Retirement isn't Smith's option play

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The third quarter had just expired Saturday, and his Hampton Crabbers led by four touchdowns. But one of Mike Smith's offensive linemen had whiffed on a block, and the "old geezer" of a head coach was not pleased.

"I'm gonna hit you in the mouth," Smith growled as Monte Haney came to the sideline. "You gotta hit the linebacker."

Smith tapped Haney on the helmet with his laminated game plan, walked away and cracked that trademark devilish grin.

Think Mike Smith has lost his fastball? Figure that at age 67 he's plotting retirement and Kumbaya moments with Bill Dee and the Peninsula Football Officials Association?

Anyone who watched the Crabbers give Smith his 400th coaching victory Saturday knows better.

The final at Darling Stadium was 35-0. The victim was Indian River in the opening round of the Eastern Region Division 5 playoffs.

How fitting on three counts.

First, the shutout. If nothing else, Smith's 38 seasons as Hampton's big whistle have been about defense, and this marked his 173rd shutout.

Noodle that for a moment. In nearly half of his victories, the opponent didn't scratch.

Second, the playoff stage. Smith's teams have won 12 state championships and are 67-20 in postseason, when teams and coaches prove their mettle.

Third, the elements. Rain fell throughout the first 21/2 quarters, creating the swampy conditions old-school coaches relish. But then the sun emerged, a reminder that Smith can be as mercurial as the weather.

Consider his outburst late in the second quarter. Puzzled by a holding penalty, he asked — politely, of course (wink, wink) — line judge Tyrone Goodwyn the number of the offending player. Goodwyn declined.

Next thing you knew, Smith and assistant coach Danny Mitchell were barking at Goodwyn, who flagged Smith for unsportsmanlike conduct and raised an arm as if to eject him. Turns out he was just ordering Smith to back off the field.

Can you imagine Smith getting pitched from his 400th? We joked in the press box that since he hadn't completed half the game, Mitchell would get credit for the victory and that Smith would be stuck at 399.

"I wish it was 200," Smith said, "and I was young enough to win 200 more. All 400 means is you're an old geezer."

Old, perhaps. Geezer, no way.

He's not the early riser of his prime, and not as quick with names. But he still revels in the competition and teaching.

His 400 wins rank seventh all-time, fifth among active coaches. His .870 winning percentage (400-59-2) towers over record-holder John McKissick, who in 57 seasons at Summerville High in South Carolina is 565-132-13 (.805).

"He's toned down a little bit," assistant coach and former Hampton linebacker Myron Newsome said. "But he's still that fired-up guy. He's still got a lot left in the tank. He still loves the game."

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