Bulldog at the big time: Eddie Smercina to represent Moffat County football nationally | CraigDailyPress.com

Bulldog at the big time: Eddie Smercina to represent Moffat County football nationally

Bulldog running back to play among top-tier athletes in Blue-Grey’s All-American Bowl

Moffat County High School's Eddie Smercina speeds down the field with backing from teammate Miki Klimper in September. Smercina will play in a national football game, Blue-Grey Football's All-American Bowl, on Saturday at the Raiders’ Oakland Coliseum.

As a bona fide bunch of Raider Haters, the venue may not be ideal for the Smercina family this weekend, but the occasion is nonetheless one to celebrate.

Moffat County High School senior Eddie Smercina will compete in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl Saturday at the Oakland Coliseum.

The collection of high school-level gridiron greats is a showcase of prospects in the sport from across the nation, with three separate events at NFL stadiums in Oakland, Dallas and Jacksonville, Florida.

Though Eddie and his family are Denver Broncos fans through and through, there are worse things than being at the home base of the black and silver AFC West rivals.

The All-American Bowl will not only feature a variety of high-achieving teens but also coaching from former NFL players. As part of the Pacific team, the senior Bulldog will be under the guidance of interception specialist cornerback Mark McMillian, as well as one-time Broncos lineman Matt McChesney, among others.

The road to the big time involved competing in multiple Blue-Grey combines for high school athletes, which Eddie eventually wound up as a Red Zone Prospect among the cream of the crop.

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His team will also include Colorado athletes from Valor Christian, Heritage, Pine Creek and Loveland, plus players from California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Hawaii.

MCHS head coach Keith Gille pointed to Eddie's strength and speed as components to his athleticism but more so the perseverance to keep playing this season despite some physical concerns.

"I just can't say enough about Eddie's toughness," Gille said. "He's a quality player, a quality kid, and I'm really excited about his opportunities to match up with other great athletes."

After a banner year as a running back his junior season, Eddie was ready to repeat his performance this past fall, but a high ankle sprain sidelined him midway through the schedule. Even so, he returned to the field for the final two games, making it to the end zone in each, finishing the year with 387 rushing yards and 103 receiving yards.

Gille added that he was unable to vote for his own players in All-Conference selections but felt Eddie deserved a First Team honor no less for his level of play.

Craig community member Tony Maneotis noted that he coached Eddie during middle school and still is amazed at his talents.

"Just really honored and proud of the young man to be able to get noticed from a small town," he said. "There's not too many kids who can say they get a chance to do what this young man's gonna get to do. It's been a pleasure to watch him."

Maneotis noted that he has asked Eddie to speak to younger players about the game, and the older athlete always gets a good reception.

"Heart of gold, he's a leader, he knows how to get kids going on the field," he said.

The last football game of his high school career is one that has those close to him emotional, particularly his parents, Tylawn and Ed, who are hoping this isn't the absolute last game he'll ever play whether that means college sports.

"It's tough being his senior year, but we're excited for him," Tylawn said. "We're going to support him in whatever choices he makes. Football doesn't define him, but it's definitely a huge asset for him."

As for the young man of the hour, he has only thanks for the people of Moffat County who have been in the stands the past four years, as well as the coaches and teammates through the years.

"I'd just like to say thank you to everyone who's supported me," Eddie said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.