MT. VERNON —
Enough is enough.
Eighteen times Madison Southern and Rockcastle had played and eighteen times had Rockcastle won.
But thanks to another monster game from the Eagles’ Mr. Everything running back, Damien Harris, the frustrating streak came to a crashing halt Friday, 41-13.
Harris scored five rushing touchdowns, had a kickoff return for a touchdown and added two-point conversion as the Eagles put a second-half beatdown on the Rockets on their way to an emphatic win.
“This is a win was for the Madison Southern alumni base and southern Madison County. This is for them. We played for everybody tonight and we got it done,” an elated Southern coach Jon Clark said. “I'm so proud of this team. They’ve got character, poise, they've got a mission, they've got objective and they know how to get there and it will just keep getting better from here on out.”
Harris finished the night with 210 yards on 23 carries and the Eagles needed every one of those.
Rockcastle came out in the first half and put 11 men near the line of scrimmage to try to stop Harris and the Eagles’ running game.
And stop it they did, holding Harris to only 18 net yards in the first half as they turned the game into a slugfest in the trenches.
But the Eagles defense was just as good and the game was scoreless with 1:23 seconds left in the first half.
That’s when Rockcastle quarterback Corey McPhetridge hit John Hughes with a 51 yard touchdown pass. Hughes’ PAT gave the Rockets a 7-0 lead.
The lead lasted all of one play as Harris took the ensuing kickoff and weaved his way through the first wave of Rocket defenders then raced up the right sideline for a 65-yard touchdown to pull the Eagles to within 7-6, which it stayed at the half.
It was the first kickoff return touchdown of Harris’ career.
The pace of the game picked up quickly in the second half.
The Rockets extended their lead to 13-6 on a McPhetridge to Tyler Harper 60-yard touchdown pass on Rockcastle’s first possession.
That’s when Harris took over the game, thanks to some halftime adjustments by the Eagles coaching staff.
On the ensuing possession, the Eagles switched to their “Wolverine” formation with Harris taking the direct snap from center after the first four plays.
On the first snap from the “Wolverine”, Harris scooted 16 yards around left end for a touchdown to make it 13-12 with 7:27 left in the quarter. The PAT tied the game at 13.
Harris said he always had faith in his teammates to open up running room and the halftime adjustments made the difference.
“It wasn’t big adjustments, we just needed to get some things going,” Harris said. “The line had as much faith in me to run as I did in them to block and it was a beautiful thing and we were able to put some points up on the board because of it.”
After the Eagles got the ball back three plays later when Casey Dionne recovered a Rockcastle fumble on the Eagle 38-yard line, the “Wolverine” came through again.
On the third play, Harris picked up his third touchdown of the night, from 42 yards out to give Southern its first lead of the game, 19-13.
From that point on, the Southern defense began to dominate, forcing the Rockets to punt from their own goaline, giving the Eagles possession on the 31 yard line.
One play later, Harris made it 22-13 on a 31-yard run up the middle. Quarterback Devante Linville converted the two-point conversion and the rout was on.
Harris added a 51-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left in the third quarter and his sixth TD from twos yard out early in the fourth quarter. His two-point conversion rounded out the scoring.
Southern had trouble holding onto leads late in some games in the past, Clark said, but Friday was a different story.
“The last two years we’ve struggled with consistency throughout the game and sealing in the third and fourth quarters when we lead in games. That was not a problem tonight,” Clark said. “This was a physical game and our guys got up and in the third and fourth quarter we were the more physical team and that’s what matters. When we needed to turn it up, we turned it up.”
On the night, as a team, the Eagles were 0-for-3 passing and had a total of 261 yards on the ground on 32 rushing attempts.
The Eagles return home next week to take on Whitley County in a 7:30 p.m. contest.
MT. VERNON —
Enough is enough.
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