Hard to believe, given the way he’s played this season, but Demoria Harris was Dunbar’s Plan B at quarterback.
Harris’ running and Jayton Dorsey’s passing gave the Mighty Men a potent 1-2 offensive punch last season. Coach Glenn Johnson planned to keep Harris at running back and develop a new starting quarterback to take over for Dorsey, who graduated.
But when the other candidates didn’t work out, Johnson turned to Harris and he’s glad he did.
The state champion sprinter from last May’s Class 2A finals has put his speed to good use as Dunbar’s quarterback this fall.
His latest effort — 189 yards passing and three touchdowns, 119 yards rushing — helped Dunbar knock off Lane 36-14 on Friday and earned him Sun-Times Athlete of the Week honors.
With each passing week, Harris is more at ease in his new role.
“I’m feeling more comfortable throwing the ball,” he said.
“Over the summer, he just got better and better,” Johnson said. “He’s been pretty on the mark with his throwing. If he likes doing it, he’ll work at it.”
Indeed, Harris has passed for more yards (655) than he’s run for (449) this season, though he does have more touchdowns as a runner than as a thrower (8 vs. 6).
But that speed — Harris won 2A state in the 100 meters in 10.83 and the 200 in 21.60 — is what’s giving opponents headaches: Harris also has 226 yards and one touchdown as a kickoff returner.
And with opposing defenses increasingly gearing up to stop Harris, Johnson is thinking about ways to better utilize his star’s game-breaking ability.
“He might be a receiver [on certain plays], he might be a running back,” Johnson said. “You want the ball in your best athlete’s hands.”
That’s on top of the tweaks the coach already has made to account for the fact that Harris, unlike the other quarterback candidates, is left-handed.
Harris’ numbers are especially solid given Dunbar’s schedule so far. The Mighty Men are 3-3 with losses to Lake Forest, St. Rita and Curie, the latter by a 49-48 score.
Harris has seen progress. “At first, everybody wasn’t coming to practice,” he said. “I’m trying to do whatever [I can] to make myself more of a leader.”
He has a good role model in that regard in his older brother Darvell, himself a state champ in track and the Sun-Times Male Athlete of the Year in 2012.
“We talk every day,” Demoria said. “He just told me stay focused on school and I’ll be OK.”
Demoria and Darvell — along with another brother, Travon — were teammates for one season. Given Darvell’s success, it was a given that Demoria would be known as Darvell’s little brother.
“I liked that at first,” Demoria said. “Now I’ve got to make my own name.”
At a new position, Harris is doing just that.