Young backs Barbee, Harris making big impact for Trojans
Coming into the 2018 season, there was one thing the Dyersburg Trojans had plenty of on their roster.
Senior backs like Chris Russell and Daviaon Henderson. Junior runners Trae Taylor, Brandon Miller and Antonio Quinn as well as sophomore Israel Barbee and freshman Darius Harris helped round out a group of ball carriers that could pretty much guarantee Dyersburg head coach Bart Stowe and Trojan fans there would always be a fresh set of legs on the field.
But, as can happen during the course of a high school football season, injuries can occur. In the Trojans’ case it was Taylor in Week 4 with a leg injury and Henderson in Week 9 with a knee injury which brought potential big hits to the Dyersburg offense’s production this season.
But, as Stowe has explained, the Trojan offense is made to develop talented running backs.
“Our assistant coaches are doing a good job of developing young players,” the Trojan head coach said. “That’s the good thing about the style of offense we run – it’s going to develop a lot of backs.
“We work out of a three-back system. So, if you run out of a three-back system, you’re going to build a lot of running backs because you’re working a lot of back. You get depth and we’re feeling that right now.”
In the wake of the season-ending injuries to Taylor and Henderson, young backs Barbee and Harris have stepped in to make an impact – putting up yards and points during the last several weeks of Dyersburg’s run to the TSSAA Class 4A Quarterfinals.
Stowe talked about the impact the two underclassmen have had this season.
“We had season-ending injuries to Trae Taylor and Daviaon Henderson,” the Trojan head coach recalled. “Those two young men were exceptional players for us.
“It’s been running back by committee throughout the whole year. Harris and Barbee have really stepped up. Israel is a sophomore and Darius is a freshman – so that’s exciting for the future.”
In fact, the excitement for Barbee began in Week 5 against Haywood, who the Trojans take on later this week in the Class 4A Quarterfinal at home on Friday. During Dyersburg’s 48-14 win earlier this season over the Tomcats, Barbee – in the first game since Taylor’s injury on the road at Millington – carried the ball 15 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns during the battle between then-ranked teams.
“Israel, the game versus Haywood the last time we played them, he had a huge night,” Stowe recalled. “It’s when he really stepped up and it was his first start.
“Our offensive line did a real good job blocking and Israel stepped up to it. He was excited about playing Haywood and excited about that start. And, he took advantage of it and did well.”
Since then, Barbee has been a key part of the Trojan offense as the sophomore as he has proven to be fairly illusive as part of the Dyersburg running attack.
“He’s been playing all year long,” Stowe said. “He’s been starting at cornerback all year so in that Haywood game, he’s been playing both sides.
“He’s got experience now but it’s exciting for the future knowing that we’ve got him for the next couple years.”
Harris is another part of the Trojan offense which the black and gold have on their roster for the future – three years in fact. The freshman’s impact can easily be judged by what he has done since Oct. 12.
During the second half of the Ripley game in Week 9 replacing the injured Henderson, Harris gave the Trojans a shot in the arm with five carries for 46 yards and two scores. He followed that up with his first 100-plus-yard game (8-134) with three scores. He nearly did the exact same thing against Crockett County in Week 11, carrying the ball a dozen times for 133 yards and another trio of touchdowns. Two weeks later in the second round of the playoffs, Harris again had a big game against the Cavaliers. With the season on the line, Harris had 16 carries for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
And, actually, he’s coming off a broken collarbone in the team’s second preseason scrimmage at Milan in August.
“He missed a lot of games,” Stowe recalled the beginning of Harris’ high school career. “He only played in one freshman game all year then he started playing varsity with us because of injuries and bringing depth on.
“The plans for Darius was to play more varsity but he got hurt early so he didn’t get to.”
Stowe said the Trojans’ staff is excited about Harris and his future with the program.
“Being a freshman running back that’s having so much success, he’s showing some good maturity,” The Trojan head coach said. “He’s hungry.
“He listens very well and I am real proud of him and how he’s carrying himself just like Israel Barbee.”
While Barbee and Harris have been putting up good numbers since stepping up into their new roles and responsibilities, the Trojan head coach added the production by the two says a lot about the team’s offensive line.
“Our offensive line is doing a really good job of blocking for whoever the running back is,” Stowe said. “And the backs are running hard.
“Coach Bill Bona coaching the line and coach Matthew Shearon coaching the running backs are doing a really good job getting them all ready and it’s showing.”
Stowe said the fact the line has continued its strong play no matter who was in the backfield speaks to the team concept of the offense.
“Everybody’s got a role on the team,” Stowe said. “And, you do your role no matter who it is.
“And, they’ve known all year. Even when I had those guys (Henderson and Taylor), I was still playing other people and rolling through the backs. Trying to keep a fresh man in and trying to find a hot hand. You’ll see as we play I’ll try to find the back that’s having the most success and we stick with it when we’re rolling.”
The Trojan head coach added the team’s depth has been very beneficial this year. Having Barbee and Harris putting up big games and big numbers, it makes for a bright future in the Trojan backfield.
“The big thing with those guys is you want to see them keep getting better,” Stowe said. “We just want to keep getting them better.
“It’s exciting having a sophomore and a freshman making such a big impact. Next year coming in, they’re not going to be your normal sophomore Darius or the normal junior Israel because they’ve got so much playing experience.”
The Trojan head coach added though you don’t expect leadership from younger players like Harris or Barbee, the two will have enough experience after this current season to step into leadership roles in 2019.