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O’Brien: Jeremiah Harris plays through family loss, leads Back of the Yards to huge win

This is only the second year that Back of the Yards junior Jeremiah Harris has played football, but the game has already taken on an important place in his life. He’s the Bobcats starting quarterback and safety, a bonafide star player in the Inter-City 5 conference. This week his team’s massively important game against conference rival Chicago Tech served as a vital distraction.

“This game meant a lot for the team but probably it meant twice as much to me,” Harris said. “My family suffered a loss this week. I just did everything I could to focus on this game.”

Harris’ focus was razor sharp. He threw for one touchdown and ran for another as Back of the Yards shutout visiting Chicago Tech 42-0 on Thursday.

Harris was 7-for-12 for 103 yards passing. He rushed 15 times for 126 yards while also playing a vital role on the defensive effort to shut down the Panthers offense, which entered the game averaging 40 points.

“He’s our captain,” Back of the Yards sophomore Carl McNickels said. “He’s like a beast everywhere on the field.”

McNickels, a running back and defensive back, ripped off an impressive 39-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and grabbed an interception in the first quarter.

“I watched film on them and I noticed they didn’t have the technique that we had, so I used it to my advantage, got to the outside and scored,” McNickels said.

Freshman running back Horace Murff also flashed plenty of potential. He had 13 carries for 92 yards and one touchdown.

“I didn’t expect so much [from the underclassmen] this season,” Harris said. “But I’m really happy to see what they are bringing.”

Back of the Yards (5-0, 4-0) is a new school, it opened four years ago. The football program is just two years old. The Bobcats were 5-4 last season.

“To think about where we were day one, year one, to where we are at now it’s mountain tops,” Back of the Yards coach Sheamus Murphy said. “We’ve improved and it comes down to the kids buying in to the program and being disciplined and committed to what we are doing. We are seeing the results now that we are 5-0.”

Chicago Tech (4-1, 4-1) is also a second-year program. Junior quarterback Jovan Harris has led the way for the Panthers this season. He finished 11-for-21 for 174 yards passing.

“[Harris] is special over there but we had a game plan and we executed it,” Murphy said. “I’m really proud of our guys and our coaching staff.”

Back of the Yards faces another huge conference test against unbeaten Catalyst Maria next week. Murphy called it “the biggest game in school history.”

“When I came here as a freshman everyone was talking down on us, they didn’t even know we had a football team,” McNickels said. “Now we are showing everyone that we are the team to beat.”