In the third game of the 2014 football season, Dalton Smith suffered a dislocated hip. The injury kept the Monrovia freshman out for the rest of the season; coach Kevin Hutchins wasn’t sure how quickly Smith would recover.
On the second play of Monrovia’s 33-6 win over Whiting on Saturday for the Class 2A championship at Lucas Oil Stadium, the 6-foot, 175-pound Smith raced 76 yards up the left sideline for a tone-setting touchdown.
“It was just a freak injury,” Smith said. “The top of my body went one way and my lower body stuck. (My hip) just blew out. A lot of physical therapy got me back to 100 percent.”
Smith rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns to lead third-ranked Monrovia (14-1) to its first state championship in any sport. The Bulldogs had made one previous football finals appearance, falling in the 2009 Class 2A game by a touchdown to Fort Wayne Luers.
Smith was in Lucas Oil Stadium that night, watching the game as a fourth grader. So were most of his current teammates, also in elementary school at the time.
“I remember the last drive when we tried to get it in the end zone for the win,” Smith said. “We couldn’t quite do it. I remember wanting to be out there. That was all of our dreams – to be here.”
Hutchins was on the sideline in 2009. He left after that season to spend two years at Mooresville before returning in 2012 to begin building again toward this season.
The Bulldogs aren’t flashy. In their final two playoff wins, they didn’t complete a pass. No passing yards in two weeks. But after rushing for 429 yards in a 37-31 semistate win over Howe, Monrovia pounded Whiting for 373 yards on the ground.
“I enjoy being a running team,” said senior Jaden Rhea, who rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. “People think of us as a hard-nosed team. I like it that way.”
Sixth-ranked Whiting (13-2), making its first state finals appearance, answered Smith’s early lightning bolt with a methodical 12-play, 52-yard drive. Tom Davenport scored on a 1-yard run to pull Whiting within 7-6.
That was, essentially, Whiting’s game plan: keep the ball out of the hands of the Monrovia offense as much as possible.
“If we were moving the sticks, we were pretty happy,” Whiting coach Jeff Cain said. “Eating clock and keeping the ball away from them. We finished that first drive, which helped.”
Whiting couldn’t do it again, however. Monrovia pushed its lead to 14-6 late in the first quarter on a 5-yard run by Rhea. The score stayed there until Monrovia’s first drive in the third quarter, when the Bulldogs turned a fumble recovery into a 2-yard touchdown run by Smith to make it 21-6.
Up to that point, Hutchins had been somewhat frustrated that Monrovia hadn’t been able to finish drives.
“It’s easy to get upset about it, but we made some adjustments at halftime and moved the ball at will,” Hutchins said. “Defensively, we did exactly what we wanted..”
Whiting accounted for just 236 yards of offense and turned it over three times. Quarterback Stuart Glascow was 12-for-25 for 137 yards and was intercepted twice. He ran for 63 yards but Whiting was never able to break a big run, its longest was a 9-yarder.
“We wanted to get them to throw the ball,” Hutchins said. “Our kids see that all year so it kind of plays into what we see.”
Monrovia tacked on an 18-yard touchdown run by Rhea and a 1-yard quarterback sneak by John Williams in the fourth quarter to account for the final score.
The Bulldogs will lose 15 seniors to graduation but return Smith and Garrison Lee, their second- and third-leading rushers behind the senior Rhea. Don’t expect a big philosophical change next year as Monrovia attempts to defend its title.
“We take what people give us,” Hutchins said. “They had two deep safeties all game. Why throw it if they give us the run? So that’s what we did.”
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
MONROVIA 33, WHITING 6
Whiting 6 0 0 0 — 6
Monrovia 14 0 7 12 — 33
Mon – Dalton Smith 76 run (Brock Stader kick)
WHS – Thomas Davenport 1 run (kick blocked)
Mon – Jaden Rhea 5 run (Stader kick)
Mon – Smith 2 run (Stader kick)
Mon – Rhea 18 run (kick failed)
Mon – John Williams 1 run (kick blocked)
Rushing – Whiting: Stuart Glascow 16-63, Thomas Davenport 6-17, Carlos Madden 2-12, Mitchell Alicea 1-3, Martin Petruf 2-3, Pedro Valerio 1-1, Dylan White 2-0. Monrovia: Dalton Smith 13-167, Jaden Rhea 19-122, Garrison Lee 18-68, John Williams 5-20.
Passing — Whiting: Glascow 12-25-2 137. Monrovia: Williams 0-2-0 0.
Receiving — Whiting: Petruf 4-42, Alicea 3-47, Madden 2-31, Adam Zorich 1-11, Valerio 1-6, Caleb Macon 1-0. Monrovia: none.