WILLIAMSBURG — Thomas Smith's athleticism at wide receiver netted him a Virginia Tech football scholarship this past February. The speed and explosiveness Jahlil Green turned into 1,448 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns in 10 regular season games this year will probably land him a Division I scholarship in 15 months.
For all of their glitz, Smith and Green don't characterize Lafayette High School football. The face of the program, a fully bearded one at that, is Peter Hurst.
Hurst, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior, opens holes for his skill guys at right tackle and stifles the opposition's with tackles at middle linebacker. He's tough, strong, physical and eats, sleeps and drinks football except for those quiet moments at night when he's chilling out playing jazz on his bass guitar.
"In high school football, you can beat a lot of people just by beating them physically," Rams coach Andy Linn said in describing both Hurst's and the program's style the past 16 years. "Peter is just a solid, solid, solid physical player.
"He figured out early on that if he's the first one to deliver a blow, he's got an advantage."
Hurst has nearly 30 knockdown (pancake) blocks this year for an offense that routinely puts up 35 points and 350 rushing yards. The stat prompts humility rather than hubris.
"Every single lineman we go against in the Bay Rivers District is good, so getting a pancake block is huge," said Hurst, who leads the Rams (9-1) into a Region I Division 3 playoff semifinal against Park View (9-2) on Friday at Wanner Stadium.
He is similarly unpretentious about his team-high 75 tackles.
"The only reason that me and (fellow linebackers) Darren Patton, Schekel Wallace and Blake Guminsky make so many plays is that the defensive linemen are doing their job," he said.
Although he came to defense later in his career, as a junior, he's become as valuable as he is to the offense. And for some of the same reasons.
Hurst is football smart, the guy who makes the defensive calls and makes sure everyone is in the right place. And he's so difficult to block, most opponents run away from, rather than at him.
But Hurst is an offensive lineman at heart. Although it would help if he were 40 pounds heavier, he hopes to convince a Richmond or William and Mary to give him a shot.
"A high level academic school with high level football is what I'm looking for," Hurst said.
Linn, a former William and Mary offensive lineman, thinks Hurst can make it at the FCS level.
"Peter is one of those guys who, when the others begin weeding themselves out, he'll still be there because he'll do the right things," Linn said. "He does everything right as an offensive lineman: hip roll, flat back, good steps and hand placement.
"He's really been the glue to the whole line. He's only the second four-year starter we've had in my 16 years here, and when someone has a question, they'll ask him."
Hurst's respect for the guys he plays with in the trenches is mutual.
Left tackle Carlos Coronado: "He's a big run block guy. You can count on him to blow his end out every play."
Left guard Marquan Harris: "He's a big pulling trap guard and he'll make a kid pay every play."
Center Coleman Goad: "We've needed him to make big blocks as a sophomore and he has."
Right tackle Tyler New: "When we down block, he'll hit real hard and put a guy on the ground."
Tight end Parker Kindley: "We knew he'd be a weapon in the pass game, but he's been 150 percent blocking."
Their traits, embodied by Hurst, characterize Lafayette football. Their faces may be unrecognizable, but their contributions are not.
"We take pride in blocking, and the support we get from the (skill players) is big," Hurst said. "Every play they'll say, `Great, thanks for getting me the hole.'"Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun