tampabay.com

Elbow injury sidelines top back

Chance exists, though, that Armwood's Smith might return this season.

By JOEY KNIGHT
Published August 27, 2006


SEFFNER - The elbow injury sustained Friday night by Armwood tailback Eric Smith isn't as severe as initially feared, and coach Sean Callahan said there is a slight chance the standout junior could return by the end of the regular season.

Smith dislocated his left elbow on an option play early in the third quarter of Friday's 19-9 victory against Hillsborough, and immediately was taken to a Brandon hospital. Saturday morning, Callahan said the elbow was back in place and X-rays revealed only a slight fracture.

Smith is set for an MRI exam in the next couple of days. Callahan said a best-case scenario is for Smith to return in six to eight weeks, but insisted he won't rush Smith back into action.

The state playoffs begin Nov. 10 - 10 weeks from Friday.

"As far as the X-rays go, that was encouraging," Callahan said.

Smith ran for nearly 1,500 yards as a sophomore, but managed only 20 on 11 carries Friday while 220-pound senior Marquise Branton did most of the Hawks' damage on the ground against a Terriers defense that appeared more vulnerable to the fullback.

Callahan said the injury occurred when Smith ran left on an option and cut back upfield before being taken down by a "clean tackle."

"We knew (Friday) was not going to be a tailback night because of the way they defended. We knew it was going to be a big fullback night," Callahan said moments after the game.

"Marquise got the carries, and when Eric got it he wanted to be so physical every time he got the ball because he just wasn't getting the ball as much as he usually does, and he probably did something with that arm in there."

In Smith's absence, seniors Tashard Dickens, Daniel Gentilesco and Thurston Reeves will compete for backfield duty in the top-ranked Hawks' triple-option offense, Callahan said.

"This is where coaching comes in; we have to do some things that allow us to stay on the same level," Callahan said Saturday morning. "We can't really be about one guy, it's our system that carries us."