Mundy’s Mill running back Rodney Smith rushed for 347 yards and four touchdowns in the Tigers win over Houston County Friday in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs. (Special Photo: Jerry Jackson)
JONESBORO – Rodney Smith looked like a healthy man who needed no knee brace.
The important words are healthy and man.
A year after suffering a torn ACL, the Mundy’s Mill running back showed no ill effects from that injury on Friday night on the wet, cold turf at Tara Stadium.
Smith rushed for 347 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Tigers (7-4) to a 33-13 win over Houston County (7-4) in the opening round of the GHSA Class AAAAA state playoffs. The Tigers won their first playoff game in program history.
“It means a so much to us and our community,” said Smith, who’s also a draft prospect in baseball. “We’re trying to bring some positivity to our community. We want to be something they can cheer for and just bring some positive energy.”
Houston County’s season ended with its first playoff appearance since 2007.
“This doesn’t take anything away from what these guys accomplished this year,” Houston County head coach Von Lassiter said. “I’m so proud of these guys. We’ll get back to work and try to get better.”
The Bears were in trouble from the start.
Smith racked up 186 rushing yards in the first quarter alone, scoring three touchdowns as the Tigers took a 20-0 lead.
He carried the ball on all seven plays on the opening drive, leading the Tigers 76 yards for a touchdown.
Smith accounted for more than half the yards on the second drive, which ended with his 16-yard touchdown run.
The Bears appeared to gain a little momentum after the Tigers’ second touchdown. They moved the ball inside the Tigers’ 25, but missed a field goal. Still, they forced Mundy’s Mill into a third-and-15 on the next drive, seemingly negating a rushing play with that down and distance.
The Tigers showed what kind of confidence they have in Smith, calling a toss sweep that the tailback took 83 yards for a touchdown.
“We don’t run many sweeps, but the coaches thought we had an opening there,” Smith said. “Good blocking. I just kept running.”
The Bears fought back, scoring their first points on a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown by Chris Lewis as the first quarter ended. The score slowed the Tigers down, and the tide appeared to completely turn when Houston County kicker Jordan Strevig forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Strevig was the last guy to beat for the Tigers’ kick returner, but the sophomore kicked exploded into the ball carrier and the Bears had the ball at midfield down by 13.
But six plays later, Mundy’s Mill intercepted Bears’ quarterback Jake Fromm and returned it to the Houston County 29. Smith scored from 21 yards out for his fourth touchdown of the first half and a 27-7 lead.
“That was a turning point; we could have used some points there,” Lassiter said. “But we had a lot of chances we didn’t take advantage of.”