Merced College QB Javon Smith will play, tender ankle and all

slynch@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 26, 2013 

— Javon Smith plans to be under center Saturday afternoon.

There's definitely some tenderness in the ankle which the Merced College sophomore quarterback rolled during last week's 33-13 victory over San Jose City College.

Smith, who had already passed for 200 yards and a score and rushed for an additional 45 yards and another TD, didn't return to the game after the injury.

Blue Devils head coach Bob Casey said with the game well in hand, his quarterback wouldn't have gone back into the game even if he could have.

But with the swelling coming down fairly dramatically over the last couple days, Smith doesn't see any reason he won't be available to lead MC on its long road trip to Quincy for an afternoon clash with Feather River (1-2).

Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

"It's a little frustrating," Smith acknowledged. "After a couple bad weeks, we finally put it all together last week.

"When you get a rhythm offensively, you just want to keep going. We just want to build on what we did last week. The ankle is just one more thing we need to overcome."

Casey said the dynamic Smith will be a game-time decision and backup Travis Middleton has been taking reps in practice in case he gets the call.

With three relative blowouts on the season, Middleton has seen action in every game so far.

The offense has barely skipped a beat with him under center. Middleton is 7 of 15 passing for 49 yards and he has run the ball well (9 carries, 52 yards).

He's also averaged a turnover per game, one fumble and two interceptions — something he's focused on eliminating should he get the nod.

"That's definitely on me," Middleton said. "The quarterback needs to be a leader on offense. Whether it's an interception or a fumble or just a bad exchange, the quarterback has to own it and work with his teammates to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Regardless of who is under center, Casey believes the MC (1-2) offense can move the ball. Even with a pair of ugly showings to open the season, the Blue Devils have averaged a respectable 367 yards per game.

"What a lot of people have missed with our defensive issues the first two weeks, is this offense has the potential to be pretty special," Casey said. "Last week we got the balance we were looking for. This week we just want everything to be a little crisper."

MC will definitely have more of a challenge defensively with Feather River's spread attack and Division 1 wide receiver prospect Lavon Pearson (28 catches for 433 yards, 3 TDs).

"I like what I've seen of Feather River on film," Casey said. "They can run or pass the ball on offense. They've got some size on the offensive line.

"I like their aggressiveness defensively. This is going to be a tough game. We have to go up there ready to take care of business, or it could be a long drive home."

Sun-Star sports writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or slynch@mercedsun-star.com.

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