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Sophomore start QB Carter Smith leads Bishop Verot into semifinals

Smith has shattered Lee County records in his first two seasons

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA – Despite one of the best seasons in program and Lee County history, the Bishop Verot Catholic High School football team will be an underdog Friday in the Class 2S semifinals.

Bishop Verot (10-2) has to travel six hours to play at top-ranked Florida State University High (13-0). In order for the Vikings to have a shot at knocking off the FSU juggernaut, coach Richie Rode said Bishop Verot has to do what it does best.

"We have to make sure our offense is efficient and puts pressure on them," Rode said. "It's best if we can make it their QB and passing game against ours."

In other words, Rode wants to put the game on the shoulders of his sophomore gunslinger Carter Smith.

At 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, Smith looks and plays much older than his years. Just two years into his high school career and Smith already is breaking records.

Bishop Verot sophomore quarterback Carter Smith is already breaking Lee County records and playing with poise beyond his years.

Bishop Verot sophomore quarterback Carter Smith is already breaking Lee County records and playing with poise beyond his years.

The Vikings' quarterback has thrown for 2,877 yards this season, a Lee County single-season record. Add in his 633 rushing yards and Smith has 3,510 yards of offense this year, another county record. He has accounted for 45 touchdowns this season with either his arm or his leg.

All this after Smith entered the season with huge expectations following his breakout freshman campaign. In 2021, as a ninth-grader, he passed for 2,025 yards and ran for 581.

This year Smith has seemed to get stronger as the moments get bigger. The past five games, as Bishop Verot won a district title and three regional games, the QB has thrown 10 touchdowns and just one interception.

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Since the Vikings lost to First Baptist (a semifinalist in Class 1S) on Sept. 23, Smith has thrown 17 touchdowns and three interceptions to lead Bishop Verot to seven straight wins.

Rode said Smith has shown the intelligence, poise and decision-making that make him elite.

"We run fast paced, no huddle. There's not a lot of time to think," the Vikings coach said. "With our (run-pass option), he has to read the defense. Carter can do that and do it fast, in real time."

Last week Bishop Verot won its first regional championship in 28 years. Lee County hasn't had a lot of regional champs -- only 10 since the FHSAA playoffs began in 1963, and only one since 1998 (which came in 2010). Both Bishop Verot and Dunbar (Class 3S) did it last week.

The Vikings are on this historic run because of Smith's improvement. And Smith has gotten better because the offense has improved around him.

Last year Smith accounted for 78.8 of his team's offensive yards, and he scored 21 of the team's 25 offensive touchdowns. However, this year the QB has help, largely in the form of freshman running back Deshon Jenkins, Jr.

Only 14 years old and in his first varsity season, Jenkins has rushed for 1,102 yards and 12 touchdowns and averages 6.4 yards per carry.

Head coach Richie Rode is preparing Bishop Verot squad for a six-hour road trip and playoff match-up with top-seeded and undefeated Florida University High in the Class 2S state semifinals this Friday.

Head coach Richie Rode is preparing Bishop Verot squad for a six-hour road trip and playoff match-up with top-seeded and undefeated Florida University High in the Class 2S state semifinals this Friday.

"We struggled last year because we put the whole game on our freshman QB," Rode said. "Now, our offensive line is better, and Shon has become a workhorse. Now you can't just focus on our (passing game). We're more diverse."

Bishop Verot might have to lean on its offensive stars again Friday. Its opponent, FSU, has a strong run-pass duo of its own. Junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson has 2,136 yards and 22 touchdowns for the Seminoles, while junior Micahi Danzy has rushed for 1,436 yards and 15 touchdowns.