Jamestown's Rodney Smith still has hope the Eagles earn a playoff berth

Jamestown cornerback / receiver Rodney Smith has been the top receiver, part-time QB and star defensive back on a Jamestown team that can reach the playoffs for the first time in school history with a win on Friday over Warhill. (Sangjib Min, Daily Press / November 1, 2011)

Time is running short for Jamestown High senior Rodney Smith. A loss on Friday will end the Eagles' season and his high school football career.

So look for Smith to get the ball a lot in a lot of ways when the Eagles (3-6) play Warhill (6-3) on Friday at Wanner Stadium. Jamestown will be vying for the first Region I Division 4 playoff berth in program history when it faces its rival, and Smith is perfectly comfortable soaking up as much pressure as possible in effort.

"I told coach (Ryan Turnage) that if we lost and didn't make the playoffs, I wanted it on my back," said Smith, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound senior who plays quarterback, receiver, safety and kick returner. "I want to play quarterback, rather than receiver every play.

"I want the ball in my hands to help control our destiny."

Turnage is happy to oblige. Smith — who leads the Bay Rivers District with 41 receptions for 606 yards, and returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Lafayette — already was getting plenty of touches.

But increasingly, Turnage is lining up Smith at quarterback as part of the Eagles' option package. Smith has been stellar, rushing for 278 yards on 22 carries the past two games, despite playing with a painful hip pointer in a 20-13 loss to regional power Grafton last week.

"The rationale is that football is about playmakers, not plays," Turnage said. "We've got a good player touching the ball and he's pretty smart. He makes good decisions.

"We still like him at receiver and are going to use him there, too."

Turnage has that luxury because Landon Morrow, who had 71 rushing yards against Grafton, runs the option well, too. And Morrow, who's passed for 935 yards this season, is doing a good job throwing to Smith.

"I feel like we have two leaders," Smith said. "One of us can run better and the other can pass better, but both of us want it bad.

"It's not a competition between us, it's like: 'You get it, I'll get it.' Whatever it takes to win.' "

For Smith that means almost never coming off of the field. As a defensive back, he will almost invariably cover the opposition's best receiver, and is hovering around the district lead in interceptions with eight.

Two of his best games at DB have come against Lafayette's star wide receiver Thomas Smith, who has just two receptions in two meetings against Rodney Smith. Thomas Smith did have a good game returning kicks and covering passes (two interceptions) this season in a 36-20 win over Jamestown, but Rodney Smith was excited to hold his own at safety.

"As a DB you love it," Rodney Smith said of covering Thomas Smith (no relation). "Here's a guy who just committed to Virginia Tech and is one of the best athletes in the district.

"You want to line up man-to-man against a player like that."

If putting in so much on the field three ways isn't enough, Smith embraces his role of team leader — both vocally and with his actions.

"On the final play of the Bruton game, Rodney ran down a player who had intercepted a pass and tackled him at the 2," Turnage said, noting that Jamestown was trailing 26-6. "He didn't have to do that, but it was a pride thing.

"He's really matured and taken a leadership role."

Eagles receiver Demetric Radcliffe said, "Rodney hates to lose. When it comes down to crunch time he starts talking and gets emotional."

And he'll take the ball as many times as Turnage will call his number. That will be especially true Friday, because Rodney Smith — who has aspirations of playing Division 3 football — wants to finish his high school career in the playoffs.

"To be the first team to make the playoffs for Jamestown would be exciting," Smith said. "I feel like we're doing it for all the guys that played previous years, all the alumni. It feel like the town's been waiting for us to make the playoffs and now we've arrived."