By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Madison Southern football team had an outstanding season in 2012.
Coming off a 2-8 season in 2011, the Eagles turned things around in a big way, finishing with a 7-5 record that included a thrilling 37-36 win over Perry County Central in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Two individuals who had a big hand in that turnaround picked up some postseason honors Tuesday.
Sophomore running back Damien Harris and head coach Jon Clark were selected by the Kentucky Football Coaches Association as the 2012 KFCA/Russell Athletic Class 5A District 7 player and coach of the year.
Harris, the Eagles’ go-to-guy on offense, had one of the best seasons of any running back in the state.
In 10 games for the Eagles this year, Harris carried the ball 160 times for 1,911 net yards — an average of 191 yards per game — and scored an 37 touchdowns.
He also hauled in five passes for 176 yards and another three touchdowns.
Clark said Harris was surprised when told he received the award, but he certainly earned it.
“That is a pretty big award. There are a lot of really good players in our district and on our football team so he was surprised,” Clark said. “I think it was humbling for him, but I also think it was something that was well deserved and it was good to see him get recognition for that.”
Harris’ recognition, Clark said, was a testament to the play of the entire team.
“Our O-line played well, our offense played well, Adam Simpson did a lot of great things for us offensively and our defense got us off the field, so there is no question it is great for our program to receive the recognition,” Clark said. “It’s also great for our school. It’s been a long time since Southern has been seen in that light, so I think it’s great for the program and that’s what is exciting.”
Clark, in just his second season at the helm of the Eagles, has quickly built a very solid program at Southern and turned the Eagles into a bona fide district contender again.
The seven wins are the most by a Madison Southern team since the Doug Carter coached 2005 team went 8-3, and also matched the number of wins the school had between 2006 and 2010 combined.
The coach of they year award, Clark said, should be given to entire staffs, not just an individual.
“The coach of the year award is awesome recognition for our staff. I wish they would call it the coaching staff award because I don’t do this by myself,” Clark said. “I’ve got 12 outstanding coaches and we do it as a group. I couldn’t do the things I do without them. I have the best staff in the state, there’s no question about that.”
Southern has a majority of the team returning in 2013 and Clark said he’s excited about the direction the team is heading, as is the community as a whole.
“It is completely different atmosphere around the program right now. It is very positive, there is a great energy about it and I think people are excited to see the team play on Friday nights,” Clark said. “Our kids are at a point where they have invested so much, it makes it hard to lose and that is a big step for our program. I think the fans are feeling the same way, they are starting to get more invested in the program and that is exactly what we want.”
A player and coach of the year from each of Kentucky’s six classes will be chosen from the district winners. The awards will be handed out at halftime of each class state championship game at Houchins-Smith Stadium at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
The class 1A, 3A and 4A championships will be played Friday, Nov. 30. The class 2A, 5A and 6A championships will be played Saturday, Dec. 1.
Clark said he and others from Southern will attend the Dec. 1 5A championship game to represent the district.