PHILADELPHIA Lost in the speed and explosiveness of the Indian River offense is the quiet efficiency of senior quarterback Kody Smith.
With such quick-strike offensive weapons as Darrius Bryant, Densel Barnes and Jason Smith to make big plays behind him, Kody Smith simply runs the Warriors modified Wing-T scheme with the aplomb of a player that has studied the system for five years.
Thursday night, with Watertowns defense keying on the speedy Bryant, Kody Smith played a key role as Indian River clinched at least a tie for the Section 3 Class A National title with a 34-12 win over the visiting Cyclones.
Kody Smith ran for 109 yards on 11 carries, scored on a 51-yard run and guided the Warriors to an important win on Senior Night.
Connor Brown scored on two short runs, Barnes contributed a long scoring run and Bryant a 16-yard TD scamper as Indian River (5-1 overall, 4-0 division) dealt the Cyclones (3-3, 2-3) their third consecutive loss.
Speaking of his senior quarterback, Indian River coach Cory Marsell said, Kody has grown into an outstanding player and leader. He reads the offense extremely well and hes turned into another guy that can make big plays when we need them.
Smith, listed at just 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, said its a matter of being comfortable in the Warriors complicated offense.
Its tricky, no doubt, Smith said. But Ive run it since eighth grade so I know what to expect, how to make the correct read and how to get it to our playmakers.
Smith also had big runs of 39 and 31 yards straight up the field as WHS tried to take the outside run away.
You could see them overloading on the perimeter, Kody Smith said. Just like last week (when he executed a 70-yard TD run), I had nothing but open space and green grass in front of me.
Smith guided Indian River to a score on its first possession with Brown scoring on a 2-yard run and Smith kicking the extra point. Brown was subbing for fullback Jason Smith, who was serving a one-game suspension for being ejected in last weeks Whitesboro game.
Watertown, coming off an embarrassing 47-0 loss to Carthage last Friday, answered with a big play of its own, a 54-yard TD burst by Anton Gadson (17 carries, 140 yards). However, the 2-point conversion run failed.
The Cyclones were without head coach Vince Williams, who was serving a suspension following his ejection at Carthage.
Indian River put the game away with three second-quarter scores.
Bryant broke lose on 16-yard touchdown run to make it 14-6. Smith burst untouched 51 yards for his score and Brown ran in the conversion. And Barnes, who ran for 114 yards, sprinted 79 yards on a pitch play as the Warriors went ahead 28-6 following Smiths PAT.
It took us awhile to find our rhythm tonight for some reason, Kody Smith said. Last weeks win (over Whitesboro) was really emotional, but we knew Watertown would come out and play us tough because they always do.
Said Marsell: The kids thought they were something special after that Whitesboro game. But they had to believe Watertown would come in here ready to give us a tough game. And they did.
WHS scored again in the third quarter when Mason Phillips hit Willie Scott on a 35-yard pass play to cut the lead to 28-12. But Barnes returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards and Brown scored on a short run.
Despite the loss, the Cyclones felt a lot better about their effort than last week.
The kids really played hard and showed a lot of energy tonight, assistant coach Drew Burgess said. Take away a couple of their big plays, and I thought we did a pretty good job defensively.
One Warrior who especially enjoyed the win was senior linebacker Devon Kincaid. He played for WHS before transferring to Indian River this season.
It was really weird playing against them, Kincaid said. Especially tackling good friends like Anton and Diamond (Williams). We knew they had a lot to prove, and we just had to take care of our own business.
Indian River plays at Carthage to close the regular-season next Friday. WHS finishes at home against unbeaten Jamesville-DeWitt with the prospect of playing them again in the first round of the sectionals in two weeks.
CLASS C FINISHING
While the rest of Section 3 has two more regular-season football games, Class C teams conclude this week with their sixth games and sectional pairings will then be decided on Sunday with first-round games set for next weekend.
This season, Class C will be split into C-1 and C-2, with a 16-team field. The top four teams in each of the four Class C conferences qualify.
The biggest schools based on enrollment will be placed in C-1, along with the three private schools Immaculate Heart Central, Bishop Ludden and Utica Notre Dame. Both brackets will feature eight teams, with champions determined in each bracket. The C-1 and C-2 champions will play for the overall C crown and a state playoff berth on, Saturday, Nov. 3 in the Carrier Dome.
Four Frontier League teams have already qualified for the Class C sectionals.
General Brown (5-0, 4-0) can wrap up the Class C North title with a win at Altmar-Parish-Williamstown (3-2, 3-1) on Saturday. If the Lions win, they will be one of the top four seeds in C-1.
Lowville (4-1, 3-1) plays at IHC (3-2, 2-2) tonight with plenty on the line. Should the Red Raiders win, they can forge a three-way tie for the division title if A-P-W upsets General Brown. The Cavaliers could also enhance their seeding with a win.
A-P-W and IHC will compete in C-1, while Lowville will play in C-2 based on enrollment figures.
Right now, three of the Class C division leaders will be placed in C-1. They are Skaneateles (C West, 5-0, 4-0), Canastota (C South, 5-0) and General Brown (C North). The other leader, Herkimer (C East, 5-0, 4-0), will be in the lower C-2 bracket.
Among the other teams still alive for Class C sectional berths are Bishop Ludden (4-1), Tully (4-1, 3-1), Frankfort-Schuyler (4-1, 3-1), Waterville (3-2, 3-1), Sherburne-Earlville (3-2), Mt. Markham (2-3), Morrisville-Eaton (2-3, 1-3), Ilion (2-3, 1-3), Little Falls (1-4, 1-3), Jordan-Elbridge (1-4) and Syracuse Institute of Technology (1-4, 1-3).