Daily News spotlight athletes: Clairton’s Ryan Williams, Thomas Jefferson’s Kayla Smith
Claim to fame: Williams completed 12 of 21 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns Friday to help the Bears defeat Chartiers-Houston in the opening round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs. The senior has amassed 1,907 passing yards and has thrown 25 touchdowns and only two interceptions this season.
“The transitions he’s made from last year into this year, and from what we’ve done this year to what we’ve done in the past speaks volumes about his knowledge of the game,” coach Wayne Wade said. “He’s been a vocal leader on the field like a quarterback should be. He gets us into our plays and makes the right checks and has done really well for us in that area. He’s a football player born and raised in Clairton. He plays with a lot of passion, and I’m glad we have him.”
What has been the key to the success you’ve had this season?
I would say just working hard in the offseason with my teammates and just staying focused.
Were you expecting this kind of run in the preseason?
I knew the harder we worked, the better the year we would have. We all stuck together. The offensive line has been blocking great, and our receivers have made great catches. It’s a team thing. We push each other. We’ve been working hard since February in the weight room. We knew in the offseason that if we stayed focused and kept our grades up, we would have a good year.
You guys haven’t lost a game yet. How do you stay focused from week to week?
We just take every game one at a time. You can’t overlook anybody, whether they’re undefeated or if they haven’t won a game; we treat every game like it’s a big one and we prepare for it that way. We have to stay focused from week to week.
Who do you consider a role model?
I’d say the players that started the (66-game) winning streak (2009-13). Watching them do so well, I figured I would be able to accomplish the same thing. There are so many people that have helped me along the way.
What are you going to be doing next year?
I would like to study journalism but I’m not sure about where. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
School: Thomas Jefferson
Claim to fame: Smith, a 6-foot middle hitter, has been an integral part of the Jaguars’ deep run in WPIAL and PIAA Class AA playoff competition. The junior has made a habit of stuffing her opponents at the net this season, evidenced by her 11-block performance in the team’s 3-0 sweep of Beaver in the WPIAL AA semifinal playoff game last week. Tuesday, Smith helped WPIAL runner-up Thomas Jefferson defeat St. Marys in straight sets in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs.
How did you get into playing volleyball?
Well, I didn’t make my seventh-grade team, so I ended up playing club. I got into that and I really started to like the sport, then I just kind of went on from there.
What can you take from the team’s run this year going forward?
I think we just have to take this momentum and use it to carry us all the way to the state finals. I think we’ll need to carry it over and use it for next season, too.
What are your plans for next year?
I’m still going to be middle hitter. I’ll just have to try to help us cope with losing a big outside hitter and another big middle hitter.
What classes do you enjoy the most?
Mostly chemistry and math. I just really like sciences. That’s what I’m looking at for colleges.
What kind of music do you like listening to?
I’ll really listen to anything besides country music and classical music. Recently, a lot of Drake.