runs track at Stonewall — said he was diagnosed with the condition when he was young and that his hips “always ache,” and he has to place an insert in his right shoe to because his left leg is longer than his right.
But don’t expect to hear any complaints about pain from Smith — Krol said the Generals’ coaching staff was unaware of Smith’s hip condition until it was discovered by Stonewall Jackson’s athletic trainer during track and field season last spring. Smith has competed on the varsity football team for four years.
“He’s worked through all of that. He’s worked through all the pain,” said Krol, who added that Smith said he’ll be ready for Friday’s game at Wilson Memorial.
“You can’t ask for more than that. He’s a throwback to the older days, and if at all possible he doesn’t talk to the trainer. He’s afraid the trainer is going to say ‘you can’t,’ and he doesn’t understand that word.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org