The Harrison High School football team faced their first test of Season C in their tilt April 9 against No. 8-ranked Gateway.
Kahli Dotison shined with three touchdowns, a fumble recovery and 180 all-purpose yards as the No. 2-ranked Panthers won 34-18 at Harrison High School to improve to 4-0.
“These are my brothers and I’ll do anything I have to do,” Dotison said. “I’ll play whatever position and do whatever I have to do. It feels great for us to be in this position. This win was hard fought and we’re excited to get the win.”
The Panthers (4-0 overall, 3-0 South League) weren’t perfect in the matchup; Harrison allowed a season-high 18 points against the Olympians and let the educated legs of quarterback Erick Covington grace pay dirt three times.
Gateway (2-2, 2-1 South League) played two games prior to their matchup against Harrison. They won via forfeit against Sierra. Covington, the South League’s leading rusher, gained 349 yards and had four of the team’s six touchdowns.
Despite the high-octane offense of Covington and the Panthers, Harrison and Gateway went scoreless in the first quarter – the first occurrence for either team – but the Panthers drew first blood.
After the Olympians punted on their first possession, Harrison used an eight-play, 46-yard drive to get on the board.
Devonn Stevens shouldered a bulk of the load with four carries and 31 yards on the drive. Jaseim Mitchell completed a pass in the back corner of the end zone on 2nd and goal from the 16 to Dotison followed by the field goal to make it 7-0.
Harrison followed with a six-play, 45-yard drive capped by a deep bomb. Mitchell found Kahar Briggs streaking down the Panthers’ sideline for 28 yards to make it 13-0 with 2:22 left in the half.
“Kahli is always important in this game, but he’s no more important than the other five eligible receivers or our two guards or our center and two tackles,” said Harrison coach Rob Leboeuf. “We’re a team and the offense we run is designed to have the quarterback be the point guard and distribute the ball where we want. If you look at the statistical break down of where we’re at, (the offense is) pretty balanced.”
After gaining possession, Covington completed a pass that put the Olympians at the Harrison 3. Two plays later, Covington dove into the end zone to cut it to 13-6 with 55 seconds left in the half.
“Our defensive intensity in the first half was kind of low,” Dotison said. “After halftime, coach kicked us into gear with his words.”
The Panthers opened the second half with a 14-play drive that ate seven minutes off the clock. A chunk of that time went to penalties, which eventually dealt Harrison a 2nd and 41.
Harrison moved the metaphorical mountain as Mitchell gained 26 yards on second down. Mitchell then found Jordan Southerland on 4th and 15 to keep the drive alive.
Two plays later, on 2nd and goal from the 1-yard line, Stevens rushed for the score to make it 21-6 with 5:02 on the clock.
After the Olympians converted snagged an interception, Covington scored his second touchdown of the night to make it 27-12.
Harrison responded with a 4-minute drive punctuated by Dotison, who sliced through the defense en route to a 9-yard run to make it 27-12.
The sparring match continued as Covington scored his final touchdown and cut Harrison’s lead to 27-18 with 8:54 left in the game.
On their ensuing drive, the Olympians nearly cut the lead to three on a deep pass attempt. Dotison intercepted the pass but landed stomach first on the ball and watched it fly out of bounds.
Play halted as Dotison appeared injured on the play. Instead of focusing on the injury, Dotison’s first words were, “I should have had that interception.”
“That (drop) hurt more than the injury,” Dotison said. “I know next time I just have to hold on to it.”
On the following Panthers’ drive, Stevens trucked an Olympian defender and spun out of trouble for a 23-yard run, followed by a 22-yard scamper from Briggs. Dotison then atoned for the dropped interception.
Two Gateway players nearly tackled him, but Dotison danced around the defense to the end zone for his third score of the game to make it 34-18 with 6:47 left.
“I didn’t think it’d work because they focused in on me,” Dotison said. “But our O-line came through; shout out to Angrell (Epps), he came through with the extra block. After that block, I saw the inside opened, hit it and scored off it.”
Leboeuf said he’s grateful for the victory but wants to clean up errors from the game. He expects no less from the Panthers.
“I care about being better tomorrow than we were today,” Leboeuf said. “We’re going to learn from all of this and try to correct our mistakes. I’m proud of how our guys played physically, especially our offense.”