South River senior James Smith is a relatively soft-spoken guy. So if you didn’t ask, you probably wouldn’t know that he is chasing state history entering the final week of the Anne Arundel County regular season.
After catching nine passes for 142 yards and a touchdown Friday night in a 27-14 win over Glen Burnie, the senior wide receiver has 2,180 career receiving yards, which rank 11th all-time among public high schools in Maryland. While Smith will probably not touch the state or county receiving records, he could crack the state’s top 10 with 105 receiving yards against Northeast.
“I try not to focus on it that much,” Smith said. “I don’t go into a game playing like I’m just going to break this record. I just go out there playing to win and help my team win.”
The Seahawks (4-5, 4-5 Anne Arundel) got off to a slow start this season and will not make the playoffs, but Smith is not the reason why. The 6-foot, 177-pound wide receiver has multiple touchdown catches in four of the team’s nine games this season. He has grabbed eight passes or more for at least 140 yards in each of his past three games.
“He’s open a lot, so he gets the ball a lot,” Coach Lance Clelland said. “That probably has more to do with it than anything else. He’s a very good route-runner, he understands how to get open and how the defense is going to try to cover him. And then he’s also fast and he has good hands, so he makes the tough catches as well.”
Smith has also benefited from the arrival of familiar quarterback Jalen Jones, who transferred from Old Mill before the season. The two have played together since Jones was 10 years old, when they both played youth football with the Pasadena Chargers. Though they played in different age brackets, Jones and Smith frequently scrimmaged and practiced together and became friends.
Reunited over the summer, the pair met four times a week to work on routes and build chemistry. Sometimes, other receivers and defensive backs would join in the workouts. Other times, it was just Jones and Smith playing catch.
“It was just him running routes and me figuring out how to get him the ball, timing, knowing where he wants the ball,” Jones said. “We had chemistry and friendship and stuff before I even got here. We just kind of built on it and made it better.”
That chemistry could spill over to the next level if Jones and Smith attend the same college, which Jones said is a possibility. Smith is drawing interest from Football Championship Subdivision schools including St. Francis, Sacred Heart and Towson, among others.
“If we’re not able to keep playing football together at the next level, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a sad moment,” Jones said. “As of right now, I couldn’t tell you anybody else I have the chemistry with like that, that I know when I’m in trouble I can go find him and get him the ball.”
After a disappointing 37-18 loss to Broadneck on Oct. 25, Arundel was forced to confront reality. With two losses, one of the county’s perennial contenders was suddenly on the edge of the Maryland 4A East region playoff picture.
“I think it kind of stared them in the face a little bit,” Arundel Coach Chuck Markiewicz said of his young team. “I think it might’ve woke them up.”
The result was a 47-8 shellacking of Chesapeake on Friday night. Arundel junior quarterback Anthony Messenger threw three touchdowns passes and the Wildcats (7-2, 7-2) scored four more times on the ground, blowing out a squad that nearly upset No. 8 Old Mill (9-0, 9-0) last week.
Arundel will now prepare for an all-important showdown Friday against No. 11 Meade, which clinched a playoff spot over the weekend by defeating Broadneck. The Wildcats, Bruins (7-2, 7-2) and Leonardtown (7-2, 6-2 Southern Maryland Athletic Conference) are vying for the final two spots in the 4A East region. Leonardtown will face Great Mills (0-9, 0-8 SMAC) this weekend while Broadneck will travel to Glen Burnie (1-8, 1-8 Anne Arundel).