Wyatt Smith radiates confidence.
Not the cocky, struttin’ through the hallway sort of confidence that borders on arrogance. No, Smith wears his confidence like a tailored suit. If he could, he might wear his football helmet at a rakish angle, but since that’s impossible, the Freeman High School senior quarterback is content to wear a knowing smile that says, in the poker game of life, he has pocket aces.
Returning to the starting lineup after a year away from center, Smith has led the Scotties to three straight wins after a tough, opening week loss to Colville in the Kickoff Classic on the red turf of Roos Field at Eastern Washington University.
Smith stepped into the starting lineup as a sophomore when junior quarterback Cody Unfred was injured in the season opener. Last year he served as Unfred’s backup, picking up playing time as the season progressed.
Head coach Jim Wood praised Smith for his ability to run the offense and make smart decisions – and especially for his ability to get the job done without making mistakes – as an underclassman.
This year, after being steeped in the Freeman offense for two full seasons, he has an understanding of the game, and a belief in his own ability to execute it, that is infectious.
“I have so much more confidence now than I did when I was a sophomore,” Smith said. “My reads come faster, I recognize defenses faster, my arm is stronger and I’m more accurate with my passes. If there’s an opening, I know I can put the ball where it needs to be.”
Smith said that, most of the time, when he comes to the sideline to confer with offensive coordinator Kelly Neely, there are no surprises.
“He’ll tell me the play and it will be the one I knew he was going to call,” Smith said. “We really are on the same page. He knows me and I know him and it just clicks.”
In the first game of the Northeast A League season last week against visiting Northport, Smith threw for three touchdowns – two to wide receiver Kellen Miller – to lead Freeman to a 42-7 victory.
In the season opening loss to Class 2A Colville, Smith threw a pair of touchdown passes to Miller; he added four more a week later in a win at Class 2A Pullman, including a pair of scoring passes to running back Markus Goldbach (one covering 56 yards) and a 75-yard scoring pass to Kian Gentman. He added two more touchdown passes in a 34-6 win over Bonners Ferry.
That makes 11 touchdown passes and 800 yards passing in just four games.
“I have a great group of receivers and I have all the confidence in the world in them,” Smith said. “All I have to do is get the ball within 10 yards of them and they go and get it. I keep telling people that it’s not me – it’s them.
“Our offense is playing really well right now. We’re not quite there yet. We have to keep working hard and pushing to get better. But I’m excited about what we can do and how good we still can be.”
Part of that success is due to the dedication the group put into summer workouts.
“We were out there together and I was throwing to them a couple days each week,” Smith said. “We played in a seven-on-seven league on Monday nights and we got a lot of good work in then, and we would get together on our own, too. My family would be at the lake and I would say to myself ‘I have to go throw with my guys’ and I’d come back just to get our work in.
“That makes a big difference. We know each other so well by now that it makes it fun to play with these guys.”
Coming into the season, the biggest question facing the Freeman offense would be who would step into the shoes of graduated running back Quinn Robinson – an all-purpose back who was a threat to score whenever he touched the football.
“The two guys we have this year have really stepped up,” Smith said, referring to Goldbach and Christian Dresback. “They really do a great job. One of them does a great job running the football and the other is a great receiver – in fact, he’s the one who gets me most of my passing yards. It’s not always me throwing the ball down field. A lot of the time I just dump it off to (Goldbach) and he runs for a lot of yards.”
Still, Smith said, he has a secret weapon.
Two recent additions to the Freeman football coaching staff have been Jon and Andrew Dresback, both former Scotties quarterbacks and Christian Desback’s older brothers.
“Oh, that is such a big help for me to be able to come to them and talk about a situation,” Smith said. “They both played football in college. They’re both great resources for me.”
When the question comes up about what it’s like to walk the halls of Freeman High as the starting quarterback, Smith’s confident smile turns the slightest bit sheepish and, truth be told, he blushes just a little bit.
“Oh, wow,” he smiles. “I would have to admit that I probably have just a little bit more attitude than is good for me. But it is so much fun to play high school football and I just want to enjoy every minute of it for as long as it lasts.”