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Cougars' Harrison takes top honors at NFF ceremony

Joe Avento • Apr 27, 2019 at 10:28 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Jackson Harrison and his Sullivan Central teammates finally got the taste of winning last season.

On Saturday, Harrison won again.

Central’s quarterback was the big winner at the fifth annual National Football Foundation Mountain Empire Chapter’s awards ceremony at the DoubleTree Hotel in Johnson City, taking the top prize of a $1,500 scholarship. He will also be inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.

Eight high school players were awarded scholarships of varying amounts, based on their accomplishments in the classroom, on the field and in the community.

“It’s awesome,” Harrison said. “I’ve been playing football since I was 4 years old so this means a lot to finish my career with this.”

Harrison is planning to go to Tennessee in the fall and he says he’ll always remember helping Sullivan Central break a 36-game losing streak on the football field. The Cougars topped Sullivan East 51-42 last season to end the streak.

“It was probably a feeling that I’ll never feel again,” said Harrison, who passed for three touchdowns and ran for another that night. “Nothing will probably match it.

“A lot of underclassmen looked up to me and we kept all the seniors playing and fighting hard for that win. It was pretty hard. Everybody just kept talking about it. Everybody was like, ‘Why can’t y’all win?’ It felt good to finally do it.”

Central coach Chris Steger was thrilled to see the leader of his team receive such an honor.

“I’m just so proud of Jackson,” Steger said. “He’s the ultimate of what you want a high school student-athlete to be. His grades — a 4-plus GPA — and his ACT score is outstanding. He does all those things you want him to do. And he sets an example on the field as well. He was such a leader for our kids. He really set an example of what we’re trying to do, rebuild that program right now.”

Also being honored with scholarships were Dobyns-Bennett’s Ian Hicks, Science Hill’s Drew Morrison, Tennessee High’s Cade Mitchell, Cloudland’s Malachi Benfield, Hampton’s Alex Hardin, West Greene’s Lee Kibort and Happy Valley’s Dylan McKeehan.

Speakers included East Tennessee State coach Randy Sanders as well as Jerry Odom of Tusculum and Kevin Saxton of Emory & Henry.

One of the highlights of the day came when ETSU athletic director Scott Carter awarded longtime trainer Jerry Robertson a championship ring from the Bucs’ Southern Conference title from last fall. Robertson had been instrumental in keeping alive the dream of football returning to the school after a 12-year absence.

Other awards bestowed during the ceremony were: Special Appreciation Award, Mike Lunsford; Lifetime Achievement Award, A.B. Clevenger; Hall of Fame Inductee, Jim Cradic; John Robert Bell Award, J.C. Campbell; and James Cradic Award, Randy Hodge.

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