Football

What it's like to block for P-W's state-record rusher Jared Smith

Jared Smith, of Pewamo-Westphalia, cuts back to a hole in the Ishpeming line late in the state title game last season. He ended the season with 3,250 rushing yards, a new state record. The Pirates are ranked No. 2 in Division 7 through four weeks of the 2016 season.

Jared Smith, of Pewamo-Westphalia, cuts back to a hole in the Ishpeming line late in the state title game last season. He ended the season with 3,250 rushing yards, a new state record. The Pirates are ranked No. 2 in Division 7 through four weeks of the 2016 season.

WESTPHALIA – Pewamo-Westphalia senior offensive lineman Dominic Spitzley has been fortunate to be relatively healthy during his two years as a varsity starter.

Over the past two years, Spitzley has remained a constant on an offensive line that led the way for tailback Jared Smith to set state records for rushing yards, 3,250, and touchdowns, 53, and has helped him accumulate 733 yards through the first four weeks of his senior season.

To the average fan, being a lineman is a grueling position that generates little fanfare or individual recognition. But for those in the trenches, it’s rewarding, especially when blocking for one of the state’s most decorated rushers.

“We take pride in being gritty, being in the trenches and doing the work. Jared takes care of the rest of it,” said Spitzley, who is one of four returning offensive lineman from last year’s team that reached the Division 7 state title game. “You’re never going to touch the ball, and that’s fine with us.

Spitzley said the line feels just as much of a part of Smith’s accomplishment as the area’s leading rusher this season does.

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The Pirates (4-0) are currently ranked No. 2 in Division 7 in the latest Associated Press high school football poll, once again relying on Smith and the offensive line to punish opponents for 48 minutes.

Junior lineman Nolan Hagen said Smith has never been shywhen it comes to crediting the linemen for his success. But, for Hagen, the love goes both ways.

“We’re proud of him for making us look good as well,” Hagen said. “He always says that we make him look good, but it goes both ways.”

Hagen added that the program as a whole takes pride inbeing able to successfully play a ground-and-pound game week in and week out.

“People know that we are a run team, and we know teams prepare for it,” Hagen said. “The fact that we can keep on going past all the prep they’ve put in for us, we take a lot of pride in that.”

Nick Jandernoa, a senior, moved from back-up fullback to right guard this season, and now has a different perspective on what it’s like to be in the thick of a run-heavy attack.

“You have to be very humble,” Jandernoa said. “Jared is getting all of these records, but it’s still a team sport. Everyone is putting in work.”

The Pirates are going to stick to their bread and butter as they try to make it back to Ford Field. And as long as Smith, the reigning State Journal offensive player of the year, keeps working his way up the state record books, he said he’s going to keep handing out praise left and right.

“I’ve been blessed to never really deal with injuries at all,” said Smith, who has 12 rushing touchdowns so far this year. “Our line has gone through a lot of change, and, honestly, they’re the root of everything we do.

“It’s not even the success I’ve had, but the success of the whole team runs through them.”

Lansing area high school football leaders: Sept. 22

Contact James L. Edwards III at jledwardsIII@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.

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