High School Football

How Downey receiver used hard work to become among nation’s statistical leaders

Here is what Downey senior wide receiver Lawrence Harris had to say about his superb start

Downey High School senior wide receiver Lawrence Harris is in the top 10 in the nation in receiving yards and touchdowns.
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Downey High School senior wide receiver Lawrence Harris is in the top 10 in the nation in receiving yards and touchdowns.

Downey football coach Jeremy Plaa said he doesn’t notice senior wide receiver Lawrence Harris during practice.

“He does what he is supposed to do all the time,” Plaa said. “A lot of times, special players don’t think they have to work hard.”

A three-sport athlete, Harris said his mentality comes from creating challenges for himself.

“I use each sport to push for the next one,” Harris said. “I want to be a little better with the next one.”

Harris, who starts on the varsity basketball team and was a CIF State finalist in the high jump last year, has statistically been one of the nation’s best wideouts through three weeks.

His eight receiving touchdowns are tied for sixth in the nation (second in the state) and 498 receiving yards are tied for 11th (fourth in state), according to MaxPreps.

“My friends told me about the stats and I have been checking them,” Harris said. “I have achieved some goals of mine but have more to achieve.”

The 6-foot receiver maybe has the best two game stretch in school history with 409 yards and seven touchdowns, including nine receptions for 264 yards and five touchdowns in Downey’s 54-48 overtime win over Manteca in Week 2. He also had an interception in the end zone in overtime.

What makes his performance so remarkable is didn’t have single reception last year.

With Anderson Grover and Bryce Peterson at the position, the Knights were thin in the secondary so Harris started at defensive back and led the team with 87 tackles, adding five tackles for a loss.

Harris has been senior quarterback Bryce Gouker’s top target but Plaa said Harris will still play situational defense when the team needs someone to shut down an opposing receiver.

“We want a guy like that with the ball in his hands,” said Plaa, whose No. 14 large-school Knights host No. 1 small-school Escalon on Friday. “He also plays on special teams.”

Watch highlights of the Downey High football team's 54-48 overtime win over Manteca on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019.

Gouker, who is also off to great start, said the chemistry began during the summer, when they would work out every day.

That included individual workouts at Chuck Hughes Stadium with just the receivers and running backs.

“We would work for an hour to two hours,” Gouker, who has 14 touchdowns, said. “It’s been a matter of him (Harris) getting open and running routes the right way.”

Awanda Sims, Lawrence’s mom, said she is “one of those animated fans” in the stands and that her son has played to his ability this year.

During Harris’ Manteca performance, his mom was thinking, “Who is this kid?”

“He used to do stuff like that during Pop Warner,” she said.

Harris played for the Modesto Rams Pop Warner team growing up and Sims said football was always his favorite sport.

“He is a go-getter,” she said. “He has goals and wants to make sure he reaches them.”

The “life of the party” type of kid, according to his mom, Harris, who said he loves to joke around, said he wants to study sports medicine and play football in college. None have yet to reach out.

Plaa said opposing defenses don’t respect Harris’ speed and when defenders try to tackle him, he makes them miss, a reason why he is averaging nearly 30 yards per reception.

Plaa jokingly said he hopes Harris keeps eating jalapeńos before games after he complained of them being too spicy in the pasta before the Manteca game.

Motivated by those who have long underestimated his talents, his hard work is what makes him among the nation’s statistical leaders.

“I can flip a switch and if I really want it, I am going to get it,” he said

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Julian A. Lopez has been covering local sports for The Modesto Bee since August 2018. He graduated from Arizona State in 2016 with a BA in Journalism.