Catawba football: Harris gives stirring spech to teammates
By Mike London
SALISBURY — In his final days as a Catawba football player, senior Kewone Harris came through with words — and deeds.
The tradition of senior speeches is an old one at Catawba. Harris and linebacker Lakeem Perry’s time to stand in front of their teammates came on the Friday night before Saturday’s game at Brevard.
“We used to do the senior speeches in camp every year,” coach Chip Hester explained. “But now it’s Fridays before games. It means a lot to all the players. I do my talk and a prayer. Then I get out of there and leave it to the guys.”
Both Perry and Harris would rather tackle than talk, and there really didn’t seem to be much to chat about, with the Indians staggering along at 2-7.
“Lakeem and I are the same kind of people — we’re not big vocal guys and we’ve always tried to lead with example more than words,” Harris said. “I talked about friendship mostly. I told the seniors we couldn’t think of this as the end of our career, we just had to live for the moment and enjoy every snap we had left. And I told the young guys to work not to be as good as the seniors, but to do better than we did.”
Hester had left the room. He didn’t hear Harris’ speech, but it must have hit home with his teammates.
“No, I didn’t hear the words,” Hester said. “But I did hear the applause.”
A two-time all-conference player at Oxford Webb, Harris has enjoyed a productive career with the Indians.
He played in five games as a true freshman in 2008. His sophomore year included a 10-tackle game against Mars Hill and he was a starter when he was healthy.
As a junior, he turned in an eight-tackle outing against Carson-Newman and had picks against Brevard and Livingstone.
This season has been tough, even though he ranks sixth on the team in tackles.
“He’s had to fight through a hamstring injury,” Hester said. “But as a senior, every game means a lot to him.”
As the Brevard game unfolded, it was evident Harris was playing with even more drive than usual. Against Brevard’s option offense, he was wary of cut and crackback blocks and stopped five running plays for very short gains. He also helped make the tackle on a kickoff.
“Kewone loves contact,” Hester said. “He looks for hits and loves those opportunities to hit. In a lot of one-on-one situations on Saturday, he made the play.”
Still, it looked like Catawba would lose another close one. The Indians trailed 13-10, and Brevard had pushed inside the Catawba 5 early in the fourth quarter.
With the Tornados facing third-and-goal at the 3, it was a guessing game. The tendency was for Brevard to run the ball in that situation, but Harris, playing with the joy of a kid in the backyard, was thinking pass.
“I was having fun, just doing something I loved,” he said. “All of us knew we needed to do something there, and our play call was excellent. Brevard had watched us on film, and they knew our pass defense has been our weakness, but our run defense has been strong. I thought they might throw and if they threw they were going to the big guy (Eric Watts) or the slot (Kelvin Jeter).”
They threw. QB Aaron Reese tried to hit Watts, his 6-foot-4, 220-pound target, but Harris broke it up.
On fourth down, the Tornados tried to find Watts again. Lineman C.J. Barksdale, one of the SAC’s top freshman, swatted the pigskin out of the air, and it was Catawba’s ball.
“A huge goal-line stand,” Hester said. “They don’t get any bigger than that.”
Catawba’s offense preceded to convert a series of third downs, took advantage of penalties and pushed 97 yards for the touchdown that gave the Indians a 17-13 lead with 6:34 left to play.
Then it was up to the defense to contain Brevard one last time. Harris came through with his team-high 12th and 13th tackles of the game as Catawba got that final stop it needed. It won for the first time since Oct. 1.
“With all the mistakes we’ve made, guys have never stopped fighting this year,” Hester said. “We aren’t playing for the things we wanted to play for, but there still are things to play for. A big part of that is our seniors.”
Catawba’s seniors close careers Saturday at home at 1:30 p.m. against Lenoir-Rhyne. The Bears (7-3, 5-1) will be playing for a SAC championship, while the Indians will be playing for each other and their coaches.
“You try not to think about it being your last game,” senior captain Eric Morman said. “You just think about playing against a rival in a game that your coaches and fans all want to win.”
NOTES: Catawba players of the week were Morman (TD catch), Perry (nine tackles) and long snapper D.J. Davis. It was the third time this season Perry’s been honored. Barksdale has also won the award three times.