DeAndre "D.J." Smith, called by his new coach the best quarterback in the Delta, showed up as advertised Friday night as he led his Greenville Christian School Saints to an emphatic 50-7 home victory over the three-time defending state champion St. Joseph Fighting Irish.
The Saints’ victory snapped the Irish’s state-best 27-game winning streak, and it was the first time GCS has beaten St. Joe in the brief history of the two teams playing each other.
On the first play of the game in front of a packed crowd, Smith, a recent transfer from Greenwood High School, connected with Daishun Scott on a flea flicker for a 54-yard touchdown. It was his first throw of the season.
Smith and Scott would hook up again on the next GCS drive on a 13-yard score, and the Saints (2-1) would continue their dominance all the way until halftime, where they led 44-7.
“I am not surprised about how well we played tonight. This is what my boys can do,” Smith said. “Most QBs need a little warm up at first, but my teammates got me loose, and I was ready to go from the start.”
Scott and Smith are one of about 20 new Greenville Christian players who transferred to the school after their public schools announced that they would not be playing football this fall.
Scott, an O’Bannon transfer, said all his teammates have come together remarkably well these last few weeks.
“It was really cool because we started bonding the first day. It seemed like from day one we were a family,” Scott said.
In only two quarters of work, Smith passed for 295 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran in a score.
Greenville Christian’s Marlon Palmer rushed in an eight-yard touchdown with 10 minutes left in the second quarter to put the Saints up 28-0. Palmer, now a junior, has been an intricate part of the Saints program since he was a freshman. He said it was great to finally beat the Irish.
“It was good to snap their streak, and we got to get the victory. We have been working hard during practice, and we got the job done,” Palmer said.
GCS coach Jon Reed McLendon said he had a feeling before the game that his team was capable of what it did Friday night.
“We have had a couple of really good weeks of practice, and I could see flashes of what they were able to do,” McLendon said. “This game was a measuring stick for us, and it was really encouraging.”
Greenville Christian’s Josh Martin, Will Riley and Davaris Pilcher also caught touchdown passes from Smith.
The Greenville Christian defense made a number of big game-changing plays throughout the first half, highlighted by an interception by Mario Magee and a powerful strip fumble forced by Greenwood transfer J.D. Stewart.
The Irish’s lone score came on a Mekhi Norris 14-yard run with eight minutes left in the second quarter to cut the GCS lead to 28-7.
“This game was a reality check for us. We haven’t had it handed to us like this in a long time,” St. Joseph coach John Baker said. “We got our heads down, and they jumped on us. We are a better team than how we played tonight.”