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Ajene Harris leads Crenshaw past Loyola, 23-17

The quarterback scores all three of the Cougars' touchdowns, including the winning score in double overtime.

September 13, 2013|By Steve Galluzzo
  • Crenshaw quarterback Ajene Harris played an instrumental role in the Cougars' 23-17 double-overtime victory over Loyola on Friday night.
Crenshaw quarterback Ajene Harris played an instrumental role in the Cougars'… (Patrick T. Fallon / For the…)

Ajene Harris doesn't bat an eye when people say his name wrong. In fact, he believes the day is coming when everyone in football circles will know who he is, just as all of his classmates at Crenshaw High do.

On a sweltering Friday the 13th afternoon, in the opening game of the Kickoff Classic at Mission Viejo High, the Cougars' senior quarterback showed that despite his multifaceted skills, his will to win is what distinguishes him from his peers. He scored all three of Crenshaw's touchdowns in a 23-17 intersectional victory over Los Angeles Loyola, including the winning score on a one-yard drive in double overtime.

"I told the coaches [in the timeout] we only need one yard and I can get it," said Harris, who pronounces his first name a-jay-nay. "I love to share the ball and get my teammates involved, but I like having it in my hands when the pressure's on."

Harris thought he'd scored the go-ahead touchdown on a two-yard run with 34 seconds left in regulation, but the Cougars were penalized for illegal procedure, nullifying the score, and they had to settle for a tying field goal by Anthony Rodriguez that forced overtime. On the Cougars' first drive of overtime, Harris rolled out of the pocket and found Michael Simmons for a first down, then sneaked across the goal line from one yard away to give Crenshaw a 17-10 lead.

Teammate Jacob Knight, who rushed for 183 yards in 27 carries against the Cubs, had no doubt Harris would get into the end zone on the final play. He has seen his quarterback do it countless times — both in practice and, more importantly, when the game is on the line.

"I look at him as my brother and aren't satisfied being good, we have to be great," Knight said. "He's a great leader and I'm always confident he'll get the job done. I'm proud to be in the same huddle as him."

Harris' five-yard quarterback draw gave the Cougars, ranked 17th in the Southland by The Times, a 7-3 lead with 5:25 left. After a 69-yard pass from Tre Polamalu to Mekai Sheffe put the Cubs (1-2) back in front, 10-7, Crenshaw drove 59 yards and Rodriguez kicked a 25-yard field goal.

In Friday's late game at Mission Viejo, Long Beach Poly, ranked 11th by The Times, upset No. 2 Corona Centennial, 35-28. Tai Tiedemann scored the winning touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak with 1:53 left. John "Juju" Smith scored two touchdowns for Poly (2-1).

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