Passion, pride send Harter to leadership roleNovember 21, 2017
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
Southridge quarterback Jayce Harter isn’t afraid to show raw emotion and passion after a key postseason victory — as long as this time it doesn’t result in an injury.
“I’ll never forget when I was in eighth grade and my older brother Bryce was a junior (at Southridge) and they were playing Mater Dei for a sectional championship. We beat them 21-19 and I just remember running out to the field to celebrate and I did a baseball slide,” Harter said. “Well, I ended up breaking my left ankle and I had to have surgery on it and I actually just got the screws out of my ankle my sophomore year. So, you can say football has always been really exciting to me.”
After big wins such as this year’s overtime sectional victory against Mater Dei and last week’s semistate victory against Indianapolis Scecina, you’ll often see Harter shed tears of joy while hugging some of his best friends — guys like Grant Maxey and Tucker Schank.
In fact, the intensity and emotion that Harter shows has began to rub off on his teammates.
“It gives us a sense of confidence and I can feel him giving that emotion to all of us on the field,” Schank said. “I try to duplicate that emotion and give it to everyone else around me.”
But the intensity isn’t necessarily of the yelling and screaming kind, it’s almost more of a calming intensity that helps the Raiders in tough situations.
“I think it’s just an inner passion and it’s just the way he goes about his business,” Raider coach Scott Buening said.
Harter has been very helpful to helping provide insight and has acted as teacher to help the younger kids learn the game and how to learn certain skills sets.
And not necessarily just the younger kids on the Raider football team but those out in the community as well.
“The way he studies the game and the way he helps out our youth kids, my goodness. You can’t fool these young kids, if you’re not into what they’re doing then they won’t be drawn to you,” Buening said. “He’s kind of almost become a celebrity in some regards, he gives the kids towels and gloves and I think it’s just something he loves to do. He loves for people to be happy and it just shows you so many aspects of how he lives and goes about his day.”
For as long as he can remember, football has been a part of Harter’s life. From growing up to watching his older brother play under the lights at Raider Field to his first time putting on pads when he was in the fifth grade after beginning playing flag football in third grade.
Bryce, who played both left guard and middle linebacker, was one of Harter’s main inspirations toward pursuing playing football in high school.
“Just coming to the games when I was younger and watching all the big kids under the lights, I was always so interested in that,” Harter said. “Ever since I saw my first Raider football game I fell in love with it and my brother was always someone I looked up to and football was his favorite thing to do.”
Harter’s freshman year of high school was Bryce’s senior year and he can vividly recall how disappointed the seniors were when they were defeated by Evansville Mater Dei in the sectional semifinal — it was something that stuck with him for awhile.
“I remember when those guys played their last game and once it was over they were devastated and it made us devastated too,” Harter said. “That senior class really had an impact on me — my brother Bryce, Connor Craig, Luke Stetter. They just all had the same passion as we do now.”
With just 11 seniors on this year’s roster, the senior class and junior class have almost meshed together as one group.
Harter said the connection been the upperclassmen is due to the fact they’ve grown up together and played football together since before middle school.
“I mean, we’re all best friends. I hang out with these guys both and off the field and we’re just always talking about football and the next game,” Harter said. “The chemistry between us is just awesome, we’re all on the same page pretty often and we just have a good thing going with this program here.”
Schank, a junior, says that the close relationships between the two classes have showed on the field this year.
“Personally, some of my best friends have always been a grade above me. Me and Jayce have been best friends for as long as I can remember,” Schank said. “When I think of that senior class, I don’t necessarily feel like I’m a part of that class but I feel like I’m a part of that brotherhood just without the title of a senior.”
The movie “Friday Night Lights” also helped Harter grow a passion for the sport of football.
In fact, he says he can recite every word of it.
“It’s just my favorite movie of all-time,” Harter said. “Watching the Panthers go to state but then they end up losing state after they get to the one-yard line and time runs out so it’s really sad. But there’s just a lot of stuff that goes on in that movie and I love it.”
With the Raiders playing in the IHSAA Class 2A state finals this Saturday at Noon against Woodlan at Lucas Oil Stadium, Harter and his best friends have a chance to write their own “Friday Night Lights” type of story.
Except that they’re hoping this one ends on a high note.
“We’re hoping that our true legendary moment will happen this Saturday at noon,” Harter said. “It’s a little bittersweet because it will be our last game but I guess if we have to play our last game, at least it’s (playing for) a state championship my senior year.”
No matter the result in Saturday’s game, Harter has already left his mark on the Southridge Raiders football program. And not just because of his 2,842 career passing yards, 1,947 career rushing yards and 43 career touchdowns.
“When he talks, people listen. When he does things, they get done. I think that’s the true sense of what a leader is,” Buening said.
“He doesn’t force the game, he lets it come to him and he does a great job of manging and running our offense. And when you have a kid who could care less about how many yards he’s getting and just wants to win football games, you know you’ve got a special player.”
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