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PREP FOOTBALL '98 / SEA VIEW LEAGUE

Warriors Plan to Get a Lot Out of Harris

He brings hard work, skill and family tradition to the Woodbridge football team.

September 08, 1998|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shane Harris remembers his first exposure to the Woodbridge football program. He was, maybe, 5 years old.

"I remember being in the locker room, seeing people getting all amped up, crazy," Harris recalled. "I knew that I would be there someday.

"I knew I was going to be a football player."

Harris, 17, is the player for the resurgent Warriors, the central cog in a program that is less than a year removed from going 26 games without a victory and 0-19-1 in two seasons leading up to last year's turnaround.

The Warriors went 7-3-1 in 1997 and Harris was a big reason, though he was only a sophomore.

His role was somewhat reduced--he played offense, mostly--but opponents won't get much slack this season.

"Shane will play more defense this year," Woodbridge Coach Rick Gibson said. "He didn't play enough defense last year."

The only thing on a football field that Harris likes more than scoring touchdowns is leveling opponents from his spot at free safety.

Harris is a three-way threat. He plays free safety, tailback and returns punts.

He's as gutsy as they come returning punts. Not one to wave idly for a fair catch and let the ball bounce behind him, Harris has meant a world of difference to the Warriors when it comes to field position.

"It takes courage [to catch every punted ball] and you got these guys running down [unblocked], and he just doesn't drop them," Gibson said. "He has an enormous amount of fortitude."

Harris, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior, has fumbled only once on a punt, and even then, he was trying to pick up a ball that bounced in front of him and hit his leg.

He was primarily a defensive player as a freshman.

Gibson's plan is to keep Harris on defense all the time and split his time in the offensive backfield with senior Brandon Runk, who "wasn't utilized enough last year."

"As those two go," Gibson said, "hopefully we will go."

The inexperienced Warriors went pretty well last season with a conservative approach. Harris rushed 159 times for 712 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and seven of Woodbridge's 19 touchdowns as a sophomore as the Warriors reached the playoffs for the first time since 1991.

Harris is the fourth son of Woodbridge defensive coordinator Kirk Harris to play in the program. Josh Harris (Class of '93) didn't play his junior and senior seasons, concentrating instead on baseball. Casey Harris (1995) was a starter at quarterback and safety, Chad (1997) was a starting linebacker and played some running back.

Growing up in that environment made Harris one of the most instinctive players Gibson has coached.

Kirk Harris has coached in the Woodbridge program since its inception, 1983, and Shane has grown from water boy to ball boy to, now, the all-purpose boy.

"[Shane's] major weakness is he thinks he can do it all," Gibson said. "I don't mean that as though he's cocky, but he believes at any given time he can do what he needs to do.

"He practices like he plays--that's as big a compliment as I can give."

But there's more.

"I don't have to worry about whether Shane Harris will be there on any given play," Gibson continued. "I just know that if it's first and 10 in the first quarter or fourth and one in the fourth, he's going to be there for us. That's a tribute to parenting and his attitude.

"Shane is a good athlete, but what sets him apart from a lot of players is the attitude. Ask and ye shall receive."

And the Warriors ask a lot of Harris--on offense, defense and special teams. More often and not, they'll receive too.

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