Fisher, Smith bolster Notre Dame Prep offensive prosperity

Running back Jake Smith (left) starts to go in motion, leaving full back Victor Annoreno (middle) and running back Cole Fisher (right) in the backfield. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

When the Notre Dame Preparatory football team’s offense lines up on the field, opponents have two threats they need to worry about.

Through the first month of the regular season, the Saints are 4–0 and, for the most part, have imposed their will offensively. This is largely thanks to running backs Jake Smith and Cole Fisher.

Combined, Smith and Fisher produce more than three quarters of NDP’s total offensive yardage and 18 of the team’s 20 offensive touchdowns, according to maxpreps.com.

Running back Cole Fisher (6) rushes around the edge during the Saints’ 54-28 win over St. Mary’s Friday, Sept. 8. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

They both contribute to the running game but Smith also makes a big impression in the passing attack. Smith leads the team with 509 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, well ahead of the next closest receiver.

As for the run game, Fisher paces with 464 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Smith follows behind with 348 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

With two potent offensive weapons at his disposal, NDP Head Coach George Prelock said it benefits the Saints significantly because it helps keep his backfield rested.

“It’s tough to prepare for simply because we always try to have fresh legs,” he said in a Sept. 8 interview. “As the game wears on, especially for teams where they have players go both ways, you get tired. I think the boys understand that and they just wait and keep grinding away.”

While their athletic ability is a big part of what makes both student-athletes shine in their respective positions, Coach Prelock said he sees more than just athletics.

He said he sees two young men with high character and a good sense of teamwork.

“They support each other and they compete with each other, but it’s in a healthy way,” he said. “They’re blocking for one another when one’s at tail and one’s at fullback. To just see them work hard in offseason and to see that hard work pay off it’s just absolutely remarkable.”

Two of a kind

While Coach Prelock did not say exactly how he uses Smith and Fisher in a game plan, he did say the way he uses them changes week to week.

Running Back Cole Fisher (6) races down field during the Saints’ 54-28 win over St. Mary’s Friday, Sept. 8. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

He said he bases the different usage on who the Saints are playing that week, which has resulted in different ways to use the two running backs.

This strategy manifests itself in NDP’s games so far this season.

During the Saints’ Sept. 1 victory over Desert Mountain, Smith had a balanced performance. He chalked up 163 rushing yards with a pair of touchdowns compared to his 167 receiving yards with two touchdowns.

A week later against St. Mary’s Catholic High School, Smith hauled in 277 yards and four touchdowns. He only rushed for 26 yards.

Fisher, on the other hand, tends to focus on running the ball. Though his rushing totals fluctuate, he has scored at least a rushing touchdown in each of the Saints’ games this year.

Fisher said the offensive line deserves credit for helping him reach such high totals so far this season.

“They do a great job,” he said in a Sept. 8 interview. “They worked hard in the offseason. We lost a couple of kids who graduated but they’re just as good, if not better, than last year.”

Both players have become staples in NDP’s varsity squad in past years, though Fisher’s varsity experience runs deeper than Smith’s.

As a senior, Fisher has played at the varsity level for his entire football career. Although, he focused on defense his freshman year.

Smith, on the other hand, is a junior and is only in his second year as a varsity player. He played primarily in a rushing role in 2016.

Smith credits his improvements to his offseason work as he’s worked on both his strength and speed.

“I think last year, my role wasn’t as big,” he said in a Sept. 8 interview. “It was my first year on varsity, I was a sophomore and now that I’m a junior, I’m an upperclassman. It’s my time and I’m getting my shot now.”

Running back Jake Smith splits a pair of defenders during the Saints’ 54-28 win over St. Mary’s Friday, Sept. 8. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

More than an individual

Although these two excel individually, both said their main focus is on helping the team get a win each week. Both said there is no competition between the two of them on who can perform the best on any given week.

“I don’t think we worry about stats at all,” Smith said. “As long as we get the win, we’re perfectly happy with what our team needs us to do.”

Both Smith and Fisher are leaders on the team and the way they lead the team is by encouragement, Coach Prelock said.

Coach Prelock also said he noticed the atmosphere the two have created is a positive one.

He said because of both Fisher and Smith, the team wins and loses together and both running backs want to do what they can to help the team win.

“What’s nice is they truly mean that,” he said. “Coming out and winning the game is the ultimate goal. Whether it’s Cole Fisher scoring or Jake Smith running the ball, catching the ball, it really doesn’t matter. We just want to be a competitive team this year and do our best to win.”

While it’s no secret Fisher and Smith have done wonders for the Notre Dame Prep offense, Coach Prelock said he takes a lot of pride in who these boys are on and off the field.

“I love these boys so much,” Coach Prelock said. “They’re outstanding, they mean the world to me and God has blessed me for having them.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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