It is not about who has the most carries or the best stats for Eupora running backs Lazerick Davis and Vandy Smith, but rather the pair chooses to play as a team and focus on making the Eagles better.
“The first thing you have to say about them is both of them are really unselfish when it comes to sharing the carries,” Eupora coach Junior Graham said. “They both want to run the ball, but when the other is succeeding they are equally happy.”
Smith agrees with his coach on the closeness of the pair, even going so far as to refer to Davis as his “brother.”
“Lazerick came here in 9th grade and we have been like brothers ever since,” Smith said. “Ever since the 9th grade through our senior year, we have been connecting and getting the ball. We block for each other and run with each other. We treat each other like brothers both on and off the field.”
Agreeing with his teammate on the closeness of their relationship, Davis emphasizes how they are not out for the individual but rather they “play as a team.”
“I give Vandy a push, (and) he gives me a push,” Davis said. “He tells me when I need to pick it up and I tell him when he needs to pick it up a notch. We do it all as a team.”
For Graham, it has been a process watching his senior running backs become what they are today. It's a process he says took time to perfect and for the athletes to grow into. Graham got to watch each back begin their dominance at different times with Davis standing out in junior high, while it took a little longer for Smith to transition from role player to dominant running back.
Looking at the pair on the field today, the coach can see the hard work has paid off and this year “they have been on equal playing fields” with each one “stepping up in different ball games” throughout the season.
The dominance that Davis and Smith have displayed throughout the season has impacted more than just the running game according to Graham.
“The ground game has meant a lot this season,” Graham said. “It has opened up the ability for the passing game to be successful. Our play action has been our bread and butter in our passing game this year and it’s simply because players run it as good as we can and we make an effort to really be downhill runners. Our kids take pride in running hard and protecting the football.”
Echoing his coach’s sentiments, Davis says that having “somebody like Vandy in the backfield” combined with himself, they are able to “run the ball real hard” making the other team “focus on us running the ball and open up the game for passing.”
That focus on running the ball is something Smith says the pair learned from their coaches throughout the years. The senior says the coaches always taught them to “run for the green” to “run hard, protect the ball and just run to the green.”
The respect for the things their coaches have taught them rings true for Smith and Davis who are especially grateful to have people like Graham in their lives.
“I think coach Graham is a great influence on our community and on the team,” Davis said. “Some of our fathers are not around and he is like a father figure for us. When we need something, we just call him and he always answers the phone. He will come no matter where he is.”
Smith agrees with Davis on the coach’s willingness to “always be there for the team,” something he has witnessed since first beginning to play for Graham in the 7th grade.
Davis and Smith have certainly taken Graham and the other coach’s teachings to heart and their dominance on the field is not the only thing that has changed this season for the Eagles. After a 6-5 season last year that saw both Jamall Roby and Smith go out with injuries, the team has bounced back with resilience and managed to pick up a 14-1 record which has them playing for the 2A state championship on Friday afternoon.
“Playing for a state championship is exciting,” said Smith. “No one at Eupora has ever won it and we want it.”