By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
When the Eagles needed one more first down to wrap up a first-ever victory over Madison Central, they put the ball into the hands of their standout Division I running back.
And of course, Damien Harris delivered.
The junior picked up four yards on a third-and-2 with less than two minutes left, moving the chains one last time and sealing an emotional victory that ended nearly a quarter century of frustration for Madison Southern. Harris had three touchdowns and finished with a season-high 315 yards on 31 carries in the 34-27 win in Richmond.
“It’s unbelievable. This is a game we’ve had circled on our calendars for a long time,” Harris said. “They’ve always been the big dogs in Madison County. We’ve been looked at as the little brother to them. But, going out and getting this big win and all the support we had from the fans, its unbelievable. It’s a great feeling.”
Central and Southern had played just three times prior to Friday’s game. The Indians had won each meeting by sizable margins (1989 — 39-0; 2007 — 37-8 and 2008 — 57-0).
More than 10,000 people packed into the Madison Central Athletic Complex to see the Eagles rally from a 17-13 halftime deficit to improve their record to 3-0 on the season.
“We are a tougher team than people are going to give us credit for right now,” Southern coach Jon Clark said. “We made a quarterback switch in the middle of the week. Went with a young man (Aaron Slone) who is a sophomore and we are going to have some growing pains with him, but we like where its going to take us down the road.”
The Indians (1-2) took the early lead on a 75-yard pass from Kameron Presnell to John Williams mid-way through the first quarter.
Less than three minutes later, Harris got loose on a 55-yard touchdown run.
After a 37-yard field goal by Ben Durham gave Central a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter, J.D. Dean caught a 64-yard pass from Slone that gave Southern its first lead (13-10).
“We showed we could throw the ball a little bit, too,” Clark said.
Central took a lead into halftime after Caleb McClurg caught a 12-yard pass from Zach Hardin with 2:29 left in the second quarter.
“It was a team effort,” Harris said. “We all made big plays at the right time.”
Southern scored on three of its first four possessions of the second half.
Casey Dionne had a 9-yard TD run, then Harris scored on runs of 64 yards and 1 yard.
Harris had just 102 yards on 13 carries in the first half, but really busted loose in the third and fourth quarters.
“They committed everyone to the box to try and stop him, but he is going to get his regardless,” Clark said. “I’m very proud of that young man.”
Durham hit a 24-yard field goal in the third quarter and Will Hinton return an interception 54 yards for a touchdown with 3:29 left in the fourth quarter.
Hinton’s third interception of the game gave the Indians one last chance, but the Eagles chewed up the final minutes of the game behind Harris.
Through the first three games of the season, Harris has 791 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns (13 rushing, one kickoff return).
Harris also completed a pass for 21 yards.
“There’s no words to describe the passion and emotion we put into this game,” Harris said. “It all paid off in the end.”
Slone was 5-of-11 for 105 yards. Dean had four receptions for 90 yards.
For Central, Williams had three catches for 83 yards, while Korrion Crier had 70 yards on eight carries and Johan Williams had 66 yards on 18 carries.
Hardin was six-of-nine for 70 yards and Presnell was two-of-eight for 72 yards.
Central is set to return to action Friday at Scott County.
Southern is set to return to action Friday at home against Dunbar.