- By Adam Lichtenstein Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
In the tunnel leading to Camping World Stadium, Keidron Smith addressed his team before his last game as a ThunderWolf.
“Keidron was the voice,” Oxbridge coach Brendan Kent said. “He spoke to our team and gave them some words of inspiration and talked about his time at Oxbridge and what it meant to be in that game at that time. It was Keidron’s voice, and everybody was just listening.”
Smith said: “I was just telling them about how it was my last game. And the underclassmen, I just told them it’s no longer my team. I’m no longer the leader of the defense.”
Smith had a solid game, getting four tackles and snagging a punt and returning it 34 yards, but Oxbridge Academy fell just short, losing the Class 3A state title game 31-28 to Hollywood-Chaminade Madonna. It was a disappointing end to what was otherwise a stellar season from Smith, who was chosen as the 2017 Palm Beach Post All-Area Small Schools Defensive Player of the Year.
“It was a (good achievement) for the school and the program, but it was a tough loss,” he said. “I can’t really say anything bad about the season. The boys played their hearts out that last game. It was just a tough loss.”
The loss in Orlando was the first time the ThunderWolves have ever made it to a state championship, and Kent attributes that, in part, to Smith.
“The expectations are high at our school,” Kent said, “and he’s part of the class that really set that foundation and has done a great job of laying the groundwork for us.”
Smith spent all four seasons of his high school career at Oxbridge, developing into one of the top players in the county.
“As he got older, the more football he played, the slower the game came to him. It slowed down, and he was able to play faster,” Kent said. “He really matured in that way, as a football player, and he really matured as a leader.”
Smith ended his senior season with 41 tackles and three interceptions. He allowed only one touchdown all season, and it was against Alabama-bound Xavier Williams in the title game.
Smith may get a chance to get the better of Williams, as the two will be regular opponents in college. Both players signed with their future teams during the early signing period: Williams with the Crimson Tide and Smith with its Southeastern Conference division rival, Ole Miss.
“It’s just a dream come true,” Smith said. “I waited 18 years to do that. I made my family proud.”