TKA's Elijah Williams-Smith shows growth in win over Friendship Christian – Maryville Daily Times

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TKA’s Elijah Williams-Smith (5) stretches for the goal line and scores the Lions’ first touchdown of the night on Friday at Friendship Christian.
TKA’s Elijah Williams-Smith (5) hands off to Nakelin McAfee (1) in the Lions’ road win over Friendship Christian on Friday night.

Sports Writer
TKA’s Elijah Williams-Smith (5) stretches for the goal line and scores the Lions’ first touchdown of the night on Friday at Friendship Christian.
TKA’s Elijah Williams-Smith (5) hands off to Nakelin McAfee (1) in the Lions’ road win over Friendship Christian on Friday night.
LEBANON — Elijah Williams-Smith walked over to the sidelines and explained to The King’s Academy coach Jonathan Sellers that the look Friendship Christian’s defense was showing would leave junior wide receiver Zeke Connatser open on a deep post.
A delay of game prevented the sophomore quarterback from executing his idea, but the conversation alone spoke to the maturation of a signal caller in his fifth career start.
“I’ve gotten a lot more confident with the offense,” Williams-Smith told The Daily Times. “If I’ve got the line blocking for me, which they did a great job tonight, then I want to take those shots.”
The King’s Academy’s game plan centered around a heavy workload for 2020 Division II-A Mr. Football semifinalist Nakelin McAfee, but Friendship Christian (2-3, 0-1 Division II-A East Region) had other ideas.
The senior running back rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, but 99 of those came over the final two drives. The Commodores limited him to 3.6 yards per carry up until those final minutes.
An inability to get their workhorse going forced the Lions (3-2, 1-0) to hand more responsibility to their young quarterback. He responded with the best performance of his young career, completing 12 of his 16 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown to lead The King’s Academy to a 28-21 victory — its first over rival Friendship Christian.
“Every game he gets better and better,” McAfee said. “He’s becoming a complete quarterback.”
Williams-Smith displayed much of what The King’s Academy saw in him after transferring from Knoxville Central and added some attributes that had not yet shined through.
The athleticism was apparent, as was the ability to create something out of a broken play.
He rushed for an 11-yard touchdown in the opening period. In the second quarter, he rolled to his left to elude the Friendship Christian rush, and as a hoard of defenders collapsed on him, he floated a short pass to sophomore wide receiver Marshaun Bowers, who tight-roped the sideline for a 51-yard touchdown.
Williams-Smith also displayed resiliency and the wherewithal to make the right decisions under pressure.
A fumble caused by a rushed handoff on third-and-1 that led to a Friendship Christian touchdown could have demoralized Williams-Smith, but he bounced back and orchestrated a go-ahead drive two possessions later.
“When I mess up, Nakelin is the first one to pick me up,” Williams-Smith said. “It’s a good confidence booster when a good athlete like that believes in you and is on your side.”
As the Lions attempted to run out the clock, he pulled on a read-option run and darted up the middle for five yards. Two plays later, McAfee broke loose for a 31-yard run that sealed a victory Williams-Smith played a integral part in.
The loss of Garrett Weekly, who transferred to Friendship Christian, during the offseason left a void at under center for the Lions.
As The King’s Academy fought to get Williams-Smith eligible in the weeks leading up to the season, it never doubted he could be the answer. In its biggest game of the season, he looked like a quarterback capable of taking the program further than its ever been.
“He grew up and made some plays that sophomores don’t make,” Sellers said. “He’s going to be a phenomenal player, and he showed a lot of those signs tonight.”
Follow @Troy_Provost on Twitter for more from sports editor Troy Provost-Heron. He can be contacted at [email protected].
Sports Writer
Troy takes a lead on high school sports coverage and is the beat writer for UT men’s basketball for The Daily Times. He’s also a regular contributor for The Daily Times on The Sports Page radio show.
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