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Coronado senior won’t leave field

12/09/2015, 8:10pm PST
By Don Norcross

Islanders standout a throwback to days of two-way players donning leather helmets

Coronado’s Chris Haas has rushed for 1,892 yards and 23 TDs. He also has 53 tackles and one kickoff return for a touchdown.

— Drive from San Diego across the Coronado Bridge and it’s like stepping back into a time capsule. Wide, tree-lined streets, cyclists pedaling casually, local shops lining Orange Avenue. The setting is perfect for Coronado High’s Chris Haas, himself a football player seemingly from a bygone era.

A senior, Haas does most of his damage for the Islanders as a running back, having compiled 1,892 yards rushing. But like footballers when the helmets were constructed of leather and devoid of facemasks, Haas seldom leaves the field. He’s third on the team in tackles and returned one kickoff for a touchdown.

“If I try to take him off the field, I usually get these dirty looks from him,” says Coronado head coach Tony Isabella.

Islanders offensive coordinator Mark Davis told Haas once, “I think I finally saw you gassed. There’s nothing left in your tank.”

To which Haas replied, “Coach, I’ve got two tanks.”

Coronado (9-4) plays its first state playoff game ever Friday night, hosting Los Angeles Belmont (14-0).

“Our team is really happy, knowing we’ve made the Coronado record books,” says Haas.

The son of a Navy captain, Haas has played tackle football every year but one since about the third or fourth grade. The one season he didn’t play tackle football was in the eighth grade when his family moved to Yokosuka, Japan, and football with pads wasn’t offered. He settled for flag football.

Of Japan, he says, “It was a beautiful place, surprisingly the best food I’ve ever had.”

Haas is listed at 5-feet-11, 170 pounds. A 100- and 200-meter sprinter, he runs track in the spring. His size and speed supply the image of a back darting to daylight, but don’t be misled. Haas is comfortable doing the dirty work between the tackles.

“Not only can he run past you, he’s very fast, he can run through you,” says Isabella. “I don’t want to be the other guy on the other side of his hits. He doesn’t hesitate to throw his body around.”

In a 34-22 victory over San Diego, Haas gained 218 yards rushing on 25 carries and scored all five of the Islanders’ touchdowns.

“He’s definitely a hard, physical player,” says San Diego head coach Charles James. “He didn’t give up.”

Teammates are inspired by Haas’ style of play.

“He’s never been the shifty back,” says guard Gregg Gonzalez. “He’s usually the guy who puts his shoulder down to finish off a run.

“It gives us extra motivation knowing he’s giving it 100 percent every single play. He pushes us to open up those holes for him to put that physical mentality into effect and get to the second level.”

Haas lines up at strong safety on defense. Forced to choose running back or safety, he wants the ball in his hands.

“I like being a playmaker,” Haas says.

He’s as comfortable with books in his hands as he is a football. Haas’ cumulative GPA at Coronado is 4.17. He’s currently taking Advanced Placement classes in calculus, physics, literature and government. His all-time favorite book: “The Martian.”

He saw the movie by the same title starring Matt Damon twice and gives the film two thumbs up.

He’s hoping to be accepted at Harvard and is currently leaning toward majoring in civil engineering.

“But who can know when you’re a 17-year-old teenager,” Haas jokes.

He volunteers for the student-run program Project Sammich, which makes hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, then distributes them to the downtown homeless.

“It makes you feel good,” he says, “like you’re making a difference.”

In a community that harkens Norman Rockwell paintings, Isabella attaches one of sports’ favorite character quotes to Haas.

“He’s one of those kids you’d like your daughter to bring home,” says the head coach.

Adds Isabella, “When he scores a touchdown he doesn’t run to the sideline to get the congratulations. You see him run to his offensive line to thank them.”

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