When Duane Smith entered at quarterback for Suitland yesterday, some things had to be altered. The Rams' offensive line had to remain low on its blocks and almost every passing play had to include a rollout so that the 5-foot-6 Smith could see his receivers. The game's outcome was also altered--as Smith hit Lenwood Dozier with a 24-yard scoring strike with 8 minutes 25 seconds remaining to give sixth-ranked Suitland a 15-10 victory over No. 13 High Point in a Prince George's County 4A game.
Later, after Dozier made an interception and Smith knelt with the ball to run out the final seconds, Suitland Coach Nick Lynch ran onto the field to give the 130-pound sophomore--dubbed "the little man" by his teammates--a big hug.
"He was ready, I saw it in his eyes," Lynch said. "He's a little fighter. . . . He's a smart kid and I have confidence in him. But I don't want anybody to hit him."
Smith entered late in the third quarter, with Suitland trailing, 10-9, and the ball on the Rams 26-yard line. He completed his first attempt, a 16-yard pass to Dozier in the left flat. Two runs by Herschel Walker (no relation to the former NFL star) helped the Rams (1-0 overall, 1-0 league) move to the High Point 24. Two incompletions by Smith, including one on which he threw a difficult pass instead of running the ball, left Suitland with a fourth and eight.
Lynch called timeout, then Smith took a three-step drop and threw his winning pass. Dozier, lined up in the left slot, got behind the defense and turned around just in time to catch the pass and scamper into the end zone.
"They came up on the play and I just tried to get it over his shoulder," said Smith, who missed most of the week's practice after injuring a knee returning a punt against McNamara in last week's season opener. Smith finished 5 of 8 for 60 yards.
The victory came at a crucial time for Suitland, which was trailing McNamara, 14-0, last week when a thunderstorm suspended play after three quarters. The game will be completed on Tuesday. With the prospect of winning that game grim, yesterday was nearly a must-win situation. An 0-2 start might have been fatal to the Rams' chances for earning a third consecutive playoff berth.
"This is huge from the standpoint it gives the kids confidence, especially being down in the fourth quarter," Lynch said. "We talked about being hungry and finishing, and today we finished."
High Point (1-1, 0-1), which defeated defending Maryland 3A champion Friendly, 35-0, in its season-opener, had several chances to increase its lead in the first half. But the Eagles failed to convert, managing just three points following a pair of Suitland turnovers in its own territory. Just before Smith led Suitland's winning drive, High Point had a 12-yard touchdown pass from Dante Harris to Raymond Hines negated by a holding penalty and the Eagles failed to score on the drive.
"We had a very good opportunity to win," High Point Coach Dale Castro said. "But a couple of things didn't go our way. You've got to congratulate Suitland for making that play to win the ballgame."
Walker finished with 116 yards on 24 carries.