Josh Harris is not big at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds. But he is fast. He was timed at 4.48 in the 40-yard dash during the summer.
And, good luck trying to outsmart him on the football field.
The Plainfield South senior do-it-all is a major reason the Cougars (5-3, 4-2) are on the brink of the playoffs. Actually, their approach is the playoffs begin with Friday night’s season-ending Southwest Prairie battle at playoff-bound Plainfield East (6-2, 4-2). Projecting playoff points (opponent victories), South may be left out with a loss.
“This game against Plainfield East definitely is a playoff game,” Harris said. “It’s win or go home in our minds.”
Possessor of a 5.1 grade-point average, Harris is considering Big Ten schools, the University of Chicago, those types of institutions, to study engineering and business. He said he may walk-on to play football, but academics come first.
It’s a family trait. Among his seven siblings are sister Whitney, an Illinois graduate who was in South’s first graduating class in 2004; sister Alexia, a Harvard graduate; and sister Phoenix, a senior at Notre Dame. Brother Steven attends Joliet Junior College, and three siblings are younger.
Whether Cougars coach Ken Bublitz and his staff use Harris at running back (he has rushed for 1,323 yards), slot receiver (20 receptions for 315) or safety, cornerback or even pass-rushing end on defense, they know what they will get.
“Obviously, Josh is our featured back,” Bublitz said. “But he also is a tremendous receiver, a good route runner with great hands. He has explosive speed, yet he is strong between the tackles. His durability has been outstanding.”
Bublitz said the Cougars pick their spots with Harris on defense, including rushing the passer from defensive end in certain packages. Some games he plays considerably more defense than others. For as long as South’s season continues, he likely will be on the field often.
A sprinter and jumper in track, Harris knows there are no guarantees, considering the Cougars’ roller-coaster season.
“We’ve had moments where we’re executing and we’re hard for anyone to beat,” he said. “When we’re making mistakes, we can be one of the worst teams you’ve seen.
“Making those mistakes is not an option anymore. We need to analyze ourselves personally, do our own jobs and trust each other.”
Harris was promoted to the varsity for the playoffs as a freshman. He started at slot receiver as a sophomore and was on both sides of the ball the last two years. The Cougars were a playoff team in 2010 and ’11, but not last season.
“When I got brought up as a freshman, I wasn’t aware of the magnitude of what the playoffs brought a high school program,” he said. “My sophomore year, my brother Steven was a senior and I became aware.
“Each team since sophomore year, I felt like I was part of the senior class with them. This is my final year with the other seniors, and I feel even more of a drive to keep playing.”