By Rubin E. Grant
Coming off his worst performance of the 2020 high school football season, Oak Mountain junior quarterback Evan Smith became nearly unstoppable.
Smith, a dynamic dual-threat quarterback, finished with only 67 yards rushing on nine carries and completed only 3 of 11 passes for 40 yards in a 42-7 game at Hoover on Sept. 18.
After that, Smith exploded, with his most eye-opening performance coming in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs when he ran for 320 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries in a 41-28 victory at Austin in Decatur.
He followed that with 217 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries in a narrow 24-21 loss to Hoover in the quarterfinals. The game ended when Smith was stopped on a questionable spot on a fourth-and-1 play at the Hoover 25-yard line with 1:14 remaining in the game.
Smith finished the season with 1,719 yards on 171 carries (143.3 yards a game average) and was 44 of 103 passing for 620 yards and six scores.
He was the unanimous choice by Over the Mountain coaches for the 2020 OTMJ Offensive Player of the Year.
“I certainly think he’s deserving,” Oak Mountain coach Cris Bell said. “He has always been just a tremendous athlete and a great kid. With respect to what he did during the season, he showed tremendous leadership and great maturity.”
Bell was voted the 2020 OTMJ Coach of the Year after leading the Eagles to a 7-5 record and guiding Oak Mountain to its first playoff victory since 2014. The Eagles won their first four games and were 6-1 for only the second time in program history before stumbling down the stretch, including narrow losses to Clay-Chalkville to end the regular season and to Hoover in the playoffs.
“My staff and my kids did a heck of job, especially managing COVID,” Bell said. “The kids bought in and were really hungry that we got to play. It was probably the most enjoyable fall I have had since I’ve been coaching.”
Bell knows Smith was the catalyst for what Oak Mountain accomplished.
“The light came on for him after the first time we played Hoover,” Bell said. “In the aftermath of that game, he took ownership for it and took off. Up until then, he had allowed his athletic ability to make plays, but after that he started making plays with his mind. In the second half of the year, he was calling more than 50 percent of the plays, particularly in the running game, or was checking us into better plays at the line.”
Smith is a low-key youngster who has been Oak Mountain’s starting quarterback since he was a freshman. He attributed his phenomenal season to his teammates.
“The season was something I’ve never ever experienced,” Smith said. “I grew up so much. All the hard work me and my teammates put in paid off. We stuck together and fought for each other.”
Smith heads the All-OTM offense that includes three of his teammates, running back Judah Tait, lineman Nic Rigdon and receiver Noah Young.
Hoover landed three players on the offensive squad, lineman Nic Paradise and receivers R.J. Hamilton and Malik Thomas.
Two Briarwood players made the team, running back Luke Reebals and lineman Carson McKeen.
Rounding out the offense are Mountain Brook lineman Jack Smith, Vestavia Hills lineman Dawson Ray and Spain Park receiver Cooper Kelly.
Spain Park’s Drake Tabor was named the placekicker.