Smith's 15-6 win over Page Friday night wasn't for the state 4-A title or even the conference championship. However, the fans' and players' reactions after the contest indicated it was a special win for the Eagles.
Smith fans jumped up and down with joy in the stands. Members of the Eagles' team hugged each other in the middle of the field and continued celebrating in the locker room.No, the win was not a state championship for the Eagles. But it was over Page, one of the most dominant high school teams in the state the past decade. And that was good enough for Smith.
``A win like this is good for the students, players and the faculty,' Smith principal Barry T. Williams said. ``It raises the morale of everybody who is a part of Smith.'
The Eagles have waited since 1975 for a victory over the Pirates. There was a sign taped above the Smith football locker room door before the game which said ``Tired of being No. 2, then became No. 1 Tonight!!!'
The Eagles became No. 1 in more ways than one on Friday night at Smith. The win kept the Eagles unbeaten at 2-0 in the Metro 4-A Conference and 3-2 overall. But more importantly, it gave the Eagles a measure of respect.
``We have been the ugliest duckling of the city schools,' Smith coach David Moody said. ``People have been always telling us we can't do this and we can't do that, but tonight the kids showed everybody what we are made of.'
Especially fullback Terry Cooper. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior dominated early with his inside running in the first eight minutes of the game. On the first play from scrimmage, Cooper took a handoff from quarterback Herbie Streater up the middle, sprinted past the line of scrimmage and turned what appeared to be a routine play into a 65-yard scoring jaunt.
Grabbing the early momentum, the Eagles took advantage of a Pirates' miscue on the extra-point attempt. Place-holder Richie Everette spotted an uncovered Phillip Emerson and tossed a pass to him that gave the Eagles an 8-0 advantage.
Seeing how well the scoring play worked the first time, Moody decidedto run Cooper again on the Eagles' next series.
Cooper responded with another long touchdown which resembled the first scoring run. He got past the Pirates' interior line, then outraced a couple of Page defenders and scored on an 80-yard run. Steve Bryant's extra point put the Eagles ahead 15-0 with 7:46 left in the first quarter.
Already, Cooper had gained 153 yards on three carries.
``Going into this game we felt we could run the fullback,' Moody said. ``Cooper is a super back. The kid can run. He has 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash so if he breaks it, he can run away from people.'
Cooper finished with 188 yards and speedster Curtis Johnson added 116. Even though the Eagles did not score again, they moved the ball enough to win the field position battle and keep the Pirates in a hole.
But despite the bad field position, Page had its chances. The Pirates scored with seven minutes left in the second quarter on a one-yard dive by quarterback Ryan Renne to cut the lead to 15-6.
The Pirates, led by the running of Kevin Matier, moved the ball on the Eagles. But key mistakes and turnovers killed their scoring opportunities. The Pirates fumbled on the Eagles' 38-yard line in the second quarter and missed a 28-yard field goal in the fourth.
Page fell to 1-1 in the Metro 4-A and 3-2 overall.
``We had our chances,' Page coach Marion Kirby said. ``But give the credit to Smith. They played a good game.'