After playing football his freshman season, Eric Smith decided not to play for his sophomore and junior years. After a two-year layoff, though, Smith realized he missed being under those Friday night lights.
''I just missed playing,'' the Magnolia receiver said. ''I regret not playing last year. I'm glad I'm back, though. I'm having fun.''
Not only is he glad, but so are the rest of the Blue Eagles.
Jacob Brill (#15) breaks away from the crowd to pick up some real estate for the Blue Eagles during the Magnolia High School-River High School game Sept. 20 at New Martinsville. (Photo by Chuck Clegg)
Smith caught six passes for 119 yards and a score, while fellow senior Jacob Brill threw for 233 yards and three touchdowns as Magnolia thumped River, 48-14, Friday night at Alumni Field.
''He's just an outstanding athlete,'' Brill said of Smith. ''He's really helping us out this year. It's crazy how open he gets. I don't know how he does it.''
The Pilots (0-4) experienced it first-hand as on the third play of the game Brill found Smith wide open on a third-and-8 for a 44-yard touchdown pass as the Blue Eagles (2-2) took a 6-0 lead in just the first 58 seconds of the game.
''It was a good play call,'' Smith said. ''That actually happened before against Linsly. It's hard for the defense to adjust to that. Brill put it right on the money.''
Magnolia extended its lead to 13-0 when senior Kage Rohde broke loose on the first play of the Blue Eagles' second possession and raced down the field 31 yards to the end zone.
River, however, would answer right back as quarterback Joe Flannery found Bailey Reusser for a 39-yard touchdown pass. After a Brill interception, the Pilots took the lead, 14-13, as senior Jordan Sapp rumbled his way in from 5 yards out.
''We jumped on them, but give River credit,'' Blue Eagles coach Mark Batton said. ''They came right back and took the lead. Then I thought our guys stepped up a little bit and took control of the game.''
It's true. On the second play of the second quarter, Brill found sophomore Kyle Ritz for an 18-yard touchdown strike. That was followed up by a 1-yard score by Rohde right before Andrew Smith, Eric's twin brother, returned a punt 54 yards to the end zone as Magnolia took a 35-14 lead.
Tyler Anderson put the Blue Eagles on the board again one minute before halftime with a 5-yard touchdown run as it was 42-14 at intermission.
Brill capped off the scoring when he found Ritz again early in the third quarter for a 16-yard touchdown pass. ''Jacob's worked so hard,'' Batton said. ''He's worked so hard in the off season. He's just gotten better with every snap. This is the first year Jacob has played quarterback. He's getting more confidence. Jacob's a leader. I'm sure glad he plays for us.''
So is Smith, who has caught 17 passes for 389 yards and four touchdowns so far this season.
''I'm just proud of how our guys have come on the past two weeks and gotten this record back to 2-2,'' Batton said. ''It's crucial. In football you only have 10 games, and you just can't stub your toe a whole lot. It's good to get back to even. The guys are playing with a lot of confidence right now.''
In the other locker room, however, River coach Mike Flannery wondered where his team's confidence has gone. ''It is what it is,'' Flannery said. ''It's a youth movement. It happens once every three years. There's nothing you can do about it. It's small school football. We won for 10 minutes. Now we have to do it for an entire game.''