Joe Smigiel was at his blocking and tackling best last Friday night at Palos Verdes. The two-way Newbury Park High strongman would chaperon scatback Walter Thomas through a hole, then turn around and lay a crunching hit on an opposing runner.
Newbury Park defeated Palos Verdes, 19-9, for its first playoff victory since 1983. The outcome was not decided until midway through the fourth quarter, however. Not until Smigiel unclenched his fists enough to deftly take a handoff from quarterback Jai Johnston on a tackle-counter play and ramble seven yards for the final touchdown.
Twice this season the play has been called, and twice Smigiel (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) has scored. The novelty was spawned from a traditional counter play that wasn't working the way it was designed.
"We were trying to run a play to the tailback, where he starts one way to give the guard and tackle time to pull, then counters back and follows the tackle through the hole," Coach George Hurley said. "Well, the guard was making his block and Smigiel was getting through the hole untouched, but the hole was closing behind him before the tailback could get through."