Last season, La Canada (Calif.) Flintridge Prep had 19 players on its varsity team. Not surprisngly, after an opening week victory, the Rebels had a difficult time finishing games or keeping that momentum, as they dropped all of their remaining games. This season, with a roster of 22 players, Flintridge Prep is off to a 2-3 start, thanks to a specific holdover from last year's squad.
Stefan Smith has produced 10 touchdowns over the past four games. Two weeks ago, he accounted for 324 yards of total offense, and college programs are taking notice. Smith has received letters from Arizona and Northern Arizona, which is a big accomplishment at such a small school.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Smith is only 15 years old as a junior, as he found his way to Flintridge Prep after growing up in Kansas City and living in Chicago for his eigth-grade season, when he played quarterback. Now, Smith is an athlete who lines up at running back, wide receiver and at several positions on defense. He also plays basketball and runs track for the Rebels. As a sophomore, he paced his league in the 200 meters, finished second in the long jump and was part of a winning 100-meter relay team.
Smith unfortunately hasn't always been able to showcase his talents fully this season. Flintridge Prep's schedule calls for most of its games to kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturdays, which puts them in the middle of the fall heat. With so few players and with Smith serving as such an integral part of the team, his snaps are often limited in the hopes of extending his effectiveness throughout the season.
With attention starting to increase from college programs, Smith said his focus is shifting that way as well, and several programs, including one Pac-12 school in particular, have caught his eye.
"One of those is definitely Washington," Smith said. "I like the Seattle area and what I've seen from Sark (head coach Steve Sarkisian). I really like the Washington program, as well as most of the Pac-12 and Northwestern as well. Those are the schools that I'd like to look at."
Smith was something of an unknown this past offseason, as he attended the invite-only Football University Camp but did not participate in camps on college campuses or on the West Coast. Between his junior and senior seasons, however, Smith said he likely will look to make an impression in front of college coaches.
Smith stars at running back for his high school team, and while he is a capable safety as well, he believes his spot at the next level could be wide receiver.
"I've talked to my family and my coach a little bit, and though I play running back a lot now, wide receiver might be a better spot. My dad is 6-foot-4, so I probably will get a little taller. But I'm flexible. I don't really have a preference. I feel like I can contribute on offense pretty much anywhere."