By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
OCEAN CITY — Sometimes it may seem as though the Hammonton High football team has just one play in its playbook — hand the ball to Kenny Smith and everybody else just get out of the way.
It’s not that simple, but boy did the junior star running back make it look easy on Friday afternoon in Hammonton’s season-opening 35-0 win over St. John Vianney at the Battle at the Beach at Carey Stadium.
He scored all five of the Blue Devils’ touchdowns — including four in the first half — and finished with nearly 150 rushing yards and 201 total yards. His day even including a rare receiving touchdown.
“I feel like we showed a lot of what we can do. We showed a little bit in the passing game, and with the running game. Me, personally, I showed how versatile I was — I can punch one in from the goal line or break one free, catch a pass. Any part of the game, I can do,” Smith, an All-State selection a year ago, said. “Hopefully it’s only up from here. We set the bar high, so hopefully I can just come out and hold myself to that standard. The passing touchdown (was probably my favorite), I haven’t had one of those in a long time.”
“It’s amazing having a kid like that,” said Hammonton linebacker Andrew Wehner. “Anytime the ball goes into his hands, you know he’s going for six.”
All of Smith’s skills were on display on one of the biggest stages he’ll play on during his career. He scored on a rather pedestrian 5-yard run to start off his scoring spree, but later in the second quarter he hauled in a pass from new quarterback Drew Craig — a transfer from Williamstown — and eluded several defenders while taking it to the house for a 58-yard scoring strike.
He added two more scoring runs in the second quarter, pushing Hammonton’s lead out to 28-0. The first came on a nifty 21-yard scamper when he broke several tackles, and for the second he bulldozed his way in from a yard out, with a little help from his teammates.
“Guys were pushing me in my back. That was a tough one,” Smith said. “They were tough down there on the goal line. It felt good to push that one in, for sure.”
Smith got plenty of help from his offensive line, consisting of Christian Medina, Cam Broadnax, Ryland Smith, Gabe Ramerez and Michael Ryan. They paved the way for nearly 200 rushing yards as Hammonton had eight ballcarriers on the day. Craig also threw for 93 yards with no interceptions.
“We have a lot of kids back and we’re definitely competing for a state championship. We lost (to Millville in the sectional final) last year and that was heartbreaking for us, but now we have a chip on our shoulders. We’re coming after it this year. We just want to keep winning and stay undefeated. We have to clean up some things. I know we made a lot of mistakes this game — the scoreboard might not show that — but we made a lot of mistakes and we need to get that cleaned up at practice,” Wehner said. “We can give it to other (running backs) as well because we’re incredible up front. We just have to keep getting after it on offense. Our line did amazing today. We have a great rotation up front.”
Hammonton (1-0, 0-0 West Jersey Football League Memorial) went 9-3 last season, winning five of its last seven games, but fell 18-16 to Millville in the South Jersey Group 4 championship game. Wehner said getting off to a great start at the Battle at the Beach is exactly what the Blue Devils needed to keep that momentum going from last year.
“This was amazing playing in this type of atmosphere. The whole stands getting after it — the players are so competitive during this because you have the hype from the fans. It was incredible,” he said. “This is great. We always talk about being 1-and-0, and we did that today.”
WHAT’S NEXT: Hammonton travels to Cherokee on Thursday at 6 p.m. St. John Vianney travels to Marlboro on Sept. 2 at 11 a.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays