SUPER 7: Wetumpka’s Smoke becoming a ‘Wildcat’ specialist
By Tim Gayle
WETUMPKA – It’s third and one. Everyone in the stands knows what is coming.
“The kids love it,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “When it’s third and short, they’re all over there on the sideline, calling for it.”
It’s the Smoke Cat, or the Indians’ version of the Wildcat formation with Kevosiey Smoke running the ball. Other players have run it this season, particularly senior receiver Robert Laprade, but it’s not the same.
“(Laprade) weighs about 180 pounds and (Smoke) weighs about 217 pounds,” Perry observed. “It’s a little bit different.”
Smoke has run out of the short-yardage formation 47 times, accounting for 363 yards (an average of 7.7 yards per carry) and 17 touchdowns. Another 16 times, the Indians picked up a first down. He has lined up in Wildcat eight times this season on fourth down, accounting for six first downs.
Another, a 63-yard run for a touchdown against Stanhope Elmore, was called back for a holding penalty. The only time he was stopped was for no gain on a fourth-and-two carry against Greenville.
Perry quickly rattles off the times Smoke has been stopped this season – against Greenville, against Benjamin Russell and by Spanish Fort. Against Benjamin Russell, a fumbled snap lost seven yards, but he scored out of Wildcat formation two plays later. Against Spanish Fort, he was stopped for a three-yard loss on a second-and-two carry, but ran 41 yards out of regular formation for a touchdown two plays later. He was also stopped at the Pelham 1-yard line for no gain, but scored out of Wildcat on the next play and lost five yards on a fumbled snap against Hillcrest, but ran 98 yards for a touchdown out of Wildcat on the next play.
Smoke has averaged an impressive 8.4 yards per carry this season, carrying the ball 153 times for 1287 yards and 24 touchdowns while missing one game and parts of three others with injuries, but becomes almost unstoppable in the Wildcat.
Inside the opponents’ 5-yard line, he has lined up in Wildcat 18 times, scoring 13 touchdowns. All 13 Wetumpka possessions ended in the end zone, some just took more than one Smoke Cat carry to get there.
“There’s been very few (times) over the last two years when he’s been stopped for a loss,” Perry said. “We’ve been doing that same kind of thing – if we have a back that we feel like can do that – since I’ve been here (the past six seasons). But he’s kind of elevated that role. He has such a high football IQ and reads defenses like a quarterback, so he makes great decisions.”
Wetumpka (13-1) is playing Pinson Valley (14-0) for the Class 6A state championship on Friday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium for several reasons. A talented group of seniors and an explosive junior at quarterback are critical, but Smoke is the undisputed leader of the team. As a three-year starter at tailback, he has added weapons to his arsenal each season, making him a player Pinson Valley coaches will have to account for on every down.
While he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, he’s capable of pulling up on the jet sweep and throwing the ball downfield. He is 4 of 5 this season for 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“What we were able to do is assess his football skills,” Perry said. “And he has so many of them. We knew he had a strong arm, but we also realized how accurate he is and his mechanics are pretty good. He gets the ball out fast and has good touch on it. Once we realized what a strong and accurate arm he has, we started adding some throws. When he runs the jet sweep and the secondary starts rolling down (to cover the run), we watch that and then we bait them into it. He reads coverages well. He doesn’t just panic and throw it into coverage.”
He is the third leading receiver on the team, pulling in 13 receptions for 197 yards and three touchdowns.
And there are times when he lines up at outside linebacker, wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks with two sacks, another jarring hit that was ruled an incomplete pass and an interception in limited play this season.
“He’s a very good defensive player, defending in space,” Perry said. “He could play linebacker or he could play corner. He’s got deceptive speed. For a guy his size, you wouldn’t think he is as explosive as he is. We bring him in at times (as an outside linebacker) to rush because he’s so quick off the ball and great with his hands. It’s just a game-to-game decision. It all has to do with the situation.”
Smoke simply shrugs at the magnitude of his contributions this season, which have helped the Indians reach the finals for the first time in school history.
“We’re trying to make history,” Smoke said. “We’re just trying to finish out the season with a ring, trying to get the ring and bring it back. We were supposed to win it last year, but we fell short. (The difference this year is) a lot of leadership, holding each other accountable.”
And Smoke becoming an almost unstoppable force in the Wildcat.
“When he makes his mind up and he gets downhill, he’s something else,” Perry said.