'Recruiting' helps Ezell-Harding rebound from rough opening game

Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 9:43pm

You’ve just lost your first game of the season 56-0, and you have all of 22 players on the team. What to do?

In the case of Ezell-Harding and coach Jeff Phillips, you recruit — from your own school.

“We were pretty young, and Columbia Academy [the team that crushed Ezell in the opener] has a really good team,” Phillips, whose team bounced back with impressive DII wins over Middle Tennessee Christian and Mt. Juliet Christian, said.

That’s because Phillips, along with the help of new Ezell president Beecher Frasier, snagged former players Brandon Compton and Austin Gee off the golf team and fitted them into scarlet and gray football uniforms.

Both have adapted nicely. Compton gave up golf this season while Gee opted to play both sports. The rugged 5-foot-9, 220-pound Compton jumped in as a fullback and linebacker, while the speedy Gee quickly made his mark as a talented receiver.

“Mr. Frazier has made a big emphasis to all of our students toward a commitment to excellence,” Phillips said. “That made a huge difference on the decisions of Brandon and Austin to come out for football. Brandon gives us a big boost in our running game, and Austin played for us in middle school, and we’re glad he’s back with us again.

“Their presence, along with the addition of a few others got our numbers up to about 27.”

This year, the Eagles (3-7 in 2010) are 2-0 so far at home.

Columbia Academy’s win was vacated by the TSSAA for the use an ineligible player, but the Eagles still were credited with a loss, per association rules.

The biggest impact player for the Eagles is quarterback Blake Smotherman who, through three games, leads the Nashville area in rushing. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound junior, has 570 yards and five touchdowns on 32 carries. He is just ahead of Maplewood speedster Ladarius Vanlier, who has 500 rushing yards.

“I love running the ball when coach calls my number,” Smotherman, also a standout baseball player, said. “The line has really come on, and that makes my job that much easier.

“I didn’t know I was Nashville’s leading rusher," he added. "That’s awesome.”

“Blake really makes us go,” Phillips said. “We have a good corps of receivers, with Corey Teague doing especially well.”

“I learned a lot from [last year’s quarterback] Blake Mitchell,” Smotherman said. “This year, I hope to make my own mark. We’re shooting for the playoffs, and if our line keeps blocking well, and we keep improving, we can go a long way.”

Next up is a tough trip to Donelson Christian Academy (3-0) Friday. Both teams are 2-0 in their respective DII divisions.

“We’re both 2-0 on our side of DII,” Phillips said. “It’s a huge game. They always have an outstanding team.”

“They’re a great team,’’ Smotherman said. “We’ll be successful, if we keep playing the way we have the past two weeks.”

Not to mention playing with all of the players they have had for the past two weeks.

(Week 3)

Friday’s games
Baylor at MBA
BGA at Pearl-Cohn
Brentwood High at Hunters Lane
Centennial at Antioch
Ezell-Harding at DCA
Glencliff at Lebanon
Goodpasture at JPII
Harpeth at Nashville Christian
Hillsboro at East Literature
Hillwood at Ryan
Lincoln County at Independence
Lipscomb at Overton
Maplewood at Riverdale
McGavock at Franklin
Raleigh-Egypt at Ensworth
Ravenwood at Cane Ridge
Whites Creek at Davidson Academy