Smith’s 5 touchdowns lead Oak Mountain to rivalry win at Spain Park

Published 10:57 pm Thursday, September 30, 2021

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HOOVER – Evan Smith ran for four touchdowns and added one more on Thursday, Sept. 30 to lead the Oak Mountain Eagles to a region road win at Spain Park.

The senior standout accounted for all five of Oak Mountain’s touchdowns to help lead the 5-1 (3-1) Eagles to a 35-7 rivalry win. Smith totaled 12 carries for 189 yards and threw for 80 yards on 9-of-12 passing.

“He did a great job tonight,” Oak Mountain head coach Tyler Crane said of Smith’s performance. “He’s the best athlete in the state, there is no doubt,” Crane said. “Here’s the thing, he’s the best teammate, the best kid. You couldn’t create a player to be better than him just from all the intangibles and stuff, and the way he acts in the locker room with all these players.”

But on a night where the Eagles outgained Spain Park 355-259, Crane said it was the entire offense that stepped up.

“Ethan Hammett had a great catch, Joe Regan had a great catch, Cade George, he played phenomenal,” Crane said after the win. “Offensively, I thought we got better tonight being able to get others involved.”

And the strong offensive night for the Eagles started early in the win.

Oak Mountain took advantage of receiving the opening kick and quickly let their ground game go to work.

The Eagles put together a nine-play opening drive behind several hard-fought runs from Evan Smith and Cade George.

One play after converting a third-and-3 from the Spain Park 15, Smith took off on a designed quarterback run and made to shifty jukes to his right before spinning through a tackle and into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 6:44 to play in the quarter.

Spain Park looked to be putting together a nice answer with six positive plays in a row, including a 21-yard run from Caldwell Bussey.

But shortly after, the Jaguars tried a double pass that ended with an interception after Corbitt Grundhoefer won the battle for the ball going to the ground.

The Eagles quickly capitalized.

On the ensuing drive, Smith, CJ Branson and Tray Vassell carried the ball three consecutive plays for 22 yards before Smith escaped again. This time, he took off on what looked to be a pass play and made a few nice moves en route to a 59-yard touchdown run that saw him go untouched to the end zone to put the Eagles up 14-0 at the end of the opening quarter.

After Spain Park was forced to punt on its first drive of the second quarter, the two teams traded interceptions on their next two drives, including a second from Grundhoeffer.

But after throwing one of their own, the Eagles got it back and capitalized on another turnover just before the half.

Starting the drive with less than five minutes left, Oak Mountain picked up a combined 37 yards on the ground from Branson and Smith.

The Eagles eventually faced fourth-and-10 in Spain Park territory with 24.7 seconds left, but they didn’t panic.

Smith hit George for 13 yards and a first down to keep the drive alive. Then, he followed with a 26-yard pass to Ethan Hammett a play later to set up first-and-goal from the 4-yard line.

Smith hit his third completion in a row when he found Branson for the 4-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left to give the Eagles a 21-0 advantage at the break.

“I really wanted to see them come out and start faster tonight, and I thought we did that,” Crane said.

Early in the second half, however, the Jaguars came out with the perfect drive drawn up.

After converting on third down with a 12-yard pass from quarterback Evan Smallwood, Zamir Farris broke off a 45-yard run to set the Jags up deep in Oak Mountain territory. Two plays later, Smallwood hit John Michael Lee for a 19-yard touchdown to make it 21-14 with 9:55 left in the third quarter.

But it was Oak Mountain’s night.

The Eagles came right back down the field, as Smith reached into his hat and found some more magic, turning what looked to be a sure sack into an 18-yard touchdown to put the Eagles on top 28-7 midway through the third.

“We came out and gave up a cheap right there in the second half, but they battled back,” Crane said. “We drove down to score, and the defense stepped up after that.”

Grundhoeffer quickly gave the ball right back to Oak Mountain with his third interception of the night, and Smith quickly capitalized with a 39-yard touchdown run to bring the game to its final score.

“Hat trick, right? He got him three. I’m kind of disappointed because he should have had four if he would have done what he was supposed to,” Crane said of Grundhoeffer’s performance, cracking a smile “I thought he did a great job. Defensively, we gave up that one to start the second half, which we don’t want to do, but we battled back and made the plays when we needed to make them.”

Behind Smith, Branson added 41 yards rushing and his 4-yard receiving touchdown, while Hammett led all receivers with 41 yards. Garrett Murphy made all five of his extra point attempts.

Spain Park was led by Smallwood with 78 yards passing and a touchdown, while he also ran for 43 yards. Smallwood was carted off the field late in the game after taking a hit.

Oak Mountain will be back home against Tuscaloosa County next week before a tough two-week stretch against Thompson and Hewitt-Trussville.

Spain Park will host rival Hoover next week before closing region play with games against Vestavia Hills and Tuscaloosa County.