Smoot’s composure at quarterback key for Rams

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

STRASBURG — Cool under pressure.

That’s one way to describe the way Strasburg senior quarterback Mark Smoot has been this season. Smoot’s ability to handle pressure or stand in and take a hit while finding an open receiver this season has been part of his and the team’s success.

That was on full display last week in a 36-30 victory over Madison County. With the game tied in the final minutes, Smoot directed the team on a game-winning drive. Facing a third down, he connected with his twin brother, Ryan, for an 8-yard touchdown pass with just under three minutes to play in the game.

“Ryan ran a curl [route], it was a timing route,” Mark Smoot said. “I hit him right when he turned, and he just made a guy miss and got in.

“You don’t want to think about [the pressure], but it was nice, especially to hit Ryan. It was nice.”

Mark Smoot threw for 275 yards on 17-for-28 passing and three touchdowns to help give the Rams their fourth straight victory. His performance helped earn him The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for Oct. 19-25.

Strasburg coach Mark Roller said Mark Smoot’s composure is one his biggest strengths.

“He doesn’t get rattled very easily,” Roller said. “He took some shots there Friday night, and they were pretty good shots. But he stood in there and he delivered.”

Early in the season things weren’t looking so good for the Rams. Strasburg started off 1-3, and after a disappointing three-win season last year Mark Smoot said the team was a little concerned.

The Rams hung tough with undefeated Clarke County, and things began to turn around after that. The Rams knocked off William Monroe, George Mason, Manassas Park and then Madison County. A big part of the turnaround was the play of the offense, especially the passing game.

The Rams had a couple new receivers this year in Noah St. Clair and Trevin Howard, who hadn’t played the sport in a while. Mark Smoot said they’re improving with every game and it’s opened up the offense even more. Mark Smoot has completed passes to nine different players.

“Coming into this year I knew the passing game was going to big, especially since we have tons of weapons on offense,” Mark Smoot said. “We knew we were going to have to score a bunch. We lost some key parts on defense last year. I knew we were going to have to score some points, and these last couple games that’s what we’re doing.”

Mark Smoot has thrown for 1,553 yards on 102-for-171 passing with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. It also helps that the Rams’ running game has been sharp. Senior running back Colton Funk has 140 carries for 887 yards and eight touchdowns.

“Having a guy that can run it like Colton, that helps take a lot of pressure off, too, because when people stack the box he’s able to just go ahead and help himself there a little bit with what they give him,” Roller said. “That’s been a positive for us this year. If the running game’s not going, the passing game is. If the passing game’s not going, the running game is, and the last couple games we’ve had them both going. So it’s nice to be able to throw it and run it, and kind of just spread the wealth a little bit.”

Mark Smoot said that he’s tried to help some of the newer receivers out, and Roller said that he’s seen him take on more of a leadership role this season.

“I think there’s a lot of times that he’s such a silent leader, and it’s more by actions, not verbally,” Roller said. “But there [have] been times that he’s gotten after them when he needs to. I think that’s the thing about these seniors that we have on the team, some of them are very verbal, some of them are very ‘I’m going to lead by example.’ Mark has been more of the lead by example, but yet he’s got a little bit of that verbal, and you need that as a quarterback. He just kind of takes control of the offense and tells them what they need to do and how to do it, and I think it’s been a good thing for us.”

The Rams have two games left. They host Warren County this week and then play at Central next week. If they win out they would most likely host a first-round playoff game.

After missing the playoffs last year, the Rams are excited to be back in the playoffs, but Mark Smoot said they want to do more than just make a playoff appearance.

“Even if we host [a game], we don’t want to just to make the playoffs, we want to make a run,” Mark Smoot said. “We don’t want to be pretenders, we want to be contenders.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com