Earning a starting linebacker spot as a freshman was a proud moment for Kendricks Jakey Harris. The senior said it also should have been the first sign the team was in trouble.
Honestly, from my freshman year when I got here, the attitude wasnt a winning attitude, Harris said. For me to come in as a freshman and take a seniors spot, that wasnt a winning attitude. But in the years, as Ive grown into a senior, the attitude has changed, and it changed the most this year.
Harris hopes it has changed enough that Kendrick can finish 2011 with a winning season, a feat the Cherokees have not accomplished since the team went 8-4-1 in 1995.
Harris returns as a rare four-year starter, spending much of his freshman season playing linebacker and gradually taking over fullback duties.
This year, there is more pressure than ever on him. Kendrick coach Jerry Dukes tasked Harris with helping lead more than 30 freshmen. Dukes also plans to use him more in the offense.
Harris gladly has accepted the challenge with a renewed focus.
There is a lot on my shoulders right now, Harris said. I started here ever since I was a freshman, so when we had back-to-back-to-back losing seasons, I just got fed up with it. I wanted to make a change, so I tried to get the young guys more involved in the weight room and in academics first, of course, and just make sure everyone was working hard.
On a team with only eight seniors, Harris leadership will be key getting a largely inexperienced group prepared for play in Region 5-AA, home to returning top-10 teams in Carver and Callaway.
Jakey has a lot of maturity, Dukes said. We needed him to be an example, and he has been. I think him starting as a ninth grader has been big for us because he developed faster and is using his experience to help the rest of the team.
That has meant putting in extra time in the weight room, directing teammates on the field, knowing more eyes than ever are on him, but Harris said that pressure is a price he is willing to pay to finish his high school career with a winning season or trip to the playoffs.
My senior year came faster than I expected, but, once I hit that stage, I realized its my last year and I dont want to go out with a losing season, Harris said. Im going to work hard, as hard as I can, to help us become a team first. If we become a team first and just work hard as a team, we will have a good outcome.
Chris White, 706-571-8571; follow Chris online at twitter.com/le_chriswhite and at facebook.com/le_chriswhite.