Smith is in command of Hornets’ offense

Published 8:06 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Dane Smith has come a long way in the last two years as the starting quarterback for the Loyd Star Hornets.

Against Enterprise on Friday night, Smith put up 221 yards of total offense and scored three times in a 61-22 Loyd Star victory. For that performance, he has been named The Daily Leader’s Offensive Player of the Week.

Smith went 14-of-19 for 169 yards and three touchdowns via the air and rushed three times for 52 yards on the ground. Rewind the tape to Aug. 18, 2017 when Loyd Star hosted Sacred Heart in their season opener last year. Smith drew the start that night at quarterback. It was the first football game he had played since pee-wee and he would be playing the most scrutinized and closely-watched position on the field.

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He was nervous, but not as nervous as you’d think.

“I honestly just didn’t know what to expect,” said Smith. “I’d never thrown a pass or been tackled. I had an idea of how I thought things would go, but in a lot of ways I was clueless.”

The stats from that night — a 35-14 Sacred Heart win — show that Smith completed 5-of-13 passes for 38 yards and an interception.

If you were there in person, you saw a lanky-looking junior that was running for his life on most passing plays. Compare that to last week when Smith stepped to the line of scrimmage to direct the Hornet offense. You could see confidence in every decision he made. Every throw, every handoff done with the purpose of moving his team down the field.

Smith says the confidence comes with the familiarity and camaraderie that he has formed with his teammates.

“I’ve got a bond with my teammates now and I know where they need to get the ball on the field,” said Smith. “That’s something that you’ve got to build over time and practice.”

Smith didn’t plan on not playing football until his junior year. He was just seriously devoted to another love.

“I love basketball,” says Smith, with the type of inflection in his voice that you can tell comes from a lifetime of shooting hoops in driveways and church gyms.

The son of Greg and Jeanie Smith, Dane has older sisters Natalie and Makenzie and a younger sister, Gracie. Makenzie is a sophomore softball pitcher at Co-Lin and was an accomplished hooper herself at Loyd Star.

Dane is also a standout baseball player for the Hornets. He says playing all three sports has made him a better athlete.

“Playing football and the physicality of it, it’s made me a better basketball player for sure,” said Smith. “I’m stronger than I was before I started playing football.”

That physicality was on display during a first-half touchdown drive against Enterprise. After penalties and bad plays had moved the Hornets back to a third-and-29, Smith dropped back to scan the field. Not finding an open receiver, he weaved through the heart of the Yellow Jacket defense before tucking the ball and lowering his shoulder to just eke out the yardage for the first down.

On the season, Smith is 73-of-102 for 1,026 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s also rushed the ball 34 times for 227 yards and three scores.

The effort given by Smith over the last two years has never waned. The difference this year is the experience that he gained by taking shots as a junior. That combination has Loyd Star at a 6-3 record and a chance to win their region in two weeks against West Lincoln.

“Last year I would try my hardest, but that wasn’t enough because a lot of times I didn’t know what I was doing,” said Smith. “This year I’m just so much more comfortable and I’m able to have fun and play the game.”

Story by Cliff Furr