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Smith steps into leading role, powers St. Charles West to share of GAC North title

Smith steps into leading role, powers St. Charles West to share of GAC North title

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St. Charles West vs. St. Charles football

St. Charles West's Deleon Smith (1) is congratulated by Carson Tuel after scoring a touchdown during a football game against St. Charles on Saturday, October 17, 2020 at St. Charles West High School in St. Charles, Mo. Paul Kopsky,

ST. CHARLES — The dynamic running back duo of Dominic Flint and Deleon Smith have shared the limelight this season, splitting carries and powering the St. Charles West football team's offensive attack.

But when Flint re-aggravated an ankle injury after the Warriors opening drive Saturday, it was up to Smith to step into the featured role.

He proved up to the task.

Smith gained 219 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns as St. Charles West earned a share of the GAC North league title with a 26-14 win over St. Charles High in a morning kickoff at Steve Stahl Stadium.

St. Charles West (4-3 overall, 3-1 GAC North), which did not play last week because of coronavirus concerns, tied Orchard Farm and Warrenton atop the GAC North standings and earned at least a share of the league title for the fourth consecutive year and the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.

“This season has been up and down with players getting injured, on top of coronavirus and doing online workouts,” Smith said. “I’m proud of how young people stepped up and filled in a lot of big jobs.”

St. Charles West won its 16th consecutive games in the rivalry series with St. Charles (1-6, 1-3).

Flint and Smith opened the game excelling in their normal routine of splitting carries. Flint displayed his knack for spinning to avoid tacklers and Smith showed his excellent vision and explosiveness. The two accounted for 45 of the 46 yards in the Warriors opening drive, with fullback Alex Meyer blasting into the end zone for the final yard and an early 6-0 Warriors lead.

But Flint only received two more carries for the rest of the game, and with high winds restricting the passing game, Smith became the focal point of the St. Charles West attack.

“I just fed off the energy of the game," Smith said. "As a senior, I had to step up and take more carries and I’m able to do that.” 

Midway through the second quarter, Smith took a handoff over right guard, found an opening and sprinted into the clear, outrunning the Pirates’ secondary for an electric 61-yard touchdown scamper.

“It was great blocking and I just ran to daylight,” Smith said.

And the Warriors’ defense was doing its part by containing St. Charles senior Tre Ward.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound bruising running back, who torched Winfield for 342 yards rushing earlier in the season, could not get rolling as the Pirates accumulated only 83 yards of total offense in the first half.

“We had to get a lot of bodies to (Ward)," St. Charles West coach Gary Strauss said. "He’s a strong runner and not a dancing back. If he gets his shoulders square, he’s tough to bring down.” 

After a bad snap on a St. Charles punt attempt gave the Warriors excellent field position, Smith scored his second touchdown, receiving a pitch and scooting into the end zone from four yards away with only 12 seconds remaining until halftime to give St. Charles West a 19-0 lead at the break.

Smith opened the second half with a 17-yard burst around right end and finished the drive with a tough 10-yard touchdown run where he dragged tacklers into the end zone. It was the Warriors’ fourth touchdown in their first five possessions.

But as Smith continued to churn out yardage for St. Charles West, Ward began to establish himself as the featured back for St. Charles.

Ward gained 83 yards rushing and finished a 12-play, 86-yard scoring drive with a bruising 13-yard bulldoze into the end zone. The senior, who finished with 30 carries for 166 yards, polished off the next drive with a 5-yard touchdown run that closed the gap to 26-14.

But the Warriors’ recovery of an onside kick and a 17-yard run by Smith on third-and-16 squashed all hopes of a dramatic Pirates’ comeback.

St. Charles played without several starters due to injury or illness and coach Bob Leonard was proud of the fight in his team until the final horn.

“We were without our starting defensive line and our starting offensive line, and it’s difficult to put freshman and sophomores in that position, but they fought and would not back down,” Leonard said.

And for St. Charles West senior defensive end and co-captain Alex Meyer, the ability to be prepared for the unexpected is what has guided St. Charles West to earn a share of the league championship.

“The motto of this year has been ‘next man up’ because you never know what is going to happen," Meyer said. "Our young guys have really stepped up and are getting the job done."

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