There are still three games to play in the regular season — plus what the Winhawks hope is a long playoff run — but Logan Smith has done something that only one other player in the Winona Senior High School football program has done.
Intercept seven passes in a season.
Ryan Woodard, the 2010 Daily News player of the year, intercepted seven passes in 10 games his senior year, which, at the time, was the most by a WSHS player.
Until Smith’s September.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound junior has at least one interception in every game this season for the fifth-ranked Winhawks (5-0, 2-0 Big Southeast-Blue), who host Faribault (3-2, 1-1) in their homecoming game at 7 p.m. today at Paul Giel Field.
“He’s playing really well,” Winona coach John Cassellius said. “He’s a tall kid, rangy, he can high-point the ball real well.”
But Smith will be the first to tell you the credit isn’t his alone.
“It’s the front line that’s putting the pressure on the quarterback,” said Smith, who had three interceptions last Friday in a 24-14 win over Northfield. “Sometimes I put myself in position to make a play. But most of the time it’s the defensive line.”
It’s true. The Winhawks’ big, physical defensive line is stopping the run and forcing teams to chuck it deep more often than they’d like. And Winona has the athletes in the front seven who can get to the quarterback and create quick throws.
But it still takes an athlete to go up in the air and get the ball, and that’s where Smith has excelled.
He’s worked with Ray Martinez, who won a national championship as a player and a coach at UW-La Crosse, and is in his first year as a volunteer assistant coach with the Winhawks.
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“He’s showed us a lot of drills,” Smith said. “Work on breaking your receiver.”
Smith’s biggest improvement may be between the ears.
“He’s becoming more and more a student of the game,” Cassellius said. “His studying film more, and enjoying it more. He’s asking the right questions, which shows that maturation process.
“He’s starting to understand the game and what teams are trying to do to get in the right spot situationally.”
Because when he’s in the right spot, and it’s just him against another player, Smith likes his chances.
That goes for offense, too.
Smith has two touchdowns on six receptions this season, both of which lead a Winona team that runs about 75 percent of the time, and, when it does throw, spreads the ball around to a number of playmakers.
He made one of the big plays in last week’s game against Northfield, going up for a lob into the corner of the end zone. The 12-yard touchdown reception tied the game at 14-all early in the fourth quarter. Smith then put the finishing touches on the game with an interception later in the game.
“Every time I read the board, I’m hoping it’s a fade or something the ball can be thrown in the air,” Smith said. “I feel that if the ball is in the air, I’m going to come down with it.”
Smith, who plays both cornerback and safety, is tied for second in Minnesota in interceptions, and will look to add to his total tonight when the Winhawks host the Falcons. Faribault doesn’t throw often, either, but neither did many of the teams Winona beat earlier this season.
“We’re stopping the run game, so teams are forced to throw the ball,” Cassellius said. “There’s not many people who have receivers taller than 6-4, 6-5. When you have guys who are learning the technique and staying on top of people, it gives them the opportunity to win the 50-50 ball.”