Swain County junior Raymius Smith was sacked on the final play of Saturday’s NCHSAA 1-AA championship game, bringing an inglorious end to his experience at Carter-Finley Stadium.
But the quarterback had already made a 44-34 loss to Southwest Onslow memorable for a different reason.
Smith set a single-game school record with 426 passing yards, bettering the mark which formerly belonged to Maroon Devils legend Heath Shuler (408).
Shuler played for Swain County from 1987 to 1990, before continuing his football career at the University of Tennessee and later the NFL.
The Maroon Devils athletic department has a policy that prohibits its athletes from speaking with the media following losses of any kind.
So Smith was not made available on Saturday, but he let his play do all the talking.
“Ray is a heck of a quarterback. He’s a warrior,” Swain County offensive coordinator Jeff Marr said.
“You can’t put into words what he has meant to us this season. He’s just come in and done a great job.”
Smith completed 22 of 35 pass attempts with two costly interceptions on Saturday. But he also had a hand in four touchdowns for Swain County (15-1). Smith kept the ball on a pair of short quarterback keepers for scores (4 and 5 yards).
His touchdown passes were both to Greg Tisho (19 and 79 yards), a senior who finished with a school-record 13 receptions and team-high total for receving yardage (261).
Smith was named the state-championship game’s most valuable offensive player for the Maroon Devils.
“(Southwest Onslow) took the run away from us today,” Swain County coach Neil Blankenship said.
“So we had to pass a little more than usual. I thought Ray really threw it well and made plays. His receivers made plays, too, but he stayed in there and found them.”
Smith set a school record for single-season passing (1,526 yards) as a sophomore at Cherokee and made the decision to transfer to a different Smoky Mountain Conference school last winter, just weeks after Tisho made the same move.
Tisho is also the single-season record holder for receiving yardage (1,040) at Cherokee.
Smith finished with an unofficial total of 2,771 passing yards this season with most of his yards coming from Tisho (1,441) and Matthew Maennle (1,301).
Prior to this season, Shuler was the only Swain County quarterback to throw for 2,000 or more yards in one year. His record is 3,625 yards and was established in 1990.