London column: Harris and Lowe in the same backfield could be scary

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 15, 2009

LANDIS ó The red and black helmets worn by South Rowan Raiders carry a five-letter message above the facebar.
If the Raiders stay healthy and practice the all-for-one stuff the coaching staff preaches, this could be a season to shout about.
At the skill positions, South has personnel as talented as it’s had in years. Maybe since the 1980s glory days of coach Reid Bradshaw when South often fielded the county’s finest team.
Meet Thomas Lowe, a senior back who will suit up for South for the first time. As a sophomore, he didn’t just break records at East Rowan ó he shattered them. In 2007, he was mentioned in the same breath as West Rowan superstar K.P. Parks.
As a junior … well, we’ll get to that. For now, just know that the stocky Lowe’s arms are thicker than the average DB’s thighs. He’s 205 pounds of mostly muscle and looks scarier than the last time you saw him.
Meet D’Andre Harris, a senior back who will suit up for South’s varsity for the third time. There’s little flash to the 200-pound Harris, but he’s as reliable as the afternoon mail. He’s husky, fast and durable and would rather run through a wall than around it. South handed Harris the ball 200 times last year and was rewarded with 1,026 gritty yards.
Even a sportswriter can see both Lowe and Harris are too talented to sit and too talented to change positions.
Both are feature backs, guys you hand the ball to, guys you build an offense around.
Can Harris and Lowe coexist in the same backfield? Are there enough carries to go around? Enough yards? Enough TDs? Enough footballs? Enough scholarships?
It’s quite an experiment South head coach Jason Rollins is conducting in his locker-room laboratory.
Unity faces an acid test.
There’s no chance this would work if Harris wasn’t a class act, but class rolls off him like sweat rolls off an offensive lineman on a 99-degree day. He’s a solid soldier, devoted to his coaches, and his teammates respect him. As a junior, he rarely spoke unless spoken to, but teammates voted him one of three captains because of the manner in which he leads by example.
When he’s asked to block for Lowe, no one doubts Harris will block as hard as he runs.
Harris has rushed 353 times for 1,655 yards and 22 TDs on varsity. He was a jayvee standout as a freshman, proved himself on Fridays as a sophomore and earned the role of main man as an all-county junior.
Lowe also was a jayvee hero as an East freshman. As a sophomore, he was Secretariat for a herd of Mustangs that ended losing streaks against a lot of schools. Lowe scored four TDs against Salisbury and four against South. He carried 318 times for 1,779 yards and 22 TDs.
Lowe opened his junior year with 100-yard efforts against Salisbury, North Rowan and West Iredell, but that was it. He was dismissed from the squad after three games, and he was on thin ice before the season even started. Lowe left East and enrolled at South. He didn’t join the football team.
“Last year was very tough,” Lowe said. “I went through a lot of stuff. But even though I’m the new guy here, everyone has accepted me well. I’m excited.”
Rollins agreed with Lowe’s assessment.
“Thomas has embraced this team and this coaching staff, and he fits in,” Rollins said. “He’s kind of had a year to get things in order, and he and D’Andre are working together great on the field. Our veterans have accepted him.”
South is a triple-option team so there’s room in the backfield for both Harris and Lowe to be on the field every offensive down. There’s room for them to compete in a positive way with each other, block for each other and serve as decoys for each other.
In a perfect world, Harris and Lowe will both rush for 1,000 yards and South will win ballgames.
It’s hard not to like Harris, who smiles a lot and silently works his tail off.
Lowe wins over believers every day. He’s obviously made mistakes in the past, but he also can turn on the charm. Chalk up last year’s lost year to Lowe’s growing pains. South is offering a second chance and a clean slate. Now it’s up to Lowe to take advantage.
“Thomas has been yes-sir and no-sir and he’s done all we’ve asked all summer,” South offensive coordinator Steve London said. “He had a pulled groin and could have sat out the other day, but all he said was, ‘I’m a go. I’m here to play.’ That showed all of us something.”
South’s offense, which also features the considerable talents of QB Blake Houston and wideout B.J. Grant, doesn’t have a fancy name, but London suggested the TD Show. T as in Thomas. D as in D’Andre.
Maybe the DOT. As in D’Andre Or Thomas. Both should transport the ball often and a long way.
Ominous weather at a recent practice forced the Raiders inside to study plays or to the field house to hoist weights.
Harris and Lowe didn’t stroll arm in arm as they ambled across the parking lot toward the weights, but they did walk side by side.
Only time will tell, but “Unity” has a fighting chance.