In a span of four minutes in the second quarter Friday, Benedictine’s Jakeen Harris had his first two touches of the game – the first coming as a running back and the second as a strong safety.
Harris turned them both into touchdowns as Benedictine rolled to a 56-14 win over Berrien in the first round of the GHSA Class 2A playoffs at Savannah State University.
Benedictine (11-0), the defending state champion, will host the winner of Jefferson County/Southwest Macon next Friday at SSU’s T.A. Wright Stadium.
Harris, the younger brother of former Cadets star Chris Harris (now playing at Georgia Southern), is making a name for himself. He has offers from Central Michigan and Western Kentucky. Harris closed out the second half in style for the Cadets. The junior finished off an eight-play, 74-yard drive with a 4-yard scoring run on his first touch of the night.
About four minutes later, Berrien quarterback Monteo Brooks threw a ball to Ja’Marquis Johnson in the right flat that bounced off the receiver. Harris showed great awareness to bring the ball down, and then he took off. It looked like he would taken down 30 yards from the end zone, but Harris ran right through the tackle on his way to a 65-yard pick six.
“I was able to reach out and grab the ball out of the air, and then it was off to the races,” Harris said. “When the guy almost tackled me, I thought about picking my knees up like my track (and football) coaches (Galen) Houston and (Caleb) Collins always tell me to do. And I was able to break away.”
BC coach Danny Britt was happy with the playoff performance as his Cadets won their 26th straight game.
“We came out ready and focused tonight,” Britt said. “And hopefully we’ll be doing that every week now that we’re in the playoffs. I thought our offense and our defense were on point. Jakeen (Harris) is a really good player for us. He has a lot of ability and he is physically and mentally tough.”
The Cadets scored on their opening possession, marching 69 yards in seven plays. Nick Iannone picked up a big chunk of yardage when he couldn’t find an open man and took off straight up the middle for a gain of 25, before smartly sliding. Two plays later, Travis Blackshear scored on a 20-yard run.
On the Cadets’ next drive, Iannone dropped back and fired a deep ball that looked like it might be out of Blackshear’s range. But the senior turned on the afterburners and sprinted under the throw about 7 yards clear of the nearest defender as he waltzed into the end zone on the 71-yard scoring pass.
Terrick Smalls put the Cadets up 21-0 with 2:46 left in the first quarter when he rumbled up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown run as BC let Berrien know the rout was on.
Blackshear took the second-half kickoff back 82 yards for the first touchdown on a kick return of his career.
“On the touchdown pass, I wasn’t sure I could get to it at first,” Blackshear said. “But I kept running and got there. It was a great throw by Nick. On the kick return, we’ve been practicing following that wedge, and I did that and cut out to open field.”
Rico Powers scored on a 6-yard run and RaQuez Martin broke away for a 45-yard scoring jaunt in the second half for the Cadets.
Iannone was 6 of 9 passing for 160 yards with the touchdown and an interception. Smalls rushed for 85 yards and the score on five carries, and had a 22-yard reception. Powers rushed for 21 yards on three carries and had three receptions for 54 yards.
The Cadet defense also played well, holding the Rebels (4-7) to 152 yards rushing and 212 yards of total offense, with most of it coming after the game had been decided.
Linebacker Luke Smith, who entered the game with 84 tackles, had another strong performance.
“On defense this year, we’ve been trying to go out there and punish people and have a lot of fun,” Smith said. “Our defensive line has been great. Eric Hicks, Jaden Hardy, Trevon Locke and Coleman Marini do such a great job up front, it opens things up for everyone behind them to make plays, too.”
BC-Travis Blackshear 20 run (Jake Karesh kick)
BC-Blackshear 71 pass from Nick Iannone (Karesh kick)
BC-Terrick Smalls 10 run (Karesh kick)
BC-Jakeen Harris 4 run (Karesh kick)
BC-Harris 65 interception return (Karesh kick)
BC-Travis Blackshear 82 kickoff return (Karesh kick)
BC-Rico Powers 6 run (Karesh kick)
Berr-Ja’Marquis Johnson 5 run (Oscar Angeles kick)
BC-RaQuez Martin 45 run (Karesh kick)
Berr-Titan Blevins 37 pass from Johnson (Angeles kick)