Football: Smashum & Co. doing damage to defenses through air

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Vista PEAK Preparatory Dechlyn Miller, Daniel Smahum, Derrick Smashum and Dylan Holt on Friday July 29, 2016 at Aurora Sentinel. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel
The Vista PEAK offense has been running on all cylinders for the past three weeks with a total of 158 points thanks to an aerial assault that has seen junior quarterback Derrick Smashum, center, throw for six touchdowns in consecutive games. Senior Dylan Holt, right, ranks fifth in Class 4A in receiving yards with 460 and junior Daniel Smashum has piled up 384 yards receiving to help the Bison get to 3-2 after opening the 2016 season with consecutive losses. (Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

Not only does Derrick Smashum have the perfect last name for football, he has fantasy football stats, too.

With three straight epic passing performances — including back-to-back six touchdown contests — Vista PEAK’s junior quarterback is becoming known for more than a powerpacked last name.

Five games into the 2016 regular season, Smashum has 1,450 passing yards and a state-leading 20 touchdown passes as he’s helped the Bison get back on track for their goal of the earning the program’s first state playoff berth after some early stumbles.

“It’s been a lot of fun this year,” Smashum said a few days before Vista PEAK plays host to Denver North at 1 p.m. Oct. 8. “We’ve been getting more comfortable with the system, executing and putting up points.”

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In his first season as a starter in 2015, Smashum played well as a sophomore with 2,317 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, but he’s  on pace to ahem, smash, those numbers.

The season didn’t start so well, as the Bison managed just three points in a 49-3 loss to Erie Week 1, which was followed by a 61-34 loss to Mead in a game in which Smashum was picked off four times to offset four TD passes.

Smashum’s goals of cutting down his interception totals (he had 11 last season) seemed dead, but he’s thrown just one pick against 16 touchdown passes in the past three games, all wins (56-16 over Adams City, 54-25 over Gateway and 48-21 over Lutheran).

“Derrick’s improved his accuracy a lot,” Vista PEAK head coach John Sullivan said. “He has been locked in the last few weeks after he tried to force some things in the first two games.”

Several of Smashum’s early interceptions came when he tried forcing the ball to senior Dylan Holt in tight coverage.

A big body at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, with exceptional athleticism and great hands, Holt would be a prime target for any quarterback. Despite a lot of extra defensive attention, he’s racked up 460 yards and six touchdowns thus far to rank fifth in Class 3A.

Where Smashum has matured is with his trust in his other receivers, including his twin brother, Daniel, and sophomroe JJ Augustus. Both have benefitted from the attention paid to Holt to the tune of 458 yards and six touchdowns for Augustus and 384 yards and four touchdowns for Smashum.

Augustus has been the most prolific playmaker of late, as he has racked up 386 yards and six touchdowns in the past two games on just 12 catches, an average of 32.2 yards per grab.

“JJ’s beating guys off the line, getting to the right places and making plays for me,” Smashum said.

These type of numbers are gaudy stuff even for Sullivan, who was the offensive coordinator at Rangeview when it had star quarterback Jaleel Awini, the Gatorade Colorado Player of the Year in 2010.

Sullivan believed Awini — now at the University of Colorado — probably had a career-high of four touchdown passes in a game, but only because the Raiders had tremendous balance with a running game that featured Jonathan Mathews, who went on to help CSU-Pueblo win the Division II national championship.

While six touchdown passes in a game (twice) blows Sullivan’s mind a little bit, he years for balance on offense.

The Bison have just 566 rushing yards thus far, in part because three-fifths of the offensive line is sophomores playing varsity for the first time and also because they haven’t needed to run as every game has been lopsided one way or the other.

“I’m a guy who likes to run the football; I prefer a bit more balance,” Sullivan said. “If we want to reach our goals of making the playoffs, we can’t be one-dimensional.”

That one dimension has been darn good though, as Smashum’s 1,450 passing yards puts him second behind behind only Holy Family’s Stone Samaras in the classification and fourth in the entire state.

In Aurora context, the quarterbacks of the the city’s two 5A undefeated teams — Eaglecrest’s Jalen Mergerson and Aurora Central’s Jalil Grimes — have thrown for a combined 1,264 yards and 12 TDs against Smashum’s 1,450 and 20.

Statistics, however, will only mean something if a postseason berth comes along with it for Smashum and Company.

“I had some statistical goals coming into the season, but since we lost those first two games, I only want to help the team win games and get to the playoffs,” Smashum said.

Despite the offensive exploits and an improving defense, Sullivan believes the Bison might have to win the East Metro League to get one of the coveted 16 spots in the 3A playoffs.

“We wanted to test ourselves early and we did that with two very good teams in Erie and Mead,” Sullivan said. “Unfortunately, we might have to win out to make the playoffs, but we’re going to give it a shot.”