AZTEC — It was a pick-your-poison scenario for the Kirtland Central defense when the team tried to stop Aztec quarterback Cody Smith on Friday night.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior plays a lot like his favorite athlete, Carolina Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton, and he tore the Broncos apart with 388 total yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions as his Tigers rolled to a 62-35 victory.
"We were just looking for weaknesses in their defense," Smith said. "We found out we could go over the top after we got out to a good start with our run game. Austin Clay was running the ball well."
The Tigers totaled 238 rushing yards on a 7.7 yards-per-carry average, and Smith was responsible for a huge chunk of that, rumbling for 137 yards on 12 carries.
Whether his runs were designed or improvised, Smith did a consistently good job of following his blockers to get past the trenches before utilizing his size and speed to shed tacklers. He constantly broke free into KC's secondary, piling up eight rushes of 10 yards or more.
"He was able to lead our offense with a balanced attack," Aztec coach Matt Steinfeldt said. "We saw him control the offense in that fashion, and it was a really good day for him. We don't need him to throw for 400 yards a game if he can run for 100 or so."
A running back his entire life until he started splitting time at quarterback in his eighth-grade season, Smith is a natural runner. But Steinfeldt recognized Smith's arm strength was advanced for his age when the coach transitioned him to quarterback. Steinfeldt also thinks Smith has a great mind for the game.
Limited depth at the quarterback position last year made Steinfeldt hesitant to call many running plays for Smith, since the coach runs a pass-happy offense and didn't want to risk compromising the then-sophomore's health. But the two-year starter kept getting stronger, making good decisions and wreaking havoc when he tucked the ball to run.
Smith was fully unleashed as a runner during the district portion of Aztec's schedule last season, racking up 380 rushing yards in the last four games.
Last year in October, Smith earned the trust of his coach during a game against Farmington that Aztec won 29-26. He hasn't looked back since.
"He threw a long pass to Jake Taylor for 60 or 70 yards, and as we're transitioning, I'm making a play call and we're running side to side down the field, and he's like, 'Coach, I'm not comfortable with that one,'" Stenfieldt said. "So I told him, 'You make the call.' And the next play, he scores a touchdown. That was a huge growth moment where I think he realized, 'Hey, this is my offense.'"
Smith himself is realizing he's able to keep defenses off balance with his dual-threat ability. The trust he has in his supporting cast also makes it tough for defenses to key in on either facet of his playing style.
"I feel like (defenses) want to hold up the run, but we have four great receivers so I know they have to watch them," Smith said. "So they can't only adjust to me, they have to adjust to everyone."
Smith, who already has 1,552 yards passing and 427 yards rushing through six games this year, has unlimited potential, according to his coach. The fact that he and fellow offensive skill position players Clay, Sebastian McNeal, Orlando Valenzuela, Justin Black and Zach Taylor won't be seniors until next season means Aztec's offense should be even more dominant next season.
"He'll be a three-year starter by next year, and he returns a lot of pieces around him that are going to be familiar with his style," Steinfeldt said. "We're a young football team, and there's great, upward mobility with a quarterback like Cody."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
A closer look: Cody Smith
1. Favorite team?
2. Favorite athlete?
3. Favorite food?
4. Favorite show on Netflix?
"Blue Mountain State."
5. Favorite subject in school?
6. Least favorite subject?
7. Biggest fear?
"I don't even know."
8. Do you play any other sports?
"Basketball and baseball."
9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?
"Go on vacation."
10. Do you have any pre-game rituals?
"No, not that I can think of."