No. 5 Charlotte Catholic at Olympic, 7 p.m. Friday: Olympic
averages 42.5 points per game and has topped 60 points three times,
including in its past two games. The Trojans have won five straight.
Catholic has won 22 straight conference games and the past two ME-GA 7
league championships. Catholic’s last conference loss was 21-14 to
Olympic on Sept. 25, 2009. Olympic won the conference title that year.
One of the key figures in tonight's game at Olympic will be Trojans' tailback Jarrett Harris (below), who broke a 42-year-old Olympic school record last week. Here's a feature from earlier in the week on Harris:
In a 63-0 win over Harding Oct. 12, the Olympic senior running back had 213 yards before getting pulled out of the game early in the second half.
At halftime of Olympic’s 63-14 win over Berry last week, Harris was close again, about 40 yards away from breaking the school’s single-game rushing record of 230 yards, set by Randy Rhino in 1970.
Coach Barry Shuford wanted him to know it. He told Harris how close he was at halftime.
“I felt like I needed to run harder,” said Harris, 17, about learning about the record. “I had to have this record because I’ve never had anything in life. ... It was a little more pressure.”
Harris finished the game with 297 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns, shattering the 42-year-old record. In the same game, he broke the career rushing record of 2,834 yards set in 2009 by Mike Huff.
Harris has 2,851 yards on 357 carries and 30 touchdowns in his career. He plays his last regular season game Friday against Charlotte Catholic for a chance at the ME-GA 7 conference title. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Olympic High School.
Shuford planned on letting Harris break the single-game record against Berry and then pulling him out of the game so he could break the career record at home this week. Harris broke a 53-yard touchdown run to break both records at the same time.
“It kind of messed our plans up,” Shuford said, adding that they plan on recognizing Harris’ accomplishment during the game Friday.
Four years ago, Harris never expected to get to this point.
He had a broken hand his freshman year and mostly played defense for the junior varsity team. His sophomore year, he started the season on junior varsity, and Shuford admits he wasn’t impressed early on with Harris’ ability.
Then something clicked.
Harris moved up to the varsity team midway through the year and finished the season as the starting running back.
“He just got better and better and better,” Shuford said. “We had a kid that was a senior that we moved to split end and said, ‘He’s (Harris) going to be better than him. We’re going to go ahead and play him there.’ ”
Harris is 6-foot and 187-pounds but sees himself as a power back, relishing contact and fighting for yards at the end of each carry. As a junior, he broke the school record for carries in a game with 40 against Berry.
“He will do anything he has to do to win,” Shuford said. “He will crawl across the field if he needs to crawl across the field or whatever he’s got to do. He’s a great leader.”
Olympic went 6-6 his sophomore year. He helped the team improve his junior season, finishing 9-3 and losing in the first round of the 4A state playoffs to Myers Park.
The Trojans started this season 1-3 with losses to Gastonia Ashbrook, Butler and Weddington. Olympic has gone 5-0 in conference play since.
“We’ve gotten a lot better,” Harris said. “Our defense stepped up their play from the first couple of games. Offense kicked it up a notch.”
Harris has been integral to the team’s success. He’s lined up at fullback, halfback and has even taken direct snaps in the Trojan offense.
He’s rushed for 1,231 yards and 17 touchdowns on 114 carries, an average of nearly 11 yards a carry. That’s with the Trojans only playing nine games so far this year and Harris missing the Garinger game with a concussion.
Harris has also played linebacker and safety.
In the game against West Mecklenburg, Shuford was worried about giving up a long kick return. He put Harris on the kick coverage teams and he made five tackles in the game.
“He is truly one kid that we could not afford to lose on either side of the football,” Shuford said.
Olympic (6-3, 5-0) has a chance to win the conference title on senior night Friday with a win over Catholic (8-1, 5-0).
“It’s all hype to me,” Harris said. “I’m going to play like I regularly play.”
Harris has a chance to break another school record in the game: Huff’s season scoring record of 114 points. Harris is currently tied with that mark.
Harris is being recruited by Wingate and Catawba, among other Division II schools. He wants to stay close to home so his family can come see him play.
When he leaves, Harris’ name will be etched in the Olympic record books.
“I looked up to players like Mike Huff. ... I never thought I’d be up there with their rankings,” Harris said. “I’m going to have a big smile on my face every time I see it.”