Bishop Gorman quarterback Jake Smith began learning the Crusaders offense in middle school.
Coby Gipson (now at Howard Payne) asked the youngster to do a little extra work during football games. While his friends would be "playing in the stadium and on the hill" Gipson challenged Smith to be down on the sideline and charting all of the Crusaders' offensive plays.
"Football was not a huge passion of mine, but (Gipson) kind of saw something in me and started talking to me when I was in middle school," Smith said. "I was kind of learning when I traveled with the team, and I would learn all of the hand signals because those were really difficult for me."
Nothing appears difficult now for Smith.
Thus far through three games, the junior has Gorman undefeated at 3-0 while completing 57 of 104 for 965 yards and 11 touchdowns with only two interceptions.
"Jake is a leader on our football team and he's done well," said Gorman coach Randy McFarlin, who was hired after the departure of Gipson to HPU after last season.
"We're 3-0, but it also goes to the offensive line protecting him. Jake runs the offense well and the offense fits his style. He's still in a learning process in this offense. He's done it one way since seventh grade, and all of a sudden I bring (some new stuff to the table). I am very pleased with where we're at, but again the quarterback is only as good as his receivers who catch the ball and as good as his offensive line who protects."
Last week against Ore City, Smith completed 17 of 30 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns. He also punted three times for an average of 32.6 yards.
Smith made his varsity debut as a thrower during his freshman season, but not in the traditional quarterback role.
"I mostly got in on trick plays where I would catch the ball and throw it deep to Judah (Bell) as kind of a double pass deal," Smith continued. "It gave me experience my freshman year, so I didn't come in my sophomore year cold. I knew what Friday nights were going to be like because I have been with the team since seventh grade."
As a sophomore starting quarterback, Smith missed the first game due to injury. His debut came a week later against White Oak. Smith completed 27 of 45 passes for 513 yards and four touchdowns. The only negative for him on the night was the final result as Gorman lost 49-38.
He continued to put up video-game-type numbers the rest of the season, finishing with nearly 4,000 yards passing and 37 touchdowns.
"I kind of doubted myself going in because I was just a sophomore, but I held my own and Coach Gipson helped me get through it," Smith said. "With the offense that we ran, I felt confident going in each week."
The Crusaders went 5-6. If Smith has regret about last year, it's those six losses culminating with a 64-26 first-round ouster by Grapevine Faith Christian.
He has already avenged two of those losses in this year's rematches, defeating Garrison 41-35 and White Oak 31-7.
This week he faces Waskom at home, the third team that took him and the Crusaders down in the regular season a year ago.
"It has been going our way so far," Smith said. "We've had some struggles with practice intensity, but we are getting it adjusted right now. We want to go out now against Waskom and put what we've been working on the practice field on the game field."
Notes: Gorman will face Waskom (1-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at McCallum Stadium.