SPENCER — Late in the fourth quarter against Star Spencer on Thursday night, John Marshall senior Devion Smith asked one of the Bears' assistant coaches if he could return an upcoming punt.
The suggestion made it to the ears of first-year head coach Rashaun Woods, who promptly inserted his most dynamic playmaker into the role with the Bears trailing by one point at Star Spencer's Twidwell Stadium.
Smith hadn't returned a punt all season, but with 1:01 left to play, he pulled in the Star Spencer kick on one bounce at his own 33-yard line, slipped to his right and blazed down the sideline — with the help of a few key blocks — for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown in a 26-20 victory.
“We were down and we needed a big play,” Smith said. “I asked if I could do it, and they put me back there.”
Smith, who had eight touchdown receptions in the Bears' first three games, was limited in the pass game by constant double coverage. But he found his opportunity to impact the game and gave John Marshall an important victory in the District 3A-3 opener.
“He's just dynamic, our most physically gifted kid. We've put him in situations this year to try and take advantage of that,” Woods said. “He's one of the best talents I've ever come across. I know a lot of the big-time colleges maybe have a lot of their guys picked, but he's as good as I've ever seen at this level.”