Smartt miscue leads Gardner-Edgerton to victory
By David Svoboda PrepsKC staff writer
When he was in seventh grade, Anthony Smartt realized something about himself as a football player.
Though small in size, he had a way of making a big impact on any game he played in – as long as he was getting his hands on the ball as a kick returner.
Now, as a sophomore at Gardner Edgerton, Smartt got his hands on the opening kickoff of the 2012 season Friday night against Blue Valley.
And he promptly muffed it.
Having the presence of mind that belied the fact that he was “scared to death being a sophomore playing his first varsity game” as he admitted in a candid postgame interview, Smartt scrambled after the wet loose ball, scooped it up and took it the 94-yard distance.
Coupled with a successful two-point conversion, and a stingy Blazer defense, the Smartt touchdown was enough to lift Gardner Edgerton to an 8-6 win over the rival Tigers on a night that left Blazer Coach Marvin Diener drained.
“I’m thrilled we played a survival game on a survival kind of night and played so hard all night long,” said Diener, who propped himself up against a wall in the victorious Gardner Edgerton locker room.
Indeed Diener’s team, which had fallen victim to Blue Valley more times than he would care to remember over the past two years, survived some sloppy play, some missed opportunities, and a Tiger defense that “held” Gardner’s talented Traevohn Wrench to 181 yards on 37 tough carries. Wrench put the wet ball on the ground three times as well, compounding his frustration – and that of his coach.
But Wrench and Diener were resilient, using a key fourth-quarter conversion to salt this one away late. Blue Valley’s lone TD came in the second quarter on a short scamper by QB Henry McGrew, who took some snaps at the position but saw Logan Brettell lead the Tigers for the bulk of the night. It was McGrew’s failed attempt to convert the two-point try that ended up being the difference for Gardner Edgerton.
But back to Smartt for a moment.
After all, it was his effort that got Gardner into the end zone for its only time of the night.
“It’s just been a reaction thing for me since seventh and eighth grade,” he said of returning kicks, and his ability to find creases where others might not.
The muff was due in large part to the rain that made things virtually unbearable all night.
“I looked up to field the ball, and couldn’t see at first because I got rain in my eyes,” Smartt said.
When he was able to track it down, he made his way to the far sideline – directly in front of the Blue Valley bench – and began a burst to the end zone that would have been the perfect cap to the perfect season-opening sequence – if not for the monsoon that left the new stadium and new turf better fit for those with webbed feet.
Gardner’s “opening night” in its new digs was nowhere near the spectacle Diener had hoped it would be, and it had nothing to do with his football team. They won, after all.
“There were people who killed themselves to get this stadium ready for this game,” he said, the disappointment of the missed opportunity to “thank” them on a beautiful night registering on his face and in his voice.
But it was disappointment Diener appeared ready to overcome, but only if his team could use this win as a stepping stone toward something else down the road.
“It means a lot, but it also means very little,” he said of the significance of finally getting over the hump against Blue Valley, regardless of the score and conditions. “This win is really a good one if we play well next week.”
They’ll play Bishop Miege in that contest with a chance to go to 2-0 in large part because of a tough Blazer defense, which held Blue Valley to under 100 yards rushing in the contest, and flustered the Tiger offense throughout the night.
“We made just enough plays to win,” said Smartt as he prepared to do something he’s familiar with – turn the corner and head for home. “And this being my first varsity game and all, it’s even better.”
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