WATERTOWN — After leading the Wilmington High School football team to its first win of the season, senior captain Bailey Smith couldn't help but make a funny crack in his post-game interview.
"I'm not going to be ashamed to show my face around town anymore," he said with a laugh. "It's fun finally getting a win. It feels great."
The Wildcats were able to get the 33-7 win over Watertown behind Smith's 123 rushing yards and three touchdown performance, while he also had another strong game on defense at linebacker, which included pouncing on a fumble.
He scored on touchdown runs of 2, 30 and 5 yards, all coming in the first half that saw him rush for 107 of his 123 yards. He started the game off with a bang, taking the ball all but one play of the 9-play, 69-yard scoring drive.
"It's good to go out there and set the tone," he said. "When you go in and you get stuffed, you can tell it's going to be a rough one. But today we marched right down the field and that was a lot of fun."
The previous two weeks Wilmington couldn't set the tone, losing by big margins to two of the top teams in the state in Bishop Fenwick and Melrose. While Watertown is not in the same caliber as those teams, it's a program that came into the game with two more wins than Wilmington had.
That being said, in the team's three games, Wilmington played the better teams but also struggled to find its own identity. That seemed to change on Friday. Head Coach Craig Turner changed things up, moving his top wide receiver Christian Robarge into a split QB role to run the 'Spread Offense', while freshman Joe McCauley took the snaps out of the 'Power-I' formation. The Spread was used to get Robarge to run or throw the ball, while the Power-I was used to get Smith the ball, and move it down the field.
"(This new offense) is just so much easier to run the outside stuff," said Smith. "Christian can make people miss. He's quick and he's just good with the ball in his hands."
And so is Number 43.
"I was just trying to get down field — put my shoulder down and get as many yards as I can," said Smith, number 43. "I'm not really trying to score a big (gain) — just trying to get four yards, four yards and four yards."
In that first drive, Smith had 8 carries for 38 yards including lugs of 3, 7, 0, 6, 9, 4, 8 and 2 yards. After he pounced on the fumble to give his team the ball back, Smith then went six and nine yards, moving the ball to the Watertown 44. After a 14-yard run by Robarge, it was back to the Power-I with Smith taking the ball 30 yards for what proved to be the game winning score.
"It was an ISO (Isolation) play and they were running up (towards me)," said Smith. "I saw our left tackle Pat McAndrew just smoke their linebacker so I cut off of him and I just booked it as fast as I could."
That gave Wilmington a 13-0 lead after the first quarter. About seven minutes later, Smith was at it again scoring his third TD of the half, this one from five yards out giving Wilmington a commanding 19-0 lead. His TD run gave him 102 rushing yards at that point, with 4:34 left in the second quarter!
"I think the (guys on the offensive line) were really coming off their line (and blocks), talking a lot and I feel like they were really getting into it," said Smith, passing the buck of success onto this teammates.
Watertown countered with a TD, before Robarge found Gavin Erickson in the end zone for a score before the first half ended. Robarge tossed his second TD pass of the game to Joao Germano in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.
From there, Wilmington's defense held the Raiders off the scoreboard, limiting the team to just 156 total yards of offense, while coming up with three turnovers.
"The scores don't really reflect how well we play on defense, but we usually play really well on defense and I think today kind of opened some eyes a bit," said Smith.
While this performance may open the eyes of future opponents, it really didn't open the eyes of Smith's coach, who has said all along that this kid is pretty special.
"I'm just happy for him. Bailey works so hard and probably harder than anyone else in the program," said Turner. "He will tell you that he gets a lot of late night texts from me. He's my therapist at times. I'm always bouncing things off him, asking what do you think about this or that and I trust his opinion just as much as I trust my coaches because he's like having another coach on the field. If he sees something, 10-out-of-10 times, I'm going to give it a shot because I trust him like that.
“I'm just so happy for him. He's a kid who has put absolutely every ounce of work and energy into this program the last four years. For him to be awarded with a night like this is just tremendous. No one deserves it more than Bailey.”