Merrimack’s Smith continues family legacy at Plymouth State

For Merrimack’s Chris Smith, attending school at the Plymouth State University is a family tradition. Three older brothers have diplomas from the school and one actually preceded him on the football team.

Justin Smith was a defensive end on one of Plymouth’s best teams in 2007. Chris Smith, then a student at Merrimack High School, visited the school often to watch his brother play and liked the atmosphere.

Two other brothers, Jeff and Kevin, are also Plymouth graduates.

“I guess it’s been a good fit for our family,’’ Smith said, “in part because we all like to ski.’’

Smith is looking forward to winter on the slopes of Loon Mountain, which offers a discounted rate for college students. But in the meantime he’s enjoying life as a starting safety on the football team. Smith, a standout two-way player for Merrimack High School who rushed for more than 500 yards as a senior, loves the defensive side of the ball.

“I’m not real big, but I like to hit,’’ said the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder. “We take a lot of pride in our defense.’’

The Plymouth defense came up big on Saturday in a 13-7 victory over Maine Maritime, the Panthers first win of the year. A goal line stand late in the game preserved the win.

The program is trying to bounce back after going 4-6 last fall, its first sub-.500 campaign since 2006.

“We’re still pretty young,’’ Smith said. “But I think we have the potential and work ethic to be pretty good for the next few years.’’

Smith said the big difference between high school football and college football is the time commitment.

“We spend a lot of time studying film and in our in-season lifting program,’’ Smith said, “stuff we really didn’t have time to do in high school.’’

Besides his starting role on defense, Smith is active on special teams as well.

“He can cover a lot of ground,’’ Plymouth head coach Paul Castonia said, “and he’s not afraid to come up and be physical.

“He’s not a big kid, but he’s very strong. He holds records in the weight room for his field position group.’’

After a slow start in a 35-7 opening game loss to Castleton (Vt.) State, Plymouth (1-2) has played well defensively the last two weeks. Smith is tied for fourth on the team in tackles with 16 going into Saturday’s game at UMass Dartmouth.

FRANCIS HERNANDEZ

Former Bishop Guertin cross country and track standout Francis Hernandez finished fifth overall and third for his Auburn University team on Saturday at the Azalea City Classic, hosted by South Alabama University in Mobile.

Hernandez, who transferred to Auburn after two years at Providence College, finished the 8-kilometer race in 25 minutes, 53.03 seconds.

Because he didn’t compete at Providence last fall, Hernandez, of Windham, is still a sophomore in terms of eligibility.

KAILEY BLAINE

Former Merrimack High School standout Kailey Blain suffered a second major knee injury during pre-season drills and will miss a second season for the Georgetown University women’s soccer team.

Blain, a two-time All American and Gatorade Player of the Year for New Hampshire in 2008, was named to the All Big East Rookie Team in 2010, when she started 22 of 24 games.

She scored two goals in Georgetown’s opener last season before injury her right knee in the second game and sitting out the remainder of the season.

She recently had a second surgery to repair a torn ACL and could still have three years of eligibility when she returns next fall.

SHAWNA TRUNCA

Former Campbell High School standout soccer player Shawna Trunca has played in eight games so far this fall for the University of South Alabama soccer team.

Trunca, who sat out the 2011 season following knee surgery, is still a freshman in terms of eligibility.

JEN SWAFFORD

Newbury College senior Jen Swafford of Merrimack picked up her 20th career doubles victory last week, making her the school’s all-time leader.

Swafford and teammate Alexandra Derderian won their match against Anna Maria College 8-5 in an 8-1 team victory. Swafford was also a winner at No. 1 singles, 6-4, 6-2.

Including a recent victory over Lesley College, Swafford now had 23 career wins in singles and 21 in doubles.