Miles Smith (6) will be the big offensive threat Nottingham must stop in Saturday’s season opener at Steinert. Photo by Michael A. Sabo
By Rich Fisher
Sep. 6: The big news in Hamilton Township entering the high school football season is also the bad news.
Due to a freak injury in practice, Steinert senior quarterback Colin Smith suffered a torn meniscus and will be out for the season. Smith shared time with Jordan Morrison last year and was 42-for-80 for 503 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions. He also rushed for two touchdowns.
He was pushed for the starting job by junior Nick Wright and won the position before the unfortunate incident robbed Smith of his senior year.
“It was a non-contact drill, his cleat stuck in the ground and he tore it on the side where it’s a rare tear,” coach Dan Caruso said on Tuesday’s wbcbsports.com’s 12th Man TD Club show. “If it was a normal meniscus tear he’d be able to come back, but with this he won’t be full strength for five months. I feel horrible for the kid. He was having a great camp.”
And while Steinert will miss Smith’s experience, they have high hopes for Wright.
“Nick’s bringing a good arm, a lot of speed, a lot of athleticism,” senior guard Nick Harkness said. “He’s bringing a lot of leadership to the quarterback role. He’s stepped up wonderfully.”
“It worked out that Colin won the starting job and Nick would start for us on defense and receiver,” Caruso said. “Now he gets thrust in the starting quarterback role and he’s handling it well. He’s a cool kid, nothing really seems to get to him. He’s a calm kid and he goes about his business. He’s green and he needs some experience. I can assure him experience is coming quickly.”
It sure is, as the Spartans open against visiting Nottingham Saturday at 12:30. The presentation of the George O’Gorman Award for Hamilton Township’s top high school athletic program for 2017 will be held prior to the game.
The Northstars lost some of their top defensive linemen last year, but still feature some formidable players, including linebacker Jerry Andaluz.
“We’ve seen (Wright) in three of their scrimmages,” Northstars coach Jon “Big Dawg” Adams said. “He’s been quite impressive with his running of the offense and ability to throw the ball and make plays with his feet. They have a number of weapons, they lost Jordan but have their other young man who’s a real problem.”
That would be receiver Miles Smith, who had a standout junior season but was slightly overshadowed by the exploits of Morrison. Caruso knows he has a dangerous weapon to utilize who can hopefully take some pressure off Wright as he settles in.
“We definitely want to get the ball in Miles’ hands,” Caruso said. “He proved last year he could do some special things when we get him the ball. We have other guys as well but Miles is a special kind of talent so we get a little inventive with ways to get him the ball.”
It’s no secret who Nottingham will try and get the ball to, as it has one of the West Jersey Football League’s top running backs in junior Diontae Nicholson. In last year’s night game at Steinert, the Spartans held Nicholson in check for most of the game until he exploded in overtime to give the Northstars a 10-3 win.
“You’re not gonna totally shut him down, you have to try to hope to contain him and hope he doesn’t break your back,” Caruso said. “That was our game plan last year, and we held him at bay and in overtime he broke our backs. He’s a tough kid, he’s a great running back. You can’t try to do something completely different, you have to play your base defense, still tackle and play sound football, but the kids know you have to bring a little big extra when you come to play Diontae.”
Talk about drawing the short straw.
Only one team in the entire West Jersey Football League drew a Week 1 bye – Hamilton West.
This hurts Hamilton – or any other team – in two ways. First, the players have another sweaty week of just hitting each other, which gets frustrating after a while. Second, later in the season when teams need a week off to rest their bumps and bruises, the Hornets play straight through.
“Any time you have 92 teams in the WJFL and you’re the only one who has a bye week in week one, somebody didn’t do their job right,” coach Tom Hoglen said. “I’m sorry to say that, but at this time of year you want to get playing and not practicing. We’ll do a lot of scouting this weekend and get ready to go.”
Hoglen just hopes to keep everyone healthy for one last week of pre-season.
“Last year at this time we had some key injuries to guys and that hurt us the rest of the year,” he said. “But right now we’re happy. We’ll sit back and watch West Windsor and Trenton play Friday night and see what’s in front of us the following week (at WW-P).”