Prep Football: North hero Harrison’s success mirrors that of Cavaliers
SPENCER — Wideout Sakil Harrison’s favorite play in Friday’s 55-22 win against C.D. Owen in the second round of the 2A playoffs, was a block, and that tells you a lot about Harrison.
“It was on that little screen pass that Alexis (Archie) flipped to Jareke (Chambers),” Harrison said with a smile. “I saw Jareke running and running, and I knew I had a chance to get a block for him if he just kept coming. Well, he kept coming, and I got a good block just when he was getting ready to tackle Jareke. It was a good clean, hard block, the kind you look forward to.”
North’s 55 points against Owen were the most North has ever scored in a postseason game.
North (13-0) has now scored a school-record 530 points and is averaging more than 400 yards of offense and nearly 41 points a game, a pace that will shatter the school record if the Cavaliers can come close to maintaining it.
Harrison has been a big part of all that scoreboard-changing mayhem. His stats are very good — 42 catches, 680 yards, eight TDs — but when you look at those all-star stats, you also have to remember that Archie missed all of four games and parts of two others.
“We move Sakil around trying to get the best matchups for him, and he’s done a great job catching the football,” North head coach Joe Nixon said. “He’s also a big physical kid, hard to bring down once he catches the ball, and he’s strong enough to make the kind of blocks that spring guys for long gains.”
Harrison was OK last season as a sophomore with North operating out of the I-formation. He had 18 catches for 374 yards and three TDs, but he wasn’t a big factor in North’s four biggest games — regular-season losses to West Rowan, Salisbury and Albemarle and the 1AA playoff loss to West Montgomery.
“I was in the weight room by January and calling other guys to come to the weight room,” Harrison said. “I looked at it like we were going to be making a big step up to 2A and we needed to work out at least twice as hard as before. Our linemen did a great job of getting in the weight room and that led to the team success we’ve had this season.”
North’s move to a spread offense has done a lot for Harrison, and so has the weight room. He is almost 6-foot-3 now, and he weighs 185 well-distributed pounds. He’s become a prototype receiver physically, and his size gives North an important dimension offensively. North’s other receivers are fast, but they aren’t big. Harrison has all the physical tools college coaches look for, and with his no-shave November beard, he looks more like a college sophomore than a high school kid.
“He’s the leader of our wide-receiver group and has been since Day One,” North assistant coach Aaron Rimer said. “I’m not sure where it started or where it came from, but that whole group of receivers decided they were going to be good blockers. Usually if you’re known as blocking receivers it means you’re not very good at catching passes, but our guys can catch the ball too.”
Harrison hasn’t had that humongous game this year. He’s just been consistent. He’s played in 24 varsity games the last two seasons (he missed one in 2012), and he’s caught passes in 23 of them. He’s caught at least one pass every game this season and he’s caught touchdown passes in seven different games, including the last three in a row.
“His game Friday really wasn’t that different from any of his others,” Rimer said. “He’s been good every week. When you throw it his way, you’re surprised if it’s not a completion.”
If you watch film of North, Harrison is obviously the receiver you worry about most because of his size, but Nixon said the Cavaliers have managed to get so many people involved in the passing game that it’s been tough for teams to focus on Harrison.
“Alexis has done a great job of spreading the ball around,” Nixon said.
Archie’s 14 completions on Friday went to six different receivers, and four Cavaliers — backs Chambers and Kasaun Coney and wideouts Harrison and Darrell Taylor — took passes to the end zone.
Harrison made five receptions for 80 yards, with all five completions gaining at least 10 yards.
Archie’s 17-yard connection with Harrison in the third quarter came a few minutes after Chambers’ electrifying score on the screen pass and gave the Cavaliers a comfortable 35-14 lead.
“Alexis just threw a really good ball, and I knew if I could get my head around and catch it, I had a chance for a touchdown,” Harrison said. “Then when the guy tried to tackle me up around my helmet, I knew I was going in for the touchdown.”
That play was part of an offensive effort that coordinator Ben Hampton called North’s best of the season. Harrison enjoyed his trip to the end zone, but he liked his block for Chambers even better.
“Catching the ball is a lot of fun,” Harrison said. “But blocking is what I take pride in.”