The best plays from the best high school football players in 2017
Want ridiculous? Garfield High School’s Tre’Shaun Harrison specialized in it.
His favorite play was his 84-yard interception return for a touchdown against Lincoln, though it was called back by a penalty. So was his 100-yard interception return in last week’s semifinals against Rainier Beach.
But then ask Garfield coach Joey Thomas, who calls Harrison, “Superman.”
His favorite Harrison play was the 39-yard TD catch through two Beach defenders last week. One of his teammates picked a play in the quarterfinals, when Harrison broke the tackle of almost every Eastside Catholic defender for a 15-yard TD.
Another teammate chose the 73-yard touchdown catch against Lincoln, when he broke through two tacklers, reversed field and darted for the go-ahead TD.
Keep in mind, all of those occurred in state playoff games.
“All that was normal for him,” said Thomas, who was a third-round NFL draft pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2004. “He makes you say, ‘Wow.’ He’s the most dynamic player I’ve seen, and I played with the best and I thought I was pretty good, but I was not Tre’Shaun Harrison.”
Harrison, The News Tribune’s 2017 state football player of the year, committed to the University of Oregon before the season. He’s a big reason why the Bulldogs made their first trip to the state semifinals since 1977, finishing with 55 catches for 1,102 yards (20 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns, while also playing big roles on defense, returning punts and kicks and as Garfield’s punter.
But then there’s the other side of Garfied’s “Superman.” Off the field he’s like Clark Kent, soft-spoken and even wearing black-rimmed glasses like Superman’s alter ego.
“It’s just in the moment,” Harrison laughed when asked of his play-making prowess. “When I get the ball, I just feel like, ‘I have to make this play. I have to do something to give my team momentum.’ I just look to make plays.”
Lincoln coach Masaki Matsumoto and Eastside Catholic coach Jeremy Thielbahr said they haven’t seen a player in open space like Harrison, either. Same with Rainier Beach coach Corey Sampson.
“Nope,” Sampson laughed. “He’s big, he’s fast, he’s quick – and he has all the attributes. One person might be as fast, but not as shifty or have his football IQ. I mean, he’s different. I’m telling you, he’s different.”
It came natural, Harrison said. He’s been making defenders miss since his youth football days.
Sampson was Harrison’s AAU basketball coach in middle school. Harrison said he even attended a class at Rainier Beach before he went to Garfield.
“He’s so shifty,” Sampson said. “He can go 4.3 (40-yard dash) straight ahead, but then stop on a dime and pick it up that quick again. It’s like every play is his last.”
“He turns nothing into something,” Garfield’s Mekhi Metcalf. “A 5-yard catch he takes for 80. He can make an entire team miss.”
“He never gives up,” Garfield’s Jovan McConico said. “He keeps doing what he does – making magic. Like in the Lincoln game – he was making magic.”
Harrison had 442 all-purpose yards (including 286 receiving yards) and four touchdowns in that win over Lincoln.
He spent his first two years of high school at Kennedy Catholic and he averaged 10.7 yards per carry as a running back his sophomore year (619 yards in nine games).
He was still playing running back the first half of his junior season at Garfield. But it was clear he was best in open space, so Thomas moved him to wide receiver.
He was the 3A Metro Valley division’s offensive player of the year, finishing with 1,480 all-purpose yards. He was also a first-team all-league safety.
Then came his first college scholarship offer from Missouri. Then WSU, UCLA, BYU and Michigan. Then Utah, UW, Oregon State, Cal, Oregon and Notre Dame.
He said no one from his family has ever gone on to play major college football.
“That was my dream, but I honestly didn’t realize I could do it until I got my first offer,” Harrison said. “I was so surprised. I didn’t feel like that was going to happen to soon. It just felt good.
“Football was always natural for me. I never really had to put in work until like last year. Everything was God-given.”
But all those big offers to a 16-year-old, Thomas said it’s hard to not let that get to a teenager’s head.
They had a conversation in summer camp.
“I felt a certain type of way and he felt a certain type of way and I told him … I don’t want to get into the full conversation, but he had a come-to-Jesus moment,” Thomas said. “For him, that was a changing point in his demeanor. Everybody is telling you you’re perfect and this and that and I’m like, ‘You’re good, but you need to work on some things. That might work here, but that’s not going to work at the next level.’
“Most people weren’t telling him what he needed to hear. They were telling him what he wanted to hear. I’m going to tell the truth and I think my players respect that.”
He also wanted his star player to become a greater vocal leader, something that Harrison said doesn’t come naturally to him. It’s easier to let his play do the talking.
But then came his senior season and Garfield finished the regular season 3-5.
Granted, those five losses were to then No. 1 (2A) Archbishop Murphy, No. 1 (3A) Bellevue, No. 2 (3A) Eastside Catholic, No. 10 (3A) Rainier Beach and No. 4 (3A) O’Dea. Harrison would miss three games after suffering a concussion late against Archbishop. But after a 28-13 loss to O’Dea, Harrison helped lead a players-only meeting.
“We were just asking, ‘What does everybody really want to do? If you guys really want to go far and start focusing, write your name on this piece of paper,’” Harrison recalled. “We signed the paper and we made sure everyone who signed it was going to give it their all every game.”
Then came a 41-0 shutout of Everett in the district playoffs, a 44-41 win over Lincoln on a last-second field goal, then another game-winning field goal to beat Eastside Catholic, 13-10, before a 49-21 loss to Rainier Beach in the semifinals. This was Garfield’s first trip to the state playoffs since 1979.
“I think Tre has only scratched the surface of what he’s going to be,” Thomas said. “God gave Tre a gift not everybody else got. When he polishes his route running and works the way I believe he will, it’s going to be ridiculous.
“Tre is a unique guy. We probably won’t see another like him for a long time.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677