The Times West Virginian

Prep Sports

July 3, 2014

FSHS QB Smith ready for the bright lights

FAIRMONT — Deion Sanders said it best when he labeled himself a “prime-time player.”

Fairmont Senior is hoping it has found a “PTP” in quarterback Dom Smith.

While you likely won’t see Smith high stepping into the end zone or doing the “Dirty Bird” with any of his receivers, Smith is hoping to make the most of his move from starting JV quarterback and backup varsity quarterback to full-time signal caller for the Polar Bears’ varsity squad this season.

For Fairmont Senior’s JV squad last year, Smith led the way to an 8-0 season.

But things are different on this stage.

“If you go back and look, all of these kids have a nice history of winning games from middle school on up, and our JV team went undefeated last year,” Fairmont Senior coach J.L. Abbott said. “But Friday night is different than Monday night.”

The difference between Friday night and Monday night is atmosphere.

On Friday night there are more fans. There’s more excitement. And there’s more pressure.

But Smith knows all about pressure, and it doesn’t only come from a blitzing linebacker.

Despite getting in during mop-up duty, Smith was thrust into the starting job at the end of the season. The rare instance where a backup sophomore is thrown into the mix came when senior field general Austin Norman went down with an injury during the third quarter of a first-round playoff game, putting Smith in the position to lead a postseason charge.

With a decent-sized lead, Smith was able to allow the Polar Bears to coast to a first-round victory, but the rubber met the road when Fairmont Senior matched up with Bridgeport on the road in the second round, a game Smith’s team would lose, 28-0, ending their season.

But the young quarterback knows it was a learning experience, and he’ll make the best of it.

“It was a lot of pressure last year, and I think this year I’ll ease into it,” Smith noted.

Sitting behind Norman on Friday nights last season prepared Smith for this year, he said, noting a conversation the two quarterbacks had following Norman’s injury.

“When he got injured he told me to get it done,” Smith remembered. “I learned how to stay composed through everything from that. He taught me to stay composed and lead the team.”

And that’s his plan this season.

It won’t be an easy task, taking a relatively young Polar Bear team and returning it to the playoffs in 2014, but it’s one that Smith has accepted.

While the team is young, the bond between this year’s starters is not, most of them having experience together from last year’s JV squad and even further back.

“We bonded pretty quickly, and he’s caught on quickly,” junior wide receiver Nick Davisson said. “He’s a pretty good quarterback. That helps.”

Smith will have the likes of a speedster in Davisson on the edge, a possession receiver in Michael Nuzum and a safety blanket in the form of a quick running back named Malik Boddy to take the field with come August.

And he feels pretty good about it.

“We all grew up playing football through the FOP years and JV years. We really got the connection down,” Smith explained. “We’re ready to rock and roll.”

Through it all, though, Smith and the crew know Abbott and the rest of the coaching staff expect their best each and every time out, no matter which numbers show up on their birth certificates.

“Everyone knows we’re a young team, but the coaches are expecting a lot out of us,” Smith admitted. “They’re trying to repeat and excel more than last year.”

As always, playing under the lights provides jitters at any age and, while Smith was on the field long enough last season to complete 20-of-36 passes for 261 yards for two scores while tossing just two interceptions, even he knows the importance of coming through on Fridays.

“Last year I played a lot under the lights on Fridays because we would get ahead. It’s going to be different this time because I’m starting off. Like everyone, I’m a little nervous,” Smith admitted. “But come August, I’ll be ready to own the field.”

Spoken like a true prime-time player.

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MattWelch_TWW.

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