This is how Reggie Harris celebrated his team’s rousing 60-0 victory over Capital Christian on Thursday night — he ditched the coaching headset and reached for an apron, spatula and syrup.
He became Cook Harris while still embracing the role of Coach Harris. Along with Inderkum Tigers team mom Mercedes Overby, Harris whipped up stacks of pancakes early Friday morning for 50 varsity players for a campus grub fest. Everyone chowed down. Pancakes, milk, good chatter — a hearty appetite fulfilled.
“I told the kids before the game that if we focus on what we do, we should score at least 42 points,” Harris said. “When we hit 40 points, I thought, ‘Oh, my God! I have to call IHOP to feed these guys. Forget that. I’ll cook!’”
Harris has whipped up a good team, heavy on juniors, skill, effort and impressive grade-point averages, and his return to the sideline was the feel-good ingredient the team needed.
Harris was suspended for two weeks by the Natomas Unified School District as it investigated fund-raising practices by the coach. He was reinstated on Tuesday after meetings with the district human resources department to address any conflict of interest concerns. Inderkum principal Scott Pitts in an email told Inderkum families Harris was back on board and that “Coach Harris and district leadership both agree to reinforce and expand our current training in fiscal practices.”
What moved Harris was the outpouring of support of players and parents who spoke on the coach’s behalf in a board meeting Aug. 16. He felt alone for a spell, a man without his team, but he was never truly alone because he had so many in his corner. Harris has always stressed a “chin-up” attitude in a sport that can include getting knocked down.
“The situation that arose, it got resolved, and I’m moving forward, and at the end of the day, it’s all about those kids,” Harris said.
Those kids are his football players, all of whom he calls “my sons.” One of them really is his son: Versatile senior playmaker and leader Christian Harris, a safety, receiver, quarterback and a scholar with recruiting interest. A younger son, freshman Donovan, is on the school’s freshman team, and he, too, can play a number of positions.
Harris is equal parts game-day scowl and hugging charm. No one blends those characteristics better than the coaching lifer from Virginia Beach. Harris was hard to miss when he was the defensive coordinator for powerhouse Grant High teams in the 2000s and 2010s under famed coach Mike Alberghini, now retired.
The pancake deal was Harris being Harris.
‘In a good place’
“I’ve got great kids here, and I would not trade them for anything,” Harris said. “I love them and I tell them that I love them. And it’s OK to cry. It’s OK to love. It’s OK to have empathy in football. I want them to be good kids, and be good fathers and uncles and people. It’s passion, straight passion. I’m in a good place.”
So are the upstart Tigers. Emerging junior quarterback Ricky Cole passed for 192 yards and three touchdowns against Capital Christian, helping Inderkum storm to a 46-0 halftime lead, and he rushed for 106 yards and two scores. Cole had TD passes of 15 yards to Marcellus Maxwell, 62 yards to Christian Harris and five yards to Lono Chouteau. Against Del Oro in an opening game, Cole had four touchdown passes, three to Chouteau.
Kyle Gurganious, another versatile star in the making with superb grades, rushed for a touchdown for Inderkum and spoke highly of his coach to the school board and to The Bee. He said the team is now complete with their leader back in place.
“We’re excited to have our coach back,” he said. “I spoke of the character of Coach Harris at the board meeting. He’s done so much for us. He’s helped players with tutors. He listens. We’ve had a spiral of emotions, but we have a big season ahead of us. We have a lot of work to do, but we know how good we can be.”
So does Harris, who said, “we’re going to shake up Sacramento. People going to know about Inderkum High School football.”
Reber back in comfort zone
Inderkum athletic director and offensive coordinator Justin Reber coached Inderkum in its season opener against Del Oro. It was not a gig he wanted or pushed for, being the head coach, contrary to wild rumor and speculation on social media. Reber was so worn out by the stress of it all that he suffered from infected kidney stones, but after a day of rest and passing that stone, he joined Harris on the sideline against Capital Christian, his alma mater and the school in which he got his coaching start.
Reber raved about his quarterback, saying: “Ricky is that guy. He can be so good. He’s always asking questions, wanting to get better.”
Reber added: “It’s been a stressful month. We got Reggie back, and I’m glad we got him back. We’ve got a good thing going here.”
Harris said one thing he has learned about being a father and a coach is you cannot bluff teenagers.
“Kids know adults and they can tell if you’re faking or if you’re sincere,” he said. “Kids remember the teachers and coaches in their lives who care. I care.”
So do his ex-players. Shaq Thompson, The Bee’s Player of the Decade for the 2010s while at Grant High and a star linebacker for the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, reached out to The Bee to defend Harris, saying, “Anyone who knows Reggie Harris knows how good he is.”