PETAL, Miss. (WDAM) - Look, don’t even start.
Jonathan Harris gets it. He does. After all, Petal High School’s senior wideout has kind of been dealing with it all through his football-playing days.
He can feel defenders sizing him up during pregame, a look of confusion quickly replaced by a smirk, as they eye his 5-foot-9, 151-pound frame.
No problem, they think. Got this.
They underestimate him, which is a really bad move because now Harris has them exactly where he wants them.
“I’m not that big, so a guy could look at me and just kind of be like, ‘Ah, I can do him this way or that way,’” said Harris, who was selected as the Panthers’ “Player of the Pine Belt.”
“But when they see I’m quicker than they thought I was or when they see a ball go up and I just go higher than they do, and they’re six foot whatever, then they open their eyes and are like, “Whoa, I got to play a whole different way.
“But by that time, it’s too late because then, I get activated.”
Over the past two seasons, Harris has been “activated” for 50 catches for 820 yards and seven touchdowns.
Last year, as one of three juniors getting regular snaps in the receiver rotation, Harris hauled in 31 catches for 579 yards and five scores, all career highs.
“Receiver wise, he makes the tough catches,” Petal coach Marcus Boyles said. “He has a really good first step, so he can run by people. He has a knack for finding the open areas and zones on defenses and just get the ball.”
Harris also plays cornerback on defense, and finished with 40 tackles, three interceptions and a recovered fumble in 2019. He returned one of the interceptions for a touchdown.
Boyles said Harris puts in the work to get the most out of abilities.
“First of all, he’s a really good athlete, so that helps,” Boyles said. “But I think he’s a hard worker. He’s a kid who is one of the first guys in the weight room and one of the last off the practice field.”
Harris said football always has been a big part of his life, even when he was little.
“I’ve been playing football my whole life,” Harris said. “I started when I was six, and started a little early. My parents had to sign a waiver for me to play.
“Now, (at Petal), it’s really all I’ve known for three years. Everything I do is football related.”
But Boyles said Harris is so much more than just quick-twitch muscle and highly-honed football skills.
“He’s a leader for us and a three-year starter, yes,” Boyles said. “(But) he’s just a high-character kid. You never have to worry about what’s going on in the classroom with him. He’s always going to take care of his business.
“People love him when they meet him. He has that smile that people are attracted to.”
Last year, Petal roared into the Class 6A South State championship game to face archrival, Oak Grove High School. The Panthers had taken down the Warriors 21-7 during the regular season.
The Warriors turned the tables in the postseason, ending Petal’s 12-2 season with a 35-28 victory.
Harris said the Panthers are determined to get another crack at the postseason.
“We have guys (who) want to play hard,” Harris said. “We know what we can do. We know that (region) is wide open for anybody to win and we feel like we’re the ones who are going to win it.”