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Smith, Antelope Valley Spoil Canyon’s Title Quest, 28-22

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Tommie Smith promised a 200-yard performance.

Tommie Smith delivered.

Smith, Antelope Valley High’s senior multithreat tailback, turned the Southern Section Division II championship game into his personal showcase Saturday night before 6,000 at Antelope Valley.

And the Antelopes defeated Canyon, 28-22, to capture their first conference championship since 1981.

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The game plan for Antelope Valley Coach Brent Newcomb was a simple one:

“Give it to Tommie,” said Newcomb, whose players doused him with water seconds after the victory. “No. 44. I love the guy. He’s a super athlete.”

Smith, who was quoted in a local newspaper this week as saying that he would rush for at least 200 yards, gained 218 in 32 carries. He scored all 4 Antelope Valley touchdowns and a 2-point conversion. Smith accounted for 225 of his team’s 236 yards and ran the ball on 32 of Antelope Valley’s 39 offensive plays, excluding punts.

Smith also returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown.

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Not a bad performance, considering Canyon, Antelope Valley’s Golden League rival, held Smith to 46 yards in the Cowboys’ 10-9 regular-season victory 6 weeks ago.

“There was no doubt in my mind,” Smith said. “We had a great week of practice, and I just ran harder this time. We were really confident.”

Canyon Coach Harry Welch, who failed in his bid to become the first coach to win 4 Southern Section titles in the 1980s, said before the game that Smith, who is being recruited by several major Division I colleges, is the best athlete he had ever seen.

After the game, Welch’s opinion remained unchanged.

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“He’s the best high school athlete in California,” Welch said. “He’s a very gifted athlete who played to his talent.”

Surprisingly, Smith fumbled the first time he touched the ball to set up Canyon’s first touchdown. On the opening kickoff, Smith botched the handoff on an attempted reverse and Vince Nevieux recovered for Canyon at the 17-yard line.

Five plays later, tailback Chris Peery, who finished with 80 yards in 26 carries, ran 3 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

Then Smith took over. Midway through the first quarter, he darted 66 yards for a touchdown, then ran for the 2-point conversion to give Antelope Valley an 8-7 lead.

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On Canyon’s next possession, Welch decided to run the ball on fourth and 1 at the Canyon 29. Fullback Robert Leary, however, was stacked up for no gain.

Antelope Valley then marched for another touchdown, Smith running 1 yard for the score and a 15-7 lead.

Smith struck again 2 plays later, intercepting a pass by Canyon quarterback Rod Baltau and returning it 48 yards for a touchdown.

Smith rolled up 107 of his team’s 122 first-half yards.

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After the interception, Canyon marched from its 20 to the Antelopes’ 4 in 17 plays. The drive stalled, however, and Steve Mann booted a 22-yard field goal to cut the gap to 22-10.

Smith ran 22 yards for a touchdown to give Antelope Valley a 28-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Canyon rallied for 2 fourth quarter touchdowns to narrow the deficit. Baltau, who completed 19 of 32 passes for 225 yards, hit Leary with a 4-yard touchdown pass and split end Brian Schroeder with an 18-yard pass for a touchdown in the final minute.

Canyon wide receiver Clint Beauer had 11 catches for 146 yards.

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