By NATE HECKENBERGER
DOWNINGTOWN -- Coming into the season, Bishop Shanahan coach Paul Meyers wasn't exactly sure who would be moving the ball offensively after an injury and a transfer decimated his running back stock.
What Meyers knew he did have was a pair of Smiths to help the growing process. Senior lineman Ben Smith and junior Cody Smith, not related, gave Meyers a pair of experienced players to lean on while he figured things out.
As the regular season winds to an end this weekend, Shanahan is in a position to do something the Eagles hope is more commonplace than atypical -- make the postseason. If Shanahan can defeat Avon Grove on Saturday, it will qualify for the District 1 Class AAA playoffs for the second time in four years. And the Smiths are at the forefront of where the credit is due.
"They're huge to have because you have to gameplan for both,' Meyers said. "Having Ben on both the offensive and defensive lines, he's one of the best two-way players around. Cody, the way he can run and catch the ball, is Mr. Versatile for us.'
With a win over the 1-8 Red Devils, Shanahan (1-4 division, 4-4 overall) will likely be the No. 7 seed, sending the Eagles on the road for a first-round game.
Cody Smith has stepped in offensively with 24 receptions for 270 yards and three touchdowns, with 310 yards and four scores on the ground. Prior to the season he was slated as the tight end, but injuries have uncovered a dual-threat.
"It's a lot of fun to play all over the field,' said Cody, who had 16 receptions as a sophomore. "It's fun to run the ball out of the backfield and get worked in everywhere.'
Ben Smith, meanwhile, has helped the Eagles average over 200 rushing yards a game, offensively. His biggest impact may come on the defensive side, not just with production, but as a mentor.
"The best part is (Ben) has taken little Doug Costin under his wing,' Meyers said. "It's kind of a big brother, little brother thing. He's a leader in practice, on the field and in the locker room. He's the backbone of our line.'
Ben has two sacks on the season, but as far as Meyers is concerned, the way he's helped Costin develop into a legitimate force on the defensive line has been key. Costin has 5.5 sacks through eight games this year.
"First of all, Doug is a great player,' Ben said. "T. J. Seifert mentored me when he was a senior and I was a sophomore, and we're still friends today. I wanted to do the same thing for (Costin). I see so much in him and I know he can go so far.'
Dan Murphy has give the Eagles a dynamic weapon at quarterback. His 592 rushing yards and seven TDs lead the team, and the junior has also thrown for 634 yards and six scores. Junior Jeff Zebrowski has been a favorite target of Murphy with 14 catches for 154 yards and two TDs.
The scent of the postseason has Shanahan hoping it stays like that for the distant future.
"We have a great shot at the playoffs and everyone's extremely excited about it,' Cody said. "Hopefully we can build a reputation and build a program. We're not that known for our football team and another postseason berth would be huge for us.'
Considering the Eagles are a 3A school playing with some of the best 4A teams in District 1, Ben holds his team's achievements at a higher level.
"To make the playoffs is ridiculous with the teams we play every year,' Ben said. "I mean, Coatesville almost won a state title last year and Downingtown East went undefeated. The teams in our league are better than all the others around. Our schedule is so hard, whenever we do well it's a great feeling.'
Two trips to the postseason in his four season's is something Ben would forever take great pride in.
"It's great knowing that the team I left as a senior is a lot better than the team I started with as a freshman,' Ben said.