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Lee powers Auburn's drive for playoffs | Prep football
Physically and mentally, last football season put Harold Lee through the ringer.
After a promising start to his junior year with the Auburn High School Trojans, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound receiver, defensive back and returner broke his leg in the second game.
No big hit, no cataclysmic collision, but the moment gouged itself a spot in Lee’s memory.
“It was against Mount Rainier, just a pass play going to me,” Lee recalled. “The ball was short, so I jumped off and twisted and my tibia snapped. I felt it snap and heard it. It hurt. The trainer didn’t tell me that it had snapped, but I knew.”
The break forced him to the sidelines, where he had to watch the Trojans struggle to put together a 4-6 record and miss out on the postseason for the first time in a decade.
“Sitting on the bench was hard,” Lee said. “It wasn’t the biggest role, but I had to be there for the team. Up or down, I had to be there, let them know I’m there, just like everybody else on that sideline.”
The effects on the team were just as severe.
“We kind of anticipated him being a big play player for us last year, but we didn’t have him,” said Auburn head coach Gordon Elliott. “And we lost a lot of games last year by one score, so he probably could have made a big difference for us last year, if he was healthy.”
Now, Lee is back — in a big way.
In the Trojans’ last two games, Lee has helped drive lopsided victories against Kentridge and Tahoma.
In the teams’ 42-7 win against Tahoma this past Friday at Maxwell Stadium, Lee erupted for 333 yards of offense and five touchdowns, including two interception returns, a kick return, a rushing TD and a pass reception for a score.
“That’s a big game,” Elliott said. “Even my best teams that I’ve had out here, it’s been a real battle going out there. To have that kind of margin, we’ve never done that out there. And they’re a good team, a playoff-caliber team. We just did some things they weren’t able to adjust to.”
“As a team we were focused on getting a W on the road,” Lee said. “Their quarterback decided to throw the ball, and it just kept landing in my hands. It’s a very big win. They made the playoffs last year. It’s another step for us to make the playoffs and go forward.”
At this time last season, the Trojans were in the midst of a five-game losing streak.
The big difference this year, Lee said, is discipline and commitment.
“We’re more focused on discipline and our assignments and alignments in the game,” Lee said. “Coach will remind us (that we didn’t make the playoffs last year). When we have our senior meetings he’ll let us know that last year we weren’t a playoff team. This year, we’re more focused though, so getting to the playoffs is going to be our biggest goal going throughout the year.”
Elliott said Lee’s off-season work has been instrumental to the team’s success this year.
“He’s been around four years and he’s working hard,” Elliott said. “He worked hard this summer, balancing his football and his basketball. He’s always been a basketball-first guy, football was just something he would do. But he did a pretty good job this summer of balancing that and getting all his football commitments taken care of. So that shows leadership in itself, doing the things you’re supposed to do and getting yourself ready for the season.”
Lee admits that this year’s decision to turn out for his final year on the Auburn football squad was difficult, especially realizing that a football injury could also impact his basketball career. Still, he said, he felt he had to exploit his ability on the gridiron.
“Family and friends criticize me for playing both sports,” Lee said. “I’ve got some that say, ‘you’re a basketball player, you should do that,’ and then I’ve got the football family that think I should just play that because I’m good at it. I made my decision and I know I’m a good athlete.”
And regardless of where the Trojans finish up this season, Lee just hopes he continue his athletic career at the next level.
“I’m just hoping to go to a Division I college,” Lee said. “I’m a basketball player, but I’ll go wherever I get a scholarship, whichever sport. Hopefully both. But I’m just going to keep trying, doing what I can and keep working hard.”