Vernon Hills' Smith extends family's big-game legacy

Updated 12/1/2016 12:33 PM
  • Vernon Hills' Chick Smith shows the second-place trophy to fans following the Cougars' loss to Peoria in last weekend's Class 5A championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

      Vernon Hills' Chick Smith shows the second-place trophy to fans following the Cougars' loss to Peoria in last weekend's Class 5A championship game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

What a neat little factoid for the Smith family, a nugget to pull out years from now at Thanksgiving or Christmas or some other family function.

Andrew "Chick" Smith and his older sister Sydney Smith have both been to the holy grail of high school athletics: a state championship game.

Andrew, a middle linebacker for the Vernon Hills football team, led the Cougars to the Class 5A state title game over Thanksgiving weekend.

In 2012 and again in 2013, Sydney was on the girls basketball team at Vernon Hills that played in the Class 3A state title game.

And while neither one of the Smiths was able to be a part of a state championship victory, both are beaming with pride that the family is 2-for-2 in just experiencing that rare feat of getting there in the first place.

"Sydney was able to give me a lot of good advice about being downstate," Andrew said. "She said to just stay relaxed and to treat it like it's just another game."

Here's another rarity in which the Smith siblings also stand 2-for-2: honorary captains of the Daily Herald all-area team.

In the spring of 2014, Sydney was named captain of the Daily Herald's Lake County all-area girls basketball team. Now, Andrew is captaining the Lake County all-area football team.

Andrew was the best defensive player on a Vernon Hills team that rode its defense, the best in the area, all the way to the state title game. The Cougars gave up only 12 points per game.

"Chick is really deserving," Vernon Hills football coach Bill Bellecomo said. "He set the tone for our entire defense. He was the heart and soul of our defense.

"When he steps on the field, it's no-nonsense. He practices the way he plays in games and it shows in his game. He takes pride in every drill, and sees it as an opportunity to get better. He walks the walk, he doesn't just talk it. That feeds into our other players. The guys on our team just respect the heck out of him."

Smith rolled up 126.5 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss. He also had 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 caused fumbles and a fumble recovery. In a win over Zion-Benton during the regular season, he had 20-plus tackles.

He was named first-team all-state over Thanksgiving weekend.

"It was a great season and a dream come true," Smith said. "To get downstate was a rare experience I never thought I'd get to do. It was amazing to step on the field. I got a little bit of chills, it was so electric.

"Even though we lost (to Peoria, 62-48), we still made a lot of history for our school. That was so big. Not too many kids can say that they've played in a state championship game."

Of course, Smith knows one kid who can really well.

He'd like to follow in his sister Sydney's footsteps, yet again, and also get a college athletic scholarship, which would be another rarity for the same family: 2-for-2 in college athletic scholarships.

Sydney now plays basketball at the University of Vermont. Andrew is hoping he'll have a new team (a college team) by the signing date in February.

"I would love to play in college, and stick with middle linebacker," Andrew said. "I love that position. You've got to be a little crazy to play middle linebacker. You're in the middle of everything. It's my favorite position."

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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