CHANNEL 2 SPORTS ZONE FRIDAY GAME OF THE WEEK: ETOWAH AT WOODSTOCK
Christian Harris likes to be in the middle of things. Literally.
The Etowah High senior starred for the Eagles last season as an outside linebacker. But this season coach Bill Stewart moved him inside to “Mike” linebacker. The move has been dream for Harris and a nightmare for Etowah’s opponents.
“I like Mike a lot better,” said Harris, a University of Tennessee commitment. “I like being in the middle of the defense. Whether the play is to the weak or strong side I have a chance to make the tackle.”
And Harris has been making a lot of those. In fact, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound senior leads the Eagles with a gaudy 95 stops this season. He also has four tackles for loss, two sacks, two hurries, two fumble recoveries a caused fumble and an interception.
“We wanted to get him inside where teams can’t run away from him and he could be more involved every play,” said Stewart, the Eagles’ coach since 2006. “It’s more of a natural ft for him and that’s where he’s going to play in college. And I’ll tell you, he’s as good as I’ve been around.”
Harris’ talents will be on display on television tonight as he leads Etowah against rival Woodstock in a rivalry game with huge region implications in the Channel 2 Sports Zone Friday Game of the Week. Both teams — whose schools are located two miles apart on either side of Towne Center Shopping Center — are tied for first in Region 5-AAAAA. The Eagles are 7-1; Woodstock is 6-1.
The teams are similar in other ways as well. The only loss for each team was to Class AAAA powerhouse Kell (Etowah lost 20-10, Woodstock 17-10). And both rely on stifling defenses to win football games.
Before last week’s curious struggle against Marietta, in which the Eagles gave up 29 points in a win, Etowah was allowing just nine points a game with two shutouts. Woodstock is giving up only eight points a game and has also shut out two opponents.
Meanwhile, regardless of record, these are two teams that simply don’t like each other. Last year Woodstock students snuck into Etowah’s stadium and painted the field. That was a response to the previous season when Etowah students got into Woodstock’s facility and painted the Wolverines’ shed next to the field its school colors.
“Of course this game is different than any other,” Harris said. “It’s a rivalry that’s been going for years. The whole school has been excited this week.”
Tennessee fans should be excited about landing Harris. The Vols deserve credit for identifying Harris as a potential prospect and moving quickly to offer. Harris committed to Tennessee last March with little fanfare and not a whole lot of recruiting. His only other offer at the time was Central Florida.
“I know [Tennessee recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach] Lance Thompson pretty well and he called asking about players and I told him about Christian,” Stewart said. “I sent him his highlight reel and they didn’t wait around. They offered Christian right away.”
Said Harris: “They were my first junioir day. It was the only one I really wanted to go to. I went there and liked everything about it. So I didn’t really care about looking around at other places.”
In the meantime, Harris is intently focused on his senior season and trying to help Etowah win a championship. The biggest hurdle to that end is tonight.
“I’m pretty confident actually,” Harris said. “I feel like we’ll play well. We’ve got some new stuff we’ve put in for this game. And, after last year, I don’t know, I just feel like we’re going to win the game.”
If they do, it’s a safe bet Harris will have been in the middle of it.