With so many outstanding running backs on the Mounds View team, to this point, Austin Smestad has seen his role relegated somewhat to the shadows. Last week, he was blocking for the long, striding outline of Tyler Hansen, whose 190-yard effort keyed a victory over Stillwater.
But when Mounds View matched its season-high scoring output and overpowered White Bear Lake 28-6 to ruin the Bears’ homecoming on Friday, Smestad was front and center.
The junior, who came in with 162 yards rushing, showed both the depth of Mounds View’s backfield and his own versatility, pairing several key short-yard, bulldog pushes with two long runs to help lift the Mustangs. He finished with 145 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries.
“He doesn’t get mentioned very much, especially after Tyler Hansen last week,” coach Jim Galvin said. “Austin got a little lost in the shuffle. But he’s a very good player.”
Even so, he kept the man-in-the-shadows attitude.
“I owe all of it to the line,” he said. “They just open up the holes — and to me that gets all the glory, but I just break it through and try to score.”
Smestad gave the Mustangs their first touchdown in the first quarter with a 61-yard scoring run to take a 7-6 lead. He set up the next touchdown with a 56-yard run to get the ball inside the 20 before quarterback Mike Kerfeld lofted a 7-yard pass to Gabe Dargis in the end zone for the junior tight end’s first score of his high school career.
The awe-inspiring runs didn’t stop Smestad from doing the things he’s always done.
With the Mustangs leading 14-6 late in the third quarter, Smestad converted a key fourth down deep into Bears territory and then ran a third-and-goal three yards into the end zone to force the Bears in a hole that would prove too deep. Smestad shook his head at what he imagined the Bears’ defenders — looking at four legitimate running threats — must have been going through.
“All the misdirection we run,” he mused, “I would be so confused if I was playing defense against us.”
On a night when Mounds View’s killer running game took front stage, powering the game past a competitive-looking score, the pass that scored the Mustangs’ second touchdown was somewhat glossed over.
But for one person, the play made a memory that won’t be quickly forgotten.
Facing a third and goal at the seven, quarterback Mike Kerfeld rolled back and looked toward the end zone. Tight end Gabe Dargis separated from his defenders and immediately knew what was next.
“Oh yeah, I knew it was coming right at me,” said the junior, who had been waiting for the first touchdown of his high school career.
It came and he snagged it to put the Mustangs up 14-6.
“I was thinking ‘touchdown, touchdown, better catch it!” he said. “It felt amazing, there’s no better feeling.”
Dargis played tackle last year on the sophomore team after being told he was “too big” for tight end, his preferred position.
Thankfully for his health, when he came up to varsity this year, Dargis figured he didn’t need to starve himself to make the team since size was exactly what the Mustangs were looking for. So he ate more, gained 20 pounds and worked back where he always wanted to be, while carrying skills from his last position.
“He is a pretty good blocker and our tight end blocks a lot more than they catch passes,” coach Jim Galvin. “So that’s why he’s out there. And when you’re throwing the ball – he catches it.”