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Football: Wheeler QB Riley Smith has coach’s confidence

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Updated: September 21, 2013 6:29AM



VALPARAISO — Most people wouldn’t be able to pick out quarterback Riley Smith if he was standing on the sidelines with his teammates.

In fact, most would probably guess that he was the kicker if they had to make a guess.

Standing 5-foot-8 (that might be pushing it) and weighing in around 140 pounds, you wouldn’t get the impression that he was the guy.

But second-year coach Tony Klimczak absolutely has faith in Smith and his ability to lead Wheeler.

“To look at him, you wouldn’t think of him as a football player… maybe the kicker or something. But this kid’s a natural leader. This will be his first year at the varsity quarterback but he’s played quarterback here before.

“In one game his sophomore year on the JV, he brought his team back from three touchdowns down at halftime when he subbed in because of an injury to the team’s starting quarterback. He’s someone that can put the team on his shoulders when he needs to and that’s the kind of guy you need. He’s got a silent humbleness about him and the kids respect him.”

Smith, who made three picks as the starting free safety last season, said he’s been a QB since he was 6 years old playing with the Crown Point Junior Bulldogs so he’s been looking forward to this moment for quite some time.

“I never thought I’d be a quarterback in high school because of my size,” Smith said. “He just told me I won the job (a week before camp started). I’m looking forward to helping my team to some wins.”

The Bearcats are hoping to put the 2012 season behind them despite a record that would make most schools jealous. Wheeler started 0-3 last season but won its next six regular season games before losing to Andrean in the sectional opener to finish 6-4.

Wheeler finished undefeated in the regular season the prior four seasons and were coming off their first sectional title in school history so expectations are high.

“Our main goal is to win state,” Smith said. “But our first goal is to take our undefeated season back, then win a sectional and go from there. We’ve got some solid running backs like Sam Bolla, Alex Ruesta, Jake Bertucci and Matt Pappas so we have the guys to do it.”

The key will be Smith, who will lead the Bearcats running the option.

“We’re going to be an option team this year and he’s going to be the element to make it go,” Klimczak said. “We have a big fullback and a fast tailback and we just need somebody to run it. I wouldn’t label (Smith) a runner or a passer… I’d label him a quarterback and a leader.”



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