Damien Harris of Madison Southern is no longer Kentucky high school football's secret superstar.
The 5-foot-10, 203-pound sophomore leads the state in rushing (averaging 229 yards and five touchdowns a game), already has scholarship offers from Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky, among others, and this week CBS MaxPreps put him on its watch list for national sophomore of the year honors.
Is Harris surprised by all the attention he's getting?
"A little bit, but not really," he said. "I know how hard I worked this off-season, so I kind of expected good things to happen not only for me but for our team."
Harris gave a glimpse of his talent as a freshman when he ran for 742 yards and 11 TDs before suffering a concussion and sitting out the last part of the season.
Madison Southern second-year coach Jon Clark already considered Harris a big-time talent, but to get a true read on his potential, he took him to a national combine for underclassmen in Atlanta this past summer. Harris ran a 4.42 40-yard dash. Over the next few weeks, Harris went to camps at UT, UK and Michigan, and left each stop with a scholarship offer.
Harris also picked up offers from Fresno State, Illinois, Ohio University, Syracuse and Wake Forest.
"The thing that makes Damien stand out is his combination of speed and size," Clark said. "He's probably going to end up being 225 or 230 pounds before it's all said and done."
This season Harris has rushed for 1,605 yards and 32 TDs in helping the Eagles to a 5-3 record. (Madison Southern won five games total the previous five years.)
Clark said Harris is "very grounded and pretty humble. He knows he'd be nowhere without his teammates. He's got goals, and knows he has to work hard to achieve them. He's got a bigger picture in mind. He's handling all this very maturely for a kid his age."
Harris isn't about to get complacent. "Just because I'm getting this attention doesn't mean I'm the best," he said. "I know I can't take a day off in the weight room, on the field or in the classroom. I can never be content. I've got to keep getting better."
After Madison Southern plays at South Laurel on Friday night, Harris will be in Michigan on Saturday afternoon to watch the Wolverines play host to Michigan State. Such is the life of a highly touted 15-year-old football prospect. "I can only thank my teammates and Coach Clark for giving me these opportunities. I know I haven't done it by myself."
■ Winning has become a habit for Class A Fairview, which went 11-2 in 2009, 11-1 last year and is 8-0 this fall. "We have a chance at back-to-back undefeated (regular) seasons, which would be a huge feat for our program," Coach Nathan McPeek said. "It'd be unbelievable if we could do it." The Eagles, who beat rival Raceland last week, will be solid favorites against Nicholas County and Powell County in their next two games. Fairview has one of the best ground attacks in the state, averaging more than 400 yards with its wing-T. Seniors Chris Brewer, Devon Turner and Elijah King each have run for more than 630 yards. Freshman Tanner Dolen is a threat in the slot, while freshman quarterback Alex Roy is at the controls. The Eagles started the season with seven sophomores on defense, so McPeek has seen steady improvement on that side of the ball. Fairview's next goal is obvious. It wants to get past the third round in the post-season after losing in the region finals the last two years. "We want to make more noise in the playoffs," McPeek said.
■ Mayfield's rout of Fulton County last week was the 800th victory in Cardinals history. Mayfield ranks third among the state's all-time winningest programs behind Highlands (836) and Male (819). Fourth on the list is Paducah Tilghman (740), followed by Danville (725) and St. Xavier (714).
■ Highlands' 28-game winning streak is on the line at home against Cincinnati Elder on Friday. If the Bluebirds beat Elder, they'll be favored to roll on toward a sixth consecutive state title, and add to their state record of 13 undefeated seasons.
■ Bowling Green's 23rd consecutive victory was a 24-0 whitewashing of crosstown 5A district rival Warren Central last week. In the last 10 years Warren Central has played 122 games and been shut out only three times, with Bowling Green doing the blanking each time.
■ Pulaski County senior Keenan Hall had 14 tackles, seven for losses, and a school-record four quarterback sacks in a win over South Laurel. Pulaski County held South Laurel to minus-19 yards rushing.
■ Ryan Timmons' 80-yard kickoff return for a TD as time expired gave Franklin County a 56-52 win over Anderson County last week. Timmons' season totals: 73 touches, 1,897 yards, 35 TDs. While Flyers Coach Chris Tracy was happy with the district victory, he wasn't happy with his team's defense. After giving up 564 yards in a 76-55 victory over Woodford County the previous week, Franklin County surrendered 618 yards to Anderson County. "We can't win that way," Tracy said. "That's not a state championship type of deal."
■ No. 1 Trinity, which beat Male 38-7 for its 33rd win in a row, does not play this week. The Shamrocks finish the regular season at Cincinnati Moeller next Friday. That's when Trinity senior James Quick figures to break the state mark for career catches. He has 265 receptions, one shy of the record set by Male's Montrell Jones in 2000. This season Quick has 70 catches for 1,121 yards and 11 TDs.
■ The post-season isn't shaping up to be much fun for the teams in Class 6A, District 8 (Lafayette, Madison Central, Tates Creek and Clark County). In the first round of the playoffs they'll be matched against District 4 (Trinity, St. Xavier, Male and Manual). District 7 (Scott County, Bryan Station, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Henry Clay) will be matched against the top four from District 6 (Campbell County, Simon Kenton, Ryle, Dixie Heights and Boone County).
■ Nelson County senior Dylan Beasley has thrown for 3,216 yards with two regular-season games left. He's completed 196 of 304 passes (64 percent) for 30 TDs and 11 interceptions.
■ Pleasure Ridge Park, led by Spencer Sumpter's two passing TDs and a rushing TD, beat Butler 40-27 to run its record to 8-0. The Panthers haven't had an undefeated regular season in 28 years. PRP went 10-0 and was rated No. 1 in 1984, but lost to Southern 6-0 in the first round of the playoffs.
■ No two schools in Kentucky have played as many football games against each other as Bellevue and Dayton, who meet for the 133rd time on Friday. The rivalry began in 1926. Bellevue has won 17 of the last 20 games and leads the series 87-42-3.
■ Former Lone Oak quarterback Corey Robinson, Mr. Football in 2007, is in his third year starting at Troy University. He's thrown for 8,732 yards and 56 TDs in that time. Combine those totals with his Lone Oak numbers and he's passed for a staggering 14,604 yards and 188 TDs in his career.
■ Jim Perrin, one of the most successful softball coaches in state history, died this week at age 65 after a long battle with cancer. Mr. Perrin coached Christian County for 21 years and had an overall record of 664-155, including four state titles and four runner-up finishes. He also coached Christian County to a state wrestling title and two runner-up finishes. Mr. Perrin was inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame earlier this year.
■ Basketball recruiting guru Rick Bolus rates Kentucky's top 12 high basketball players based on college potential: 1. Quentin Snider (6-0 jr., Ballard); 2. Derek Willis (6-8 sr., Bullitt East); 3. Trey Grundy (6-6 jr., Henry Clay); 4. Jackson Davis (6-8 jr., Lafayette); 5. Dikembe Dixon (6-6 so., Ashland Blazer); 6. Darryl Hicks (6-4 sr., Trinity); 7. Shane Hall (6-7 jr., Johnson Central); 8. Jordan Green (6-4 jr., Henry Clay); 9. Jack Whitman (6-9 sr., Lexington Catholic); 10. Antonio Campbell (6-8 sr., Covington Holy Cross); 11. Dominique Hawkins (6-0 sr., Madison Central); 12. Omar Prewitt (6-6 sr., Montgomery County). Bolus' pick as the "top player on the rise" is Scott County's Jordan Tribble, a 6-9 senior transfer from Florida.
■ West Jessamine's Fred Allen Meyer, who won the state golf title and led the Colts to the team championship two weeks ago, has been named an honorable mention Rolex Junior All-American by the American Junior Golf Association. Meyer, a junior, has committed to UK.