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Smith Adds Some Starr Power, Leads Taft Over Banning

High school football: Sophomore catches two touchdown passes and Toreadors defeat Pilots, 28-14.


WILMINGTON — Smith. Remember the name.

Need a little more? OK, Steve Smith.

It might lack the panache of say, the name of his coach--Troy Starr--but Smith stands out. There is game in that name.

In his first varsity football game, the sophomore fueled Taft High's 28-14 victory over Banning by making nine receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns Friday night. He also keyed a defense that held the Pilots to 171 yards by intercepting a pass, breaking up two others and making five tackles.

"So many people were talking about me before I even played a game," he said. "I knew I could do it. It was exciting."

Smith made two receptions on Taft's opening drive, including a touchdown on a 28-yard fade route. He scored again in the first quarter on a 12-yard catch as the Toreadors built a 14-0 lead.

Throwing the passes to Smith and several other receivers was Ricky Clausen. Don't forget that name, either.

Clausen probably sounds familiar because his brother, Casey, starred at Alemany last year and is at Tennessee. Ricky transferred from Alemany to Taft before the season. If his debut is a fair indication, he might eclipse Casey's numbers.

A left-handed passer, Clausen threw for 311 yards, completing 19 of 31. In addition to the scoring hook-ups with Smith, he connected with Chris Morgan for a 31-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Clausen, who has committed to Louisiana State, had three passes intercepted, but cut him a little slack. This was his first varsity start.

How good will the Clausen-to-Smith connection become when they gain some experience?

"We'll see," Clausen said. "I just needed to get some confidence. We were playing Banning, a fabulous team. I just went to my receivers and my line was great."

Banning, which defeated Taft in openers each of the last two seasons, retaliated in the second quarter, scoring twice to even the score.

The Toreadors received the kick to begin the third quarter. They needed to reassume control.

And they did, marching 80 yards in eight plays. Clausen hit Smith for 12 yards, then for 44. On third and 11, Lee Marks scored on a 31-yard run.

The defense took over from there. Two Banning quarterbacks completed only six of 24 passes and the Pilots couldn't get anything going on the ground either, rushing for 77 yards.

"We had a lot of guys play great," Starr said. "Smith will get the publicity, but Morgan, the line, everybody contributed."

Smith earned top billing. Don't forget that name. It's the only thing ordinary about him.

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