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Smith can take it the distance

Daily Pilot High School Football Player of the Week

Senior running back, a transfer from Silverado High in Victorville, rushed for 149 yards and two TDs on six carries.

September 14, 2011|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(Scott Smeltzer…)

Wally Grant used to sell bats for a living, so he knows a home-run hitter when he sees one.

On the football field, Grant has one in Mario Smith. The senior running back last week took Costa Mesa High's first play from scrimmage to the house.

In five seconds, he covered 77 yards. Smith is fast, but not that explosive.

Whoever ran the scoreboard that night at Garden Grove High must have started the clock late on Smith's touchdown run. Grant said he's clocked Smith in the 40-yard dash several times at 4.4 seconds.

The math doesn't add up for a run almost twice as long as the 40-yard dash.

One thing that was accurate about Smith's run was no one was catching the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder after he broke up the middle.

"I know I'm going to beat everybody out here," said Smith, before pointing out the reasons for his success. "But it's all about just our linemen. If our linemen block and stay focused, there's no stopping us."

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The only person getting in Smith's way was his coach. Six carries is all Grant gave Smith.

He made the most of the limited touches against Santiago. Smith recorded 149 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half.

Smith's time was up. The Mustangs ran away with a 42-7 victory, their first win of the season, their first win under Grant.

"Just enough of work to get a sweat going and then get him out and keep him healthy," Grant said. "He was a workhorse the week before [in a 34-13 season-opening loss at Buena Park, where he carried the ball 32 times for 136 yards and one touchdown]. It was nice for him to be able to catch a breath.

"I could've left him in and he probably would've had 500 yards when it was all said and done, but that's not what we're trying to get accomplished here."

What Grant is aiming to do is turn around the Mustangs' program, back to the days of 1993. Back then, Costa Mesa won the program's first outright league title and reached its only CIF Southern Section title game.

Grant was a part of that staff as an assistant. He's now in his first year in charge of his alma mater. What better way to start his first varsity head coaching stint than with an electrifying tailback in Smith.

When Smith said he moved into town in May because his mother found a better job, Kiesha Brown gave her son two options. He can transfer from Silverado High in Victorville to Costa Mesa or Estancia.

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