LONGMONT — As he walks out to the middle of the field for the coin toss before games this season, Skyline co-captain Trey Harrison wants the other team to notice him. He wants them to see he stands all of 5-foot-6 and weighs less than half of what his best lineman checks in at.
He would love it if they looked down on him, literally and figuratively, and if they do, Harrison knows he has the opposition right where he wants it.
“I think my size helps me,” said Harrison, a running back with track speed. “The people I go against underestimate me; they think I’ll be easy to take down. But I can hide behind my linemen and then I can make the bigger guys miss.”
A major concussion stole part of his season last year, but he came back to drop 142 yards rushing on Berthoud in the finale. He set a lofty goal of 2,000 yards on the ground this time around, though it will help that he has 300-pound left tackle Chico Feltenberger and guard Justin Ansley to run behind.
With 4.6-second speed in the 40-yard dash, Harrison can ruin a defensive coordinator’s night if he gets a chance to turn the corner.
“We score a touchdown almost every time we run to our side in practice,” said Feltenberger, who has teamed with Harrison since flag football days. “I make sure I have the defensive end sealed off, and if I can put him on the ground before Trey runs by me I’ll go seal off the linebacker. And I guarantee he can outrun any cornerback in our league.”
Of course, Skyline can’t run a toss to the left on every play. There needs to be more than that, and it starts with attitude.
The two longtime teammates and good friends intend to be the tip of the spear when it comes to officially changing the mindset for a program that has won six games in the past four seasons, including three victories last year.
Harrison plans to be a loud voice on the field, and he has taken it upon himself to mentor the other running backs on the team.
“If the younger guys see me step up, they might step up too,” he said. “This year, we are more of a team than we’ve ever been in the past. I’ve never seen a Skyline group want it this bad. This is my fourth year, and it’s different.”
Coach Kevin Rice agreed, noting that overall program numbers may be down a tick but quality is up.
“We’ve got about 70 kids, which isn’t great. But the difference is we’ve got about 70 pretty committed kids,” he said. “Sometimes in the past we would have 100 kids but you would need to worry about 30 or 40 of them.”
With fewer players on the roster, the hope is to avoid as many injuries as possible. That begins with Harrison, who suffered two concussions in a two-month period last year. Coaches have limited his contact during practices, and they use a quick whistle when he does get hit.
And Harrison, as badly as he wants to get back onto the field, has taken a number of precautions to avoid a repeat of last season.
He wears a neck brace and concussion-resistant helmet along with new rib pads, new shoulder pads and a specially fitted mouthguard. He also believes a bit of aggression will serve him well.
“I used to let people hit me. Now, I hit them,” he said. “I’m only promised 10 more games. If that’s all I have left, I want to give it my all. I want to go out with a bang rather than looking back and saying that I just played football.”
Brady Delander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coach: Kevin Rice, 5th year (6-34 record)
Last year: 3-7, 1-4 in 3A Northern Conference
Returning starters: Chico Feltenberger (Sr., OL-DL, 6-4, 290); Austin Gutierrez (Sr., WR, 6-1, 180); Trey Harrison (Sr., HB, 5-9, 145); Alex McHone (Jr., FS, 5-10, 150); Rod Painter (Sr., DB, 6-3, 200); Eric Patterson (Sr., CB, 5-11, 165).
Others to watch: Justin Ansley (Sr., OL, 6-0, 180); Brandon Moore (Sr., QB, 6-1, 150).
College prospects: Feltenberger, Gutierrez.
Must-see game: Sept. 9 at Niwot (at Everly-Montgomery Field)
Strengths: The Falcons seemed to turn a corner last season after years of struggles, and they capped the season with a dominating win. The offense has the potential to be explosive, and there is depth at some key positions. A couple early victories could get this team rolling.
Weaknesses: Aside from Feltenberger, who is an anchor on both sides, the lines are light on varsity experience. More than most programs, Skyline needs to believe it can win the close games and not get bogged down in the prevailing mentality of the past.
Sept. 2 — LONGMONT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Niwot, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — at Windsor, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — NORTHRIDGE, 7 p.m.*
Sept. 30 — at Sterling, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — ERIE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at Mountain View, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — at Roosevelt, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 — SILVER CREEK, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 — BERTHOUD, 7 p.m.
Note: Home games in all caps; home stadium is Everly-Montgomery Field; * denotes at Erie H.S.