WILLISTON, S.C -- Nick Smalls won't be able to get into Timmonsville's backfield in Saturday's Class A championship game in Columbia.
But it's not because he doesn't want to.
The senior linebacker/fullback was one of the area's leading tacklers for most of the year, but an awkward fall in a game against Wagener-Salley left him with a bum knee.
Now the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder is limited to offensive duty, which is bound to please state title game opponent Timmonsville (5 p.m. Saturday, Williams-Brice Stadium). Led by Smalls' 131 tackles and defensive back David Gleaton's 10 interceptions, the Williston-Elko defense recorded three shutouts this season and allowed only four opponents to score in double figures.
Smalls earned a berth in the Dec. 11 North-South All-Star Game at Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"Nick is like a coach on the field, and his leadership is the main thing the defense loses," Williston-Elko coach Charlie Combs said. "You just know he'll go 48 minutes all out. The things he's able to do is incredible, a real big hitter. David's been the sleeper though, and now he's the leader."
Gleaton also has been a force on offense, reeling in 20 catches for 353 yards and four touchdowns.
"He was primarily a basketball player who just tried football," Combs said. "He's turned out to be a leader. He's got some more football days ahead of him if he wants it. He's major on offense and defense."
As a fullback, he has rushed for 293 yards is the main blocking back for senior tailback Brian Williams, who has piled up 2,087 yards and 20 touchdowns on 377 carries.
"If I can just get into the game and create holes for Brian Williams, then I'll feel like I've done something," Smalls said. "At first I was kind of distraught about the injury, but then guys stepped in and nothing changed. I felt good then."
Freshman Troy Cuthbertson replaced Smalls at linebacker and has been a steady force. He made 12 tackles last week in Williston's Upper State title win over Lewisville.
While Smalls himself won't be able to get at Timmonsville's North-South all-star quarterback Kevin Morris, he has given an ear full of advice to Cuthbertson.
"I try to talk to him, you know, keep his head straight," Smalls said. "I tell him to just let the game flow. It's worked for him. I think the year has gone very well: first, winning the region championship, then the Upper State championship and now having a chance to compete for the state title. To me that's real good."
Reach Patrick Green at (803) 648-1395.
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