Harriston is off to fast start Mt. Hebron back improves over '91

September 28, 1992|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

For someone who is off to such a hot start and means so much to his football team, Travis Harriston strikes a noticeably low-key pose.

When he watches himself on film, Harriston thinks he looks slow. When asked to describe his running style, Harriston frowns, shrugs and delivers another understated observation.

"I don't give a lot of thought to what I do out there," he says. "I just slip and slide and see what happens."

Three games into his senior season at Mount Hebron, Harriston is slipping and sliding away from tacklers at a rate that should alarm opponents.

Harriston has rushed for 431 yards on 67 carries -- a 6.4-yard average -- and has scored five of Hebron's eight touchdowns.

He has scored four from the backfield and added one on an 81-yard kickoff return last week in a 29-12 defeat of Northeast. Then there was the 55-yard return two weeks ago that set up a score in the Vikings' 28-14 victory over Hereford.

Hebron has struggled during a 1-3 start, but that has nothing to do with Harriston's play.

"He [Harriston] is awesome. He is smooth. It's fun watching him," says Hebron coach Mark Cates. "He has improved like you dream a kid will improve."

Harriston has not exactly sneaked up on the competition this fall. He provided glimpses of his potential last year in his first varsity season, when he rushed for 703 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards a carry.

Harriston is more of a threat this year.

His fine speed -- 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard -- -- is pretty much the same. But two other factors should make for a more productive season this time around.

At 6 feet 1, 160 pounds, Harriston is thin for his size, even after coming to camp about 20 pounds heavier than last year.

And along with his bigger, stronger body, Harriston is more self-assured this season, more confident than when he constantly worried about making a critical mistake as a junior.

"I was a little afraid. I wasn't as big as a lot of the players," he said. "I was always worried about causing us to lose. I guess I realized I could play football against these people. I felt more secure coming in this year."

As a junior, he often went down easily in the arms of a single tackler. Now, Harriston delights in running through or hurdling defenders. That has made him tougher to stop because he always has had the ability to make the timely cut that forces tacklers to miss. Once in the open field, the game becomes a race that Harriston rarely loses.

Take the kick return against Northeast. After picking up the kickoff near the right sideline, Harriston started right, darted left between several tacklers, cut right again and burst into the open, where he quickly opened up a 10-yard lead on the defense. He cruised untouched down the sideline for to complete the score.

"He [Harriston] is not a dancer. You won't see hips shaking," Cates says. "He just plants [his foot] and goes. He has that deceptive speed. He glides. And between last year and this year, he is a different player. We're talking about a kid who was bashful and didn't know what he had."

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