Gibsonburg’s Connor Smith on pace to rush for over 2,000 yards

Yaneek Smith

Press Contributing Writer

Following a 35-13 loss to Ottawa Hills in the opener, Gibsonburg has outscored its opponents by a combined 175-76.
Exhibit A for that turnaround is senior RB/LB Connor Smith.
The senior, who was recently featured by WTOL in a segment after it named him Athlete of the Week, has rushed for 1,305 yards and 18 touchdowns, plus a receiving touchdown.
The Golden Bears find themselves 4-1 and ranked fourth in the Division VII, Region 26 standings with 6.10 points, less than a point behind Antwerp, which is in first place.
Joe Wyant, now in his third season as the coach, is pleased with the experience the younger players have gained in five games.
“We have been starting a lot of new guys. We graduated a good class; we lost nine seniors and just about all, if not most of them, played both ways. We didn’t have that many starters back,” he said. “I just think the kids are getting more confident because they’re getting some playing time under their belts.”
Gibsonburg’s two most impressive victories have come in the last two weeks against Northwood (44-27) and Tiffin Calvert (44-14). The Bears blew out the Senecas and led 28-27 early in the fourth quarter against the Rangers before pulling away after Smith scored two touchdowns.
In the win over Northwood, Smith rushed 34 times for 323 yards and four touchdowns. Against Calvert, he was even better, rushing for 355 yards and six touchdowns, tying a school record.
“We played really well against Calvert; we were good in all phases of the game. Our special teams got two onside kicks and our defense played well against a team that throws it well, and our offense scored,” Wyant said. “Northwood was a close game until the very end. We were up by one point with eight minutes to go. It was a close game, a physical game for both teams. We didn’t get anybody hurt, but Northwood had a lot of guys that had to leave the field for injuries or cramping.”
As for Smith, he has carried the ball 148 times for 1,296 yards and 18 touchdowns, plus a receiving touchdown. (Last season, Smith carried the ball 183 times for 1,632 yards and 28 touchdowns.)
“What makes Connor so special is his work ethic. I’ve coached kids in other sports, and of all my 48 years coaching, he’s probably got the best work ethic that I’ve been around,” said Wyant. “He’s constantly lifting weights; he does every day of the year, even when we don’t as a team — he has a gym at his house. His work ethic is the key.”
He hasn’t done it alone, running behind a stout offensive line, plus a tight end in the Wing-T offense.
Only two of those six players are returning starters — right guard Martin Myerholtz and right tackle Camden Waugaman. The center is Alex Porteous, the left guard is Sam Hanson, the left tackle is Dylan Rodriguez and the tight end is Daniel Frost.
“Those guys are great. I wouldn’t be able to do what I’ve done without them. They hardly ever get the recognition they deserve. And in an offense like ours, they do most of the work,” said Smith. “They really work with each other, too, and try to make sure that whatever play is called will be successful, which I think is great. Our offensive line is a huge part of our entire team.”
Wyant is impressed with their growth.
“Those guys are starting to gel – they’ve gotten better,” he said. “Myerholtz is as good as any lineman that we’ve had at Gibsonburg. Waugaman is getting better, he’s real good. The first-time guys are younger and they’ve got some time under their belt.”
Smith, who is also a stellar wrestler, having won a Div. III state championship at 157 pounds last season, says he likes the Wing-T.
“I like it a lot. It really makes it tough on every opposing team’s defense because not a lot of schools run this type of offense anymore,” he said. “Our coaches teach us really well on how to execute and do our jobs in this offense, which allows us to be successful.”
Joining Smith in the backfield are two wingbacks — Nolan Hoover (456 rushing yards) and Antonio Salazar (100 rushing yards) — and quarterback Camden Mooney. They have the important tasks, when the ball isn’t thrown or handed off to them, to carry out the fakes and block for Smith.
Defensively, the Bears operate out of the 4-4.
Smith, a middle linebacker, leads the team in tackles with 66, and Myerholtz, the other middle linebacker has 39 tackles. Mooney, the free safety, has 27 tackles, and Salazar, the strong safety has 24.
“The defense, that is where I think we’re getting much better, too,” said Wyant. The first game, we started one freshman and three sophomores in the defensive backfield. Our front six includes guys that played last year, all but one. Hoover and Salazar are sophomores and they’re the outside linebackers. Our five defensive backs, they’re getting better with pass coverage.”
The remaining schedule features Monroeville and St. Joseph Central Catholic, both of whom are struggling, and Margaretta and Hopewell-Loudon, two of the best teams in the area. (The Bears faced Lakota on Friday.)


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