OAKLEY, Calif. — Harris Ross
had all sorts of reasons to want to do especially well on Friday night.
He especially did.
The explosive 5-foot-10, 195-pound Pittsburg (Calif.)
running back rushed 28 times for 272 yards and three touchdowns as the Northern California's No. 21 win went wire-to-wire to defeat host Freedom (Oakley)
, which handed Pittsburg a bitter 50-49 defeat last season.
That's one of the reasons Ross was motivated.
"We lost last year by a point and this was sort of revenge," he said.
"But we have to just get ready and get better for next week against Deer
Deer Valley is Pittsburg's Bay Valley Athletic League undefeated rivals which entered the week No. 13 in Northern California.
They couldn't overlook a young but talented Freedom (3-5) squad that featured the state's No. 1 recruit, running back Joe Mixon
. Ross, who was a spot starter last season and only began playing running back as a sophomore, was vastly under-recruited coming into the season while the name of the 6-2, 195-pound Mixon was everywhere. He's been offered by just about every major program in the country.
Harris, still ranked the 133rd top recruit in the state, didn't get his first college offer until he broke a North Coast Section record with 464 yards rushing against Monte Vista a month ago. Hawaii offered and Harris immediately accepted. He has since picked Oregon State where he said he's fully committed.
On this night, Ross out-performed Mixon, who was bottled up from the get-go and finished with just 76 yards on 23 carries and a 1-yard touchdown. Pittsburg's swarming and fast defense limited Mixon to no carries longer than nine yards. His biggest play all night was actually a 37-yard halfback option pass.
Afterward, Ross showed no bitterness or gamesmanship toward Mixon, who simply had no where to run thanks to Pittsburg's stellar defense.
"I don't take it personal," Harris said about the recruiting disparity. "It just helps motivate me to
get better and better. I'm proud of (Mixon) and being No. 1. If I
continue to do what I'm doing and then maybe I can get (up there) too."
He's now at the very top of Pittsburg's single-season and career rushing yards list after Friday's performance, a fact he didn't even bring up to reporters.
He broke Ken Simonton's career mark of 2,460 yards with a 42-yard touchdown scamper on his team's first possession. In just his second season on varsity, and with two regular season games to go, Ross has 2,659 yards.
Simonton, who starred at Oregon State and had a brief NFL career, is now Pittsburg's running back coach. He couldn't have been happier for Ross.
"Just a great kid who is getting better and better each day," Simonton said. "He's just scratching the surface. His ceiling is boundless."
With a 56-yard scoring jaunt to start the second half, Ross broke the single-season mark of 1,654 yards set in 2004 by Derrick Blanche. He now has a Bay Area best 1,831 yards and 23 touchdowns. Blanche was in attendance and greeted Ross on the Pittsburg sideline after the third-quarter run.
Both of the record-setting runs came on inside runs, that Ross broke to the outside. He also scored on a 22-yard inside blast that he broke to the outside. .
"We're a power running team between the tackles," Ross said. "That's what we do. Personally, I like running both inside and outside. I'm just trying to get to that end zone."
He wanted to especially score for his 27-year-old cousin Andrew Walker, who Ross said was killed two weeks in an act of violence. Ross wore a pink sticker below his right eye with Walker's first name.
"I dedicated this game to him," he said.
Ross always dedicates his touchdowns to his offensive lineman.
"I knew I had to come out and do it for my team," he said. "If it wasn't
for my linemen, I wouldn't have been able to do anything. I thank my
line, and our defense stepped up tremendously. ... I love my team."
Pittsburg's defensive front sacked talented sophomore quarterback Joe Sweeney
five times and forces three turnovers. Deante Fortenberry
had a superb interception and fellow cornerback Shurod Thompson
made some big hits. Jaylyn Morgan
and Eric Ortiz
Besides Ross, quarterback Armani Levias
and running back DeVonte Tarrance
each carried once for touchdowns. Levias ran a beautiful 54-yard naked bootleg left for a score and Tarrance ran 19-yards up the middle for another score in the fourth quarter to put the finishing touchdowns on this one.
Sweeney threw for 135 yards and a 13-yard touchdown to Nick Garcia
in the second quarter to close to 7-6. Mixon added a 1-yard TD dive with 9:18 remaining for the game's last score.