SANDERSVILLE, Ga. - Preston Smith is only a sophomore, but already he is drawing comparisons to former Washington County quarterbacks George Askew and Terrence Edwards.
If Smith had his way, fans would let him become his own player, not compare him to some of the program's greats from the past.
The majority of the comparison are linked to Smith, a two-sport athlete who led the Golden Hawks to a 41-3 record during his three years, including a state championship in 1994.
Askew was known more for his ability to throw the ball than as an option quarterback.
After Smith's school record-breaking 291-yard passing performance in a 28-14 victory over Carrollton, comparison to Askew became inevitable.
"I just went out there, threw it to the open receiver and we came out on top," Smith said. "I didn't think I would ever break (the single-game passing record)."
Edwards earned his reputation as an option quarterback before signing to play with the University of Georgia, where he is a starting wide receiver.
Before graduating, Edwards guided the Golden Hawks to a 37-4 record and state championships in 1996 and '97.
Washington County's coaches not only like Smith's athleticism, but also his leadership.
"He can run the ball real (well), and he can throw, too," senior wide receiver/cornerback Rodriquez Brown said. "He's a team leader, too. He works well under pressure, and pressure doesn't seem to bother him."
On Saturday, Smith hopes he can keep the Golden Hawks' record in the Georgia Dome perfect when he leads Washington County (11-2) against Swainsboro (12-1) in the Class AAA state semifinals at 3 p.m.
Askew was 1-0 in the Dome; Edwards was 2-0. Cory May, who was last year's starting quarterback before moving to tight end this year, is impressed with everything Smith has accomplished so early in his career.
"He's broken the passing record for a single game," May said. "Hopefully, he'll break some more (records) before he leaves. With his size and arm, he could go to a Division I school before he leaves."
May was slated to return as the team's quarterback after a solid junior campaign in 1999. However, he believed he could help the team more by moving to a different position and letting Smith have the quarterback duties.
Smith, though, never figured he would be the starting quarterback. Last spring, coaches told him he needed to get bigger and faster.
"Coach told me what I had to do," Smith said. "So I did."
Smith has bulked up to 180 pounds and stands at 6-foot-2, which already is helping him command attention from college recruiters.
While Smith is drawing comparisons to Askew, he might be compared more to Edwards before his career is over. Washington County coach Rick Tomberlin wants Smith to run more option plays, which would make the Golden Hawks' offensive attack more diverse.
"He's coming around," Tomberlin said of Smith learning the option. "He's learning it and that's good. But he executes what we try to do, he understands the assignments and does a good job at it."
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org