Taje Smith worked this offseason on getting quicker.
In Homewood-Flossmoor’s opener at Marian Catholic before more than 4,000 fans on Friday, the work paid off, quickly.
On the Vikings’ first offensive snap of the season, Smith took the handoff from Ronald Johnson and sprinted 44 yards up the right sideline for a touchdown. He opened the second half with a 30-yard jaunt on the same play call, and added a 10-yard touchdown run on the way to a nine-carry, 105-yard day and a 35-7 win that gave H-F the SouthtownStar Rivals Series Turf War Trophy.
“I’ve been training all summer long, working on speed, acceleration and explosiveness,” Smith said. “My line gave it to me, I saw it, and I hit it.”
Marian hit back, for a half at least. The Spartans went to the locker tied at 7 before fading against the Vikings’ superior firepower and numbers — H-F’s 96-man roster doubled the size of Marian’s.
“Give them credit. They thumped us pretty good physically,” Marian coach Dave Mattio said.
Marian managed just 65 yards of offense. Ki-Jana Crawford’s 7-yard touchdown run was the Spartans’ only trip to the end zone. It came with 59.8 second to play in the second quarter, and was set up by Patrick Swanson’s interception of a Ronald Johnson pass.
On the whole, though, it wasn’t a bad opener for Johnson, who despite coach Craig Buzea’s pledge to play three quarterbacks used only two, and only Johnson until late in the fourth quarter.
The transfer from Sandburg finished 10-of-19 for 144 yards and two TDs, a 36-yarder to Patrick Sheehan and an 11-yarder to Willie Ross.