Varsity Kansas

Bob Lutz: Smith rides off into sunset with historic performance

TOPEKA — There was the play in which Heights running back Dreamius Smith was cornered by two or three Olathe North defenders, but instead of accepting his fate he used a wicked cutback move that left a bunch of Eagles' pants on the ground as Smith zoomed 85 yards for a touchdown.

Then there was the play where he bulldozed his way through the middle of the Olathe North defense and scored from 58 yards out, only to have the play called back because of a silly block in the back far behind the play.

And there were Smith's three second-half touchdowns, all special in their own way. Whether he was running over, through or around Olathe North, he was running them out of the stadium Saturday with 286 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries.

Heights has been waiting so long for something like this. The City League, which it represents, has been waiting so long for something like this. And Heights' first state championship was highlighted by a devastating running attack led by the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Smith.

It was also the first football title for a City League school since Kapaun Mount Carmel won the 5A championship in 1987. Heights is the first USD 259 school to win since East won back-to-back championships in 1982-83. Interestingly, one of the key players on those East teams, Scott Moshier, coached Meade to the 2-1A state championship Saturday with a win over Pittsburg Colgan.

Heights wasted no time punching Olathe North, scoring on its first, second and third possessions to go up 21-0. The final was 48-14.

Little Daniel Deshazer, a dynamic wrestler who is the perfect complement to Heights' running game as a quick scat back, gained 50 yards on seven carries. DeShazer is listed at 5-4, 135 pounds. OK, 5-4. If he says so.

In any other game, 5-10, 180-pound quarterback Matt Reed would have stolen the show with his 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns as well as an 18-yard first-half TD pass to Deshazer. Reed, only a junior, was great.

But great looks only so-so in the shadow of a performance like the one Smith had Saturday.

"When I got up (Saturday) morning, I just thought that I was going to do my best,'' Smith said. "I wasn't thinking about having a huge game or having a bad game. I was only thinking about coming out here today and giving 110 percent. I did and we won.''

Smith has orally committed to Kansas and said he will sign a letter of intent with the Jayhawks in February. This might be a low blow to KU, but I'm pretty sure Smith was the best player on the Jayhawks this season and he's still in high school.

He was a man playing against boys. Olathe North never figured out how to slow him down and if Heights had given him the ball more the Falcons would have topped 48 points and Smith would have approached 400 yards.

As it was, Smith got the ball plenty.

Olathe North's tackling was a sham. The Eagles continuously tried to go up top to tackle Smith. Apparently, it never occurred to them that Smith was built like a brick house in the lower body. No, not like Heights teammate Zerrance Brickhouse, who had an outstanding game on the defensive line. But a real, honest to goodness brick house.

Smith destroyed would-be tacklers all day.

"I'm glad they tried to tackle him the way they did,'' Heights coach Rick Wheeler said. "Dreamius is a big back and he doesn't like those defensive players who are ankle biters. But those guys that try to come up top on him — that's going against one of his strengths.

"Dreamius had a pretty special day. He's a pretty special running back.''

And Heights is a pretty special team, one that concluded a perfect season and belongs in the discussion of great City League teams.

It's a remarkable accomplishment because, by now, people forget where Heights football was during the school's first 38 seasons of existence.

From 1961 through 1998, the Falcons were 79-260, a .233 winning percentage. They had two winning seasons — 5-4 records in 1969 and 1998.

It was after that 1998 season that Wheeler replaced Mike McCoy. And in his 12 seasons, Heights is 90-33. Incredible, especially since 10 previous coaches, including some very good ones, couldn't build any kind of success.

Heights was a basketball school. It would never have any success at football.

Wheeler heard that time and time again, but he wasn't deterred. Heights has had only one losing season under Wheeler and has made the playoffs six times.

And now the Falcons have a football state championship.

Heights has been good long enough that some people have forgotten the rough times. But there were enough people wandering around after the game, slapping hands and sharing hugs, who remember what Heights football used to be. Before Wheeler came along. And before Dreamius Smith shredded tacklers.