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Gazette Preps Game of the Week: Unbeaten Harrison hosts Sierra

October 4, 2017 Updated: October 6, 2017 at 6:13 am
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Harrison quarterback Orlando Westbrook drops back to pass Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, during practice at Harrison High School. The 5-0 Panthers play Sierra Friday. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

There's an old cliche that claims that anything can happen on any given Sunday. But when you translate that to high school football - it's usually any given Friday night.

And Friday the Sierra Stallions will take that to heart as they travel to battle undefeated Harrison in The Gazette Preps Game of the Week.

The Stallions hit a slump with back-to-back one-win seasons dating back to 2015, and now more than halfway through the regular season, and one win under their belt, Sierra turns to its rival Harrison for a 3A South Central Conference opener.

The Panthers are one of two remaining Pikes Peak region teams who enter Week 6 undefeated, outscoring opponents 192-76 along the way.

"There's no doubt it looks like they have gotten better than last year," Sierra coach Shane Rowland said. "We have a quite a few good athletes and we just need to try to get the ball in the playmakers' hands."

The Panthers' high-scoring offense is led by quarterback Orlando Westbrook, who despite averaging less than 4 yards per carry, has eight rushing touchdowns, 909 passing yards and just one turnover.

Harrison defensive coordinator Clarky Jones talks to his players Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, during practice at Harrison High School. The 5-0 Panthers play Sierra Friday. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

"He's very smart and has a high football IQ," Harrison coach Al Melo said. "We don't have to tell him too much. He's really good at taking care of the football and making the right decisions and not forcing an issue if it's not there."

Westbrook's ball control will be a big factor in Friday's game as Sierra has forced 16 turnovers through five games, including 11 interceptions.

Rowland said, "Our D-line coach has done a really good job of getting kids to hustle after the quarterback, and if we can get pressure that's when those fumble recovery drills and basics we emphasize in practice come together."

Tristan Burris has pulled down five interceptions for the Stallions, and anchors the team's run-heavy offense with 208 rushing yards, along with Xavier Browns, who has 330 rushing yards.

"Right now we are being very smart with the football offensively and we are not taking huge risks, we are taking what the defense gives us and we've been very successful with that this year," Melo said. "Sierra is a very opportunistic team on defense, they fly around really well. Last year we came out against them and were fortunate enough to win, but we turned it over a bunch and hopefully we won't be doing that this week."

Harrison's undefeated mark is the program's best under Melo, who is in his 10th season coaching the Panthers. He also coached the 2004 team, which went 5-5, according to MaxPreps.

Top Harrison running back Aumiere Shedrick, who has racked up 809 rushing yards, credits the Panther brotherhood for the team's early success.

"Our bond has been stronger than it's ever been," Shedrick said. "We come together as a team and we are all a unit this year, and we are able to accomplish so much more now that we are a unit and there's strength in numbers and it's a whole team effort."

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