The senior has brought tough running to Lakewood Ranch.
When Rashad West was hired at Lakewood Ranch High, he insisted he would adapt his spread offense to his personnel, even if that meant placing an emphasis on the running game.
A lot of coaches say they will adapt to their personnel, but not many mean it. Based on West’s previous offenses, it was easy to think he would lean toward the passing game. Through six games, though, the Mustangs have had a balanced attack, and the running game has even carried the team when the team’s quarterbacks have struggled.
The player doing the bulk of the running wasn’t even on the team last year, and at his former school, he didn't play offense.
Isaiah Harrison, a senior, moved to Lakewood Ranch in January from Hamilton, Ohio, where he played for Hamilton High. Harrison was a safety there, not a running back. Lakewood Ranch decided to change that.
“I like his will and his balance,” West said of Harrison. “He runs tough. He’s an athletic kid and he has good vision.”
Harrison had heard from teammates about last season’s 0-10 debacle. Even though he did not experience it himself, he felt the locker room frustration before the season started, and vowed to help his team get better results in 2019. He’s done just that.
Lakewood Ranch is now 4-1, and outside of a home matchup with Venice High on Oct. 11, the rest of the team’s schedule is favorable. A playoff push in year one of the West era is more than most people expected, but it is possible.
In the Mustangs’ 37-0 win against Tampa Bay Christian Academy on Oct. 4, Harrison led the charge, racking up 120 yards and scoring two touchdowns. His biggest game, so far, came against Bayshore High on Sept. 7, when he ran for 182 yards and a pair of scores.
Not bad for a former defensive player.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, especially from my offensive line,” Harrison said. “They have helped me a lot, with everything. Opening holes and blocking guys, it makes my job easier. I just put all my focus on myself and run as hard as I can.”
The humble attitude isn’t an act. On Harrison’s HUDL page — a video service that lets colleges view a high school player’s highlights, among other things — Harrison titled one of his videos “No I in team.” Even on a page dedicated to himself, a page that can dictate his future, he’s thinking of his teammates.
I first noticed Harrison during spring practice. The way he cuts and holds the ball, he looks like a natural. The Mustangs have coached up some good skill players over the past few years, but they have not had many naturals. I knew last spring he would be a factor on this team.
He’s proven me right thus far, running with tenacity. Harrison always keeps his legs churning, even while being brought to the ground. It’s a small thing, and may only generate a yard or two, but eventually those spare yards add up to something. In 2019, they have added up to wins.
If the Mustangs want to make a serious postseason push, they will need Harrison to keep up his strong play.