By Blake Colston
On Sunday, when United States Marine Zaine Jackson returns from a two-year stint on this island of Guam, he’ll get to see firsthand what younger brother Blaise Harris has achieved while he was away.
Harris weighed more than 270 pounds as a sophomore. Entering his senior season, Harris has trimmed down by about 55 pounds in less than two years.
“Not only has my weight come down, but my strength has boosted significantly,” he said. “Whenever he came back, I wanted to look different and impress him. I’m proud of where I’ve come.”
Harris and Yukon host Westmoore in the season opener Friday night at 7 inside Miller Stadium, and although Jackson won’t be home in time to make the opener, he plans to attend Yukon’s game vs. Stillwater Sept. 8.
Harris used his older brother, a former college wrestler, as a sounding board throughout his weight loss process.
“He knows about cutting weight, so I’ve asked him all types of questions about it,” he said. “The key has been eating right and not letting bad decisions mess up your whole diet for the day.”
Harris’ go-to dish? Chickpea pasta with alfredo sauce and shredded chicken.
“That’s one of my favorites,” he said.
Ironically, Harris has spent most of 2023 trying to gain back more weight – especially muscle – to bulk up to play defensive end in the Millers 3-3-5 scheme. He had previously played along the offensive line, but this season the YHS defense needed Harris’ strength and size.
Harris weighed about 215 pounds in the spring, but since then has bulked up to a leaner, more muscular 230 pounds.
“He’s one of those guys that shows up to work everyday. His motor was going all offseason,” head coach Brent Barnes said. “He’s one of the hardest working guys we’ve got, by far.”
And the position change has been mutually beneficial for Harris and the team.
“His athletic ability is one of the main reasons we put him over there,” Barnes said. “We needed someone who could really move on the edge and he can do that, but at the same time, he’s strong and he’s physical.”
Harris’ increased strength will be needed on Friday when the Millers battle one of the girthiest offensive lines in the state. Westmoore’s front averages almost 275 pounds per man, so it won’t be easy for YHS to overpower the Jags’ line, but Harris’ experience on the offensive line could be an equalizer.
“I know how offensive lineman think and I think that helps me a lot,” he said. “I can tell from slight differences in their stance if it’s going to be a run or pass. That gives me an edge.”
The Jaguars dropped their “Zero Week” game to Tulsa Union, 49-7. Westmoore had two costly turnovers and a blocked punt in the first half that put an unlikely upset bid out of reach.
Still, the Jags have formidable talent across the field, led by University of Oklahoma defensive back commit Mykel-Patterson McDonald. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior is rated as the state’s No. 7 player in the class of 2024, according to on3.com.
Quarterback Michael Graham transferred in after spending three years terrorizing 5A defenses at Southeast High School, and he’s protected by an offensive line that boasts three players listed at more than 300 pounds, with 6-foot-4, 230-pound tight end Zane Zielney doubling as a blocking and receiving threat.
“The first thing that always stands out with them is that they’re very big and physical and athletic,” Barnes said of Westmoore. “They have some high-profile Division-I recruits and they’re really athletic. If they play a really clean, good game, they’re a very good team and that’s what we’ll expect to see on Friday. We’ll have to match that with our best effort.”
The Jaguars took last season’s matchup with Yukon, 30-7.
“It feels like we have a lot to prove, especially against Westmoore,” Harris said. “We want to garner the support of our community and show them that we’re not the same team we were even a few months ago.”