Photo by Brian Paglia
Mundy’s Mill running back Rodney Smith (1) turns the corner just before Drew linebacker Terrell Jordan can bring him down.
RIVERDALE — It was Senior Night for Mundy’s Mill, but a talented underclassman stole the show at Southern Crescent Stadium on Friday night.
Junior tailback Rodney Smith was the story of the Tigers’ Region 4A-AAAAA date with Drew, chewing up 286 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries to pace his team to a thrilling 32-31upset.
Smith accounted for scoring jaunts of 56, 54, 29 and 26 yards as the hosts led by as many as 11 points in the third period before holding on in the game’s frantic final moments to improve to 2-4.
Smith now has 1,056 yards.
“They gave me little creases and I was able to hit the holes aggressively, make people miss and score,” the elusive 5-foot-11, 190-pounder said. “[The Titans] were aggressive, so the cutback was easy.”
Drew had one final chance to spoil Smith’s evening, but quarterback Jay Murray was tackled in bounds at the Mundy’s Mill 10-yard line as time expired. The Titans were out of timeouts at the game’s end, but were left to wonder what might have been following a missed point-after try by kicker Marco Salas with 3:02 left that would have knotted the score at 32-apiece.
The miskick was Salas’ second botched PAT of the evening and the latest setback in what has been a suspect kicking game all season.
“[Mundy’s Mill] took advantage of their opportunities and we didn’t,” Drew coach Jarrett Laws said after his team fell to 4-2, going into next week’s home date with Ola. “They did the things they had to do and found ways to win.”
The Titans trailed 24-13 late in the third period before storming back to take their first lead at 25-24 on Kewann Coats’ 11-yard touchdown run with 9:30 left.
Smith answered with his final big play, darting in and around Tigers defenders en route to a decisive 26-yard scoring scamper that pushed his team ahead for good, 32-24, with 8:55 remaining.
The big-time baseball prospect wasted no time from the outset in setting the stage for Mundy’s Mill upset, taking a reverse on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage down the right sideline and racing 56 yards for a touchdown to put his team ahead, 6-0. Smith totaled 133 of his yards in the first quarter alone.
“Rodney is a big-time prospect,” first-year Mundy’s Mill coach Greg Manior said. “He can really carry the load.”
Smith’s 64-yard dash on his team’s second drive set up another Tigers score, this one coming courtesy of a fortuitous bounce on a Rodricous Gates pass to Jonathan Celestin with 4:02 left in the opening period. The pass had originally been deflected by tight end Ebere Azubuike before falling into Celestin’s hands in the back of the end zone to extend Mundy’s Mill’s advantage to 12-0.
The Titans never really found their groove offensively, too often falling behind in down and distance to thwart every potential scoring march. Three of their five touchdowns were the direct result of a turnover or special teams play.
But Mundy’s Mill did its part to keep things close by missing on four of five two-point conversion tries following touchdowns.
Nevertheless, Manior was thrilled with the victory.
“This was one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had in my coaching career,” he said.
The Tigers host Forest Park next week at Twelve Oaks Stadium.