Rising to the Challenge

Meeting Hartland Arrowhead in the state finals for the third-straight year, senior defensive end and Wisconsin recruit Shelby Harris gives Badgers fans reason to be excited, as his dominating defensive performance leads the Highlanders to another state championship.

MADISON - Shelby Harris already stood well above the rest of his smaller Highlander teammates

When he lifted the WIAA Division 1 championship trophy high above his head, however, the golden football made Harris look larger than life.

After leading his team to a state title over Hartland Arrowhead in 2006 only to see the Warhawks get revenge in 2007, Harris led a solid defensive effort, keeping the high-powered Warhawks out of the end zone for the first 45 minutes, to lead Mequon Homestead (14-0) to a 13-11 victory over its rival at Camp Randall.

"Speechless," said Harris after the game. "I can't say enough about (Homestead senior captain) Tommy (Eagen's) performance tonight. He separates his shoulder. Two weeks into the playoffs. Comes back. Gets two interceptions. That's how you want it to happen. Come back in a state championship and play a great game."

Although Eagen will get the defensive MVP honors, Harris certainly was no slouch either. Being named to the All-State team by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association earlier in the day, Harris had six tackles (five solo) and two quarterback sacks in which he simply bullied through double teams to reach the quarterback, a simply impressive display.

"I left my body out there. I am exhausted," Harris said. "Arrowhead is a great team and it's a great experience. Making the bonds and the family I've met, nothing can replace that."

A three-star recruit and ranked as the 47th-best defensive end in the nation, Harris showed why Wisconsin and line coach Bob Bostad were so keen on recruiting the 6-foot-3, 240 pound Harris. Playing with exception leverage, Harris was a fixture in the Hartland Arrowhead back field the entire game, forcing the Warhawk running backs to pick and chose the seem in which to attack.

"Shelby is a special kid in our program," Homestead head coach Dave Keel said. "He has blossomed into a substantial leader, a phenomenal young men and a special young person. We're going to miss him a lot but we're going to get to watch him a lot here at the University of Wisconsin.

"It's going to be exciting to watch him perform. He's going to keep getting better and better."

Becoming Wisconsin first official commit for the 2009 class when he gave his verbal to the Badgers on February 16, Harris said that last season's 31-7 loss to Hartland Arrowhead was a wake-up call to him and the rest of the Highlanders, who made a commitment to each other not to leave Madison with another silver trophy.

"Last year motivated us because nobody wants to lose at state," he said. "It motivated us all off season in lifting, running, staying in shape and getting us bigger. Throughout the season, we knew what we needed to do and everyone thought we were going to lose. We showed them all and that's great."

Planning to join the Badgers in the summer and enjoy the rest of the senior year, an emotional Harris could do nothing but smile when thinking about all the fun memories yet to come for him.

"It's going to be nice when this is my home field next year," he said. "It feels great and hopefully, I get a couple more wins and championships here."

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