Fantasy football couldn't match the real thing for Madison Southern junior running back Damien Harris last weekend.
On Friday night, Harris rushed for 315 yards and three touchdowns to lead Madison Southern past host Madison Central 34-27 in front of an overflow crowd estimated at 5,000. It was the Eagles' first victory over their cross-county rivals. "A huge win for us," Harris said.
On Saturday night, Harris was part of the biggest crowd in the history of American football. He was among the 115,109 fans who crammed Michigan Stadium (aka "The Big House") to watch the Wolverines whip Notre Dame 41-30 on national television.
Harris, who has committed to Michigan, had a front-row, 50-yard-line seat behind the Wolverines bench. He waved his maize-colored towel and reveled in the atmosphere. "It was crazy, unbelievable — 115,000 people for a football game," Harris said. "It's amazing the amount of support and love they get from their fans. It's definitely the best place I've ever been."
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Harris has been a Michigan fan since he was a little kid growing up in Richmond. "It was a family thing. Michigan was the team I wished I could play for when I got older." So he was beyond ecstatic when he attended a camp there this summer and got a scholarship offer. "It's hard to put into words how it feels when a dream actually comes true. Everything I ever wanted as a kid was there for me to grab and take advantage of."
Harris can't sign with the Wolverines for another 17 months, but he said there's no chance he'll change his mind. "I know it's the right place for me. It's the only place I ever wanted to go."
In the meantime, Harris will try to keep Madison Southern on the upswing. The Eagles are 3-0, thanks in large part to Harris, who has already rushed for 806 yards and 13 touchdowns. They play host to Paul Laurence Dunbar on Friday night.
■ South Warren's defense is still pitching a shutout three weeks into the season. The Spartans have blanked Warren East (35-0), Logan County (50-0) and Greenwood (38-0), and held them to a collective (and mind-boggling) minus 108 yards rushing. "The credit goes to the players and (defensive coordinator) Brandon Smith," Coach Mark Nelson said. "The boys really believe in his philosophy, and they're playing the right technique. They're really close-knit, and they want to play flawless defense." South Warren has shut down a couple of good running backs in Warren East's Eli Brown and Greenwood's DeMarcus Potter. The Spartans' high-profile defenders are tackle Adrian Middleton, a UK commitment, and linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe, who has offers from Western Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, among others. But senior linebacker Cody Chaffin leads the team in tackles, just as he did last year. South Warren faces another good back Friday when it plays Elizabethtown. Sophomore Berneil Cecil has run for 555 yards and scored 10 TDs for the Panthers, who are 3-0 after losing 21 of their previous 22 games.
■ Highlands quarterback Drew Houliston has thrown for 1,000 yards and 14 TDs in three games. Highlands and Houliston visit John Hardin on Saturday (6 p.m. kickoff) in a showdown of teams that rarely lose. Highlands has won 55 of its last 56 against Kentucky competition, and is 80-3 overall with six state titles since 2007. John Hardin has won 66 of its last 68 regular-season games and is 79-8 overall since 2007.
■ Lynn Camp senior Aaron Mills did a little of everything in the first half of a 41-12 victory at Jellico, Tenn. Mills threw for two TDs, ran for a TD, caught a TD pass, kicked two extra points and had a two-point conversion. Mills' first-half stats: 4-for-5 passing for 99 yards, seven rushes for 49 yards, and two receptions for 45 yards. Mills' versatility isn't new. He had a TD pass, a TD catch and a TD run against Pineville last season. "Aaron is a coach's dream and will make someone on the next level very happy with his focus, enthusiasm and discipline," Coach Phil Russell said.
■ Bowling Green's Nacarius Fant had five catches for 110 yards and two TDs in a 39-25 win over St. Xavier. It was the Purples' 32nd consecutive victory. Fant, a WKU commitment, has moved past former Male star Michael Bush for 10th place in state career receiving yards with 3,033. Fant is 20th all-time in TD receptions with 34, and 23rd in total catches with 153. His next reception will tie him with UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown who had 154 at Boyle County.
■ Belfry beat Harlan County 21-12 in a matchup of mountain powers. The Pirates won in typical Philip Haywood style. They rushed for more than 300 yards, led by Justin Johnson's 143, and completed just one pass — a 55-yard TD from Sani Warren to Keaton Taylor. It was Haywood's 364th career victory.
■ Simon Kenton quarterback Brenan Kuntz doesn't have the name recognition of Conner quarterback and UK commitment Drew Barker. But Kuntz helped the Pioneers beat Conner and Barker 42-35 last week. Kuntz threw for 150 yards and a TD. Kuntz has passed for 3,600 yards and 27 TDs in his career. Barker threw for 344 yards and four TDs, and ran for another score against Simon Kenton. In two games this season Barker has passed for 579 yards and eight TDs, and run for 215 yards and three scores.
■ Mayfield beat Paducah Tilghman 28-21 last Saturday in the 100th game between the Western Kentucky rivals. The Cardinals' eighth win in a row over Tilghman gave them a 47-43-10 advantage in the series that began in 1911. Stuart Mills ran 41 times for 183 yards for Mayfield.
■ Greenup County, led by sophomore Ryan Byrd's 127 yards rushing, beat host Fleming County 22-20 to end a 24-game losing streak and give third-year coach Chris Mullins his first victory. The Musketeers were an emotional bunch afterward. "The kids were crying and hugging me, saying, 'This one's for you, Coach,' " Mullins said. "But I told them, 'I'm not out there in pads. I'm not lifting weights all winter long.' I told them it was theirs, and to take it and enjoy it and learn from it." When Greenup County lost close games to Lewis County and Russell to start the season, Mullins wondered if victory would ever come. "But when you're trying to turn a program, these are the kind of experiences you have to go through," he said. Mullins is personally invested in the Musketeers. He played for them in the late 1990s and was part of three district title teams. The Musketeers visit rival Raceland on Friday.
■ Franklin County has been a scoring machine the past few years, and that's meant a lot of extra-point duty for Zachary Durham. The senior has kicked 19 of 22 PATs in three games this season, and 95 of 104 since last year. He has kicked 231 career extra points, second-most in state history behind Jack Courts' 297 for Lone Oak (2007-10). Franklin County Coach Chris Tracy said, "Zach works very hard. He has been automatic for the last two seasons." Tracy added that credit also goes to long-snapper Logan Duke and holder Sammy Anderson.
■ Cincinnati Moeller Coach John Rodenberg was in familiar surroundings when his team crushed Covington Catholic 45-7 last Saturday. Rodenberg coached CovCath to a Class 3A state title in 2006. He left the Colonels after that season and went to Cincinnati Roger Bacon. He has been at Moeller since 2008, and led the Crusaders to the Ohio Division I title last season.
■ Paintsville freshman Kent Phelps ran 32 times for 224 yards in the Tigers' 28-21 loss to Pikeville. He has 470 yards and three TDs this season. Kent is the son of former Paintsville quarterback Billy Phelps, who also started on the Tigers' state championship baseball team in 1990. Billy homered in Paintsville's win over Tates Creek in the state finals that year.
■ Caldwell County led Ohio County 49-0 at halftime last week, so junior stars Elijah Sindelar and Jaylen Boyd didn't play the rest of the game. Sindelar, who has a scholarship offer from UK, has completed 41 of 67 passes for 520 yards, eight TDs and two interceptions this season. He's run for 94 yards and a score. Boyd has rushed for 283 yards and four TDs, and has 47 yards and a TD receiving.
■ UK Coach John Calipari and assistant John Robic will be among the speakers at the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches' fall clinic Sept. 20-21 at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington. WKU Coach Ray Harper, NAIA national championship coach Chris Briggs of Georgetown College, high school coaching legend Bob Hurley of St. Anthony's (N.J.), and Oklahoma women's coach Sherri Coale will also speak. Former Transylvania coaches Don Lane and Lee Rose will also be at the clinic. For more information, go to www.kentuckybasketballcoaches.org.
■ Franklin County sophomore golfer Jacob Cook has made the Gene Hilen Cup his own personal playground the last few years. Cook birdied five of his last seven holes to shoot a 4-under-par 31 at Juniper Hill, giving him a two-day score of 66 to win the 20th annual Gene Hilen Cup for the fifth year in a row. Cook is 10-under in his last three competitive rounds, including a 3-under 68 at Mount Sterling Country Club in the Montgomery County Invitational.