BELTON — It’s unknown if D’emante Smith put in specific requests for when it took place or how it was done, but he said he wanted to be the player who scored Belton’s first touchdown of the season.
That it took five quarters — a shutout loss in Week 1 can be blamed for the delay — and was initiated via pass rather than handoff probably weren’t in the original plans. However, Smith indeed made his way into the end zone last Friday for the Tigers’ opening TD of the year.
He did it in style, too, hauling in a deep slant pass from quarterback Ruben Jimenez before outrunning a trio of defenders for a 71-yard score.
“Right after I looked it in and caught it and turned up field, I saw the guy to my left and was like, ‘Ah, here we go.’ So I tried to aim right to the goal line,” Smith said Thursday.
Shifted to wide receiver — the position he played through his sophomore season — after a year and one game at running back, it also was a welcome back TD of sorts for the senior, who later added a 30-yard touchdown catch among his five receptions and career-high 152 yards in the Tigers’ 42-30 loss to Round Rock.
It wasn’t just that he posted the touchdowns that demonstrated he didn’t have much rust to shake off. Smith’s attention to detail also signaled as much.
“How they were playing me was a different look that I didn’t expect. They played me kind of outside to force me inside and I was like, if I already have leverage on him, let me just lean up and just try to run past him and see if I can beat him with speed,” Smith said.
The Tigers certainly made changes with haste, moving the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Smith outside and handing the backfield duties to Mike Davis and Nicholas Cipolla in response to the aforementioned 48-0 whitewash at Austin Westlake in which Belton (0-2) was held to 135 total yards.
“He’s very comfortable out there and you can tell,” Belton coach Sam Skidmore said. “He does a great job running his routes, and leaning and stemming routes. So, we think it’s going to be a big bonus for us.”
The tweaks paid dividends last week as far as statistics were concerned, and Smith believes another week in the current setup will help toward Belton picking up its first victory of the season.
The Tigers travel to take on Copperas Cove (1-1) at 7:30 tonight in the teams’ District 12-6A opener.
“I think we are finally getting those clicks that we need, those changes that we need. We had good, strong practices this week. Everyone was focused,” Smith said. “Mike D, that man, he can really lay the hammer. He’s that person who can get us those yards when we need them. He’s not scared. He knows what he needs to do. Nick is doing really good understanding where to go, and he’s quick and fast.”
While he freely speaks highly of his fellow Tigers, Smith’s favorite teammate is at home — his mom. They also are each other’s biggest fan.
Smith said his mom has raised him as a single parent from the time he was about 2 or 3 years old and, though there have been other adults in his life, she’s been the one constant. He said his mom loves football because he loves it, and he hopes the sport leads to more opportunities down the road.
“She’s definitely my why. She’s the reason I play football and the reason why I want to do great things,” Smith said. “At school, they ask us what we want to do when we grow up. And I’ve always said the same thing. I want to do something successful to where my mama never has to work again. I want to take care of my mama.”
If football doesn’t pan out as the means to achieve that, Smith said, “College is a must for me. That’s my goal.”
Smith’s more immediate goal is continuing to help Belton’s offense. He said he was at first “bummed” about the second position change of his varsity career. The initial reaction mostly stemmed from the fact that he had spent his entire junior year — during which he appeared in nine games and recorded 255 yards and four TDs on 51 carries — and this past offseason fine-tuning the running back craft only to have to ditch that one game into this season.
Then, he broadened his perspective.
“I always loved wide receiver,” Smith said. “And I understood it was a way to help the team.”
And the team appears to be quite important to Smith, who started playing football at 8 years old and spent his elementary days in Temple before settling in Belton as a seventh grader.
“I feel like being part of a team is just having someone to lean on when you can’t extend, having people there to support you,” Smith said. “Over here, it’s a brotherhood where you build relationships with people and get closer to them. I think that’s the beauty of it, just getting closer to people and just knowing them because of how much time you spend with them.”
Celebrating more trips into the end zone wouldn’t be a bad way to spend even more time together.