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When bar raised, Bonita Vista receiver responds

12/19/2015, 6:00am PST
By Don Norcross

Barons senior moves from small school to large school without missing a beat

Quentin Harrison has averaged 28.1 yards a catch for Bonita Vista this season.

— At Calvary Christian Academy (high school enrollment 100), Quentin Harrison played football like the proverbial man among boys.

“If I called a quick hitch, Division V DBs, he just pushed them aside and would go all the way,” recalls Royal Knights coach Gene Rheam.

So when the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Harrison transferred to Bonita Vista High this year (enrollment 2,300-plus), the question was how would Harrison fare against stiffer competition.

Some 322 miles from home today at 6 p.m. in Hanford, the Barons (12-2) face the Hanford Bullpups (13-1) in the CIF State Football Championship Bowl for Division IV-AA. And if running back Greg Bell represents the Barons’ legs, Harrison models their hands.

Harrison averages a whopping 28.1 yards per catch. In nine games, he totals 30 receptions for 842 yards and seven touchdowns.

The competition question has been emphatically answered.

“There’s a quote you’ve heard,” says Mission Bay coach Willie Matson. “Big-time players make big plays. That’s what he did against us.”

Matson’s reference was to Harrison’s three catches for 136 yards and two TDs in Bonita Vista’s 52-14 San Diego Section Division III championship win, the TDs covering 50 and 66 yards.

The Barons’ season has been a magical one, the section title the school’s first in 49 years of varsity football. For Harrison, the ride has required patience and dealing with anguish, the latter arriving four days before the title game against Mission Bay when his grandmother, whom he has lived with for six years, was hospitalized for triple-bypass heart surgery.

Says Bonita Vista coach Chris Thompson, “What a level of maturity the kid possesses.”

Harrison did not transfer to Bonita Vista to further his football résumé. It was strictly for financial reasons.

“It was the factor,” says Harrison.

High school tuition at Calvary Christian Academy costs about $9,000. Harrison is raised by his mother, a financial planner’s administrative assistant. He also lives with his grandmother, godmother and older brother. He has never met his father.

By CIF rules, Harrison had to sit out the season’s first five games.

“That was horrible,” he says. “It’s just tough to watch.”

The Barons went 3-2 without Harrison, the losses coming to Open Division powers Helix and Madison. With Harrison, Bonita Vista is 9-0. His value is obvious. The Barons pound the ball on the ground with Bell, who has gained 2,493 yards rushing and scored 32 TDs.

When the secondary begins creeping up, Harrison sprints past defenders. He’s hardly a one-trick pony, though. Against Mission Bay, his 66-yard touchdown came on a slip screen, Harrison shedding defenders near the line of scrimmage before breaking clear into the secondary.

One week before the title game against Mission Bay, with the Barons given the day off, Harrison passed part of the afternoon picking up his maternal grandmother’s dry cleaning and washing her car. Three days later, Bernice Harrison, 68, visited the doctor for what she thought would be a routine exam.

Instead, heart problems were discovered. Triple-bypass surgery was performed and Bernice was hospitalized 15 days.

“I kind of started panicking,” Harrison recalls. “She was fine the day before, then all I heard is she was in the hospital.”

Harrison’s maternal grandfather, Marvin, died three years ago. He taught him how to play blackjack, poker and shoot dice.

“Any type of gambling,” says Quentin.

Raised in Georgia, Bernice fills the kitchen with the aroma of home-cooked meals. Quentin’s favorites: green beans, chitlins and chicken.

“He’s a very caring young man,” says Quentin’s mother, Catherine Harrison. “He has a big heart. He loves his grandma to pieces. Of course, he loves his momma, too.”

Harrison has been offered a scholarship by Dixie State, a Division II college in St. George, Utah. Portland State, Cal Poly and San Diego State have also shown interest. His preference would be to dress in the Aztecs’ red and black.

“I’d like to stay in California,” he says. “San Diego State? That’s about as close as you can get.”

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