Sluggish start, stellar finish for Madison Southern star Damien Harris

broberts@herald-leader.comAugust 22, 2014 

Madison Southern's Damien Harris ran for a touchdown against Madison Central, one of his 42 scores last season.

MATT GOINS — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

BEREA — The Damien Harris Show was delayed by lightning and a porous offensive line Friday night.

Once it finally got started, it was something to see. If only for a little while.

Harris — the top-ranked running back in the country — went for 123 yards and two touchdowns in Madison Southern's 24-7 season-opening victory over visiting Rockcastle County.

The game was called before the start of the third quarter due to lightning.

"It's definitely frustrating," Harris said. "We had a great game plan coming in. The second half, we were looking to come out full speed and give them everything we had. But, you know, things happen. We can't control everything. We can't control the weather. But we controlled how we played in the first half.

"And it says 1-0 on our record, so we'll take it."

Only two of Harris' first five carries went for positive yardage — both were 2-yard gains. The other three got stopped in the backfield, and one ended when Harris spun away from a defender only to be stripped by another.

Madison Southern recovered the fumble and managed a field goal out of the drive, giving the Eagles the lead for good at 10-7.

The real show began the next time they got the ball.

On the second play of the possession, Harris took a direct snap in the Wildcat formation, drifted to his right while reading the defense, and exploded through a hole.

He was gone.

Harris went 75 yards in a flash, and by the time he got to the end zone there was no one else anywhere close.

He credited the blocking for his first touchdown of the season, noting that Rockcastle County was stacking the box with defenders from the start, which made it tough for the Southern line to keep them out of the backfield.

"It was a great feeling," Harris said. "Like I said, we knew we couldn't run on these guys, and they had a lot of men in the box. But once you spring that first one, that gives you a lot of confidence for the rest of the game."

The Eagles got the ball back near midfield with 30 seconds left in the first half.

Harris took another direct snap, swept around the line to his left and turned upfield as soon as he got to the sideline.

There appeared to be three Rockcastle defenders taking the correct angle on him. Again, none of them got close.

Harris went into a different gear once he was pointed toward the end zone. The result was a 56-yard touchdown.

How close did that last defender get?

"I don't know," he said with a smile. "I was looking at the end zone the whole time. That was my only focus."

After the game, Harris fielded questions about Kentucky, Ohio State, Alabama, Florida and Texas A&M — the five finalists battling for his commitment.

He talked about what he likes about each school on his list. He talked about possible campus visits in his future. And — surrounded by cameras and reporters — he talked about the present, and making sure he doesn't get caught up in the circus that comes with being the top running back in the country.

"I just try to stay focused, stay humble and not let all of this attention get to my head," he said.

Madison Southern 24, Rockcastle Co. 7

Rockcastle County 7 0— 7

Madison Southern 7 17—24

RC—Chance Ansardi 2 run (kick good). MS—J.D. Dean 27 pass from Aaron Slone (Garrison Watts kick). MS—Watts 29 field goal. MS—Damien Harris 75 run (Watts kick). Harris 56 run (Watts kick).

Records: Rockcastle Co. 0-1; Madison Southern 1-0.

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216Twitter: @NextCatsBlog:

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