By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Long after both teams had left the field and most of the fans had headed for the parking lot, Madison Southern’s Damien Harris was still trying to process the sequence of events that led to a spectacular touchdown run.
“I honestly don’t know,” Harris said. “I’ve been trying to process in my mind exactly what I was thinking.”
On the first play from scrimmage of the second half, Harris criss-crossed the field, making tacklers miss again and again on the way to a 52-yard touchdown run.
It was the junior running back’s fifth touchdown run, as he led the Eagles (2-0) to a 56-14 win over Whitley County.
Harris finished with 266 yards on 12 carries and through the first two games of the season he has 11 touchdowns (10 rushing, one kickoff return). Tyler Hagan also had three touchdowns (two rushing, one on a fumble return) as Southern improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2005.
“We didn’t punt until the second half when the reserves are in,” Southern coach Jon Clark said. “Everything was clicking.”
Southern had a 35-0 lead at halftime.
Then, Harris delivered a remarkable run.
The junior started to the left after taking a handoff from quarterback Devante Linville, then after getting almost to the hashmark cut back to the right. He dodged several would-be tacklers then cut back to the left again and broke into open field.
“I had the edge, but I just saw a wide open path out of the corner of my eye and I thought, ‘Why not try to make that cutback,’” Harris said. “Then I just happened to see the same thing on the other side. I figured I’d take it.”
Whitley County had just one defender back and Harris easily blew past him.
“I had one man to beat and honestly, I was gassed,” Harris said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. Thankfully, I was able to make him miss and got in the end zone.”
Clark usually allows his standout back, who has verbally committed to Michigan, the freedom to improvise when he has the ball.
The coach has just one rule.
“Never try to cut back on a stretch,” Harris said with a laugh.
And that’s just what Harris did.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘I told him not to do that,’” Clark said. “Then when I saw him going I didn’t know what to say. I just threw my hands up. I couldn’t believe that run. He should have been tackled four times. That was an amazing run.”
Harris opened the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Hagan scored on a 21-yards run early in the second quarter.
Harris added a 6-yard TD run and a 67-yard touchdown run before getting loose on an 82-yard touchdown run just before halftime.
Hagan scored on a 10-yard run in the third quarter, then also added a defensive score. The senior scooped up a fumble and went 50 yards for a score.
“It didn’t see it for a second, then it just went right into my hands,” Hagan said. “Then, I just kept on running.”
Whitley County got both its touchdowns late in the second half when Southern had mostly reserves or junior varsity players on the field.
After allowing only 13 points last week in the opener at Rockcastle County, the Eagle defense had another solid performance.
“Defense deserves a lot of credit,” Hagan said. “But, we are a team. We work together.”
Linville was four-for-six for 60 yards and also had one catch for 45 yards, while Buddy Harrison caught five passes for 60 yards.
The Eagles didn’t complete a pass in three attempts against Rockcastle, but they were able to move the ball through the air, especially early, against the Colonels.
“Last week, the pass game was not any indication of where we were,” Clark said. “We felt really good throwing the ball. Obviously, the helps a lot.”
Southern had 511 total yards of offense, 390 of which came on the ground.
Southern is set to return to action Friday at Madison Central (0-1).