According to Simon Kenton coach Jeff Marksberry, senior defensive back Jacob Harney embodies everything that’s turned the Pioneers’ football program into a perennial postseason contender.
Harney started his career as a wide receiver, but moved to defense as a junior. After finishing last year with 69 tackles, he was named a captain coming into his senior season and currently ranks fifth on the team with 68 tackles. He also has two interceptions. Although he may not get the same praise or accolades of some of his teammates who are putting up more gaudy statistics at skill positions, his consistent solid play and commitment to improving are the traits that have made Simon Kenton’s program a success.
“He’s one of those kids that have embodied the whole philosophy and culture that we’ve tried to instill, which is we don’t have to have a bunch of all-state kids to go out and be a great football team,” Marksberry said. “If we just have tough kids that do their job, play hard, execute and be coachable then we can win a lot of football games, and Jacob definitely embodies that.”
Marksberry continued with effusive praise for Harney: “He’s a great kid. A trustworthy, high-character kid. He works his tail-off, and has never really received the credit he deserves for being the solid all-around football player that he is. Jacob is kind of the glue guy for us on defense. He never stands out as making mistakes on film, he’s always in the right spot, he’s a competitor, and he plays to win.”
Harney had a big game in the Raiders’ 41-23 win over Ryle in the second round of the postseason as he returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown and intercepted a fourth quarter pass that led to a touchdown for the Pioneers.
“Jacob does have big play ability too,” Marksberry said. “I think that kind of gets lost, because we have a guy like Trent (Kincaid) who has seven interceptions and Jacob only has two. But as a whole, our secondary has 21 interceptions over the course of the season and that’s pretty phenomenal. It’s just a solid group all the way around, and Jacob is their leader.”
In the Pioneers’ two-platoon system, players are restricted to playing on just one side of the ball, offense or defense. Harney embraced the switch to defense following his sophomore season.
“I never really expected to go on defense and be more successful than I was on offense,” Harney said. “But I’ve always kind of wanted to hit people, even on offense. I’m a little smaller than everybody else, so I have to play with a little more aggressiveness. I think wanting that contact and physicality helps me on defense.”
As a three-sport athlete who also plays basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring, Harney has no offseason and misses most of the football team’s weightlifting and conditioning program. Instead, he had to find time to build up his undersized frame on his own.
“(Senior linebacker) Dalton Finnell and I would go up to Snap Fitness every night when I got done with basketball or baseball practice, so that I could keep up with everybody else,” Harney said.
The extra work has paid off on the gridiron, and Marksberry loves the mentality Harney brings because of his experience in other sports.
“His athletic IQ and competitiveness from playing three sports is just something that’s uncommon,” Marksberry said. “Jacob’s just one of those guys you can always count on. He just goes out and plays and does his thing every Friday night.”
Although being a leader on one of the top defenses in the state isn’t how Harney planned his career when he started playing for the Pioneers, in some ways it’s turned out to be even better than he could have expected. Now, he knows how he wants to finish his high school football experience.
“We have to take care of this week to even start thinking about a state championship,” Harney said. “But that would just be great to experience all of that.”