MOORE HAVEN — It didn’t take long for Andrew Fish and Robert Harris to get noticed by the eyes of college football.
Having never played organized football, Fish and Harris made their gridiron debuts last year for Moore Haven High School. All the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Fish and the 6-foot-6, 352-pound Harris did was quickly establish their presence as starting offensive linemen who helped pave the way for the Terriers’ outstanding 10-1 season.
Now, a year later, as the towering duo embarks on year two, they find themselves on the radar of college coaches.
Their remarkable and rapid ascension combined with the veteran leadership of fellow O lineman Conner Thomas means the entire trio from the Brighton Reservation are drawing interest from college football. Fish handles left tackle duties while Harris and Thomas are on the right side as tackle and guard, respectively.
“It’s awesome for them,” Moore Haven coach Max Manin said before a practice in August. “They’ve worked really hard. It’s nice because O linemen usually don’t get a whole ton of credibility. They’re not scoring touchdowns; they’re not making tackles, so it’s cool for those guys to get some recognition.”
Attention is coming from FBS schools for Fish and Harris Fish, a senior, has offers from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Georgia Southern, Kent State, North Carolina Central and Western Kentucky. Manin said the University of South Florida is also very interested in Fish. Harris, a junior, has an offer from Florida International University in Miami and he said Stanford University has also expressed interest.
All in all, not bad for a couple of kids from the reservation who had never played football until a year ago.
“They picked it up so easily, which is pretty rare because a lot of kids when they play backyard football when they’re little they practice throwing, passing and catching and being a receiver and a running back, but no one practices being an offensive lineman. No one practices putting their hand in the ground and blocking people. It’s a very technical position. So for those guys to pick it up, is unbelievable,” Manin said.
“They’re football smart. They picked up very quickly,” said Moore Haven offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Chris Cook. “They’re coachable kids. They’re likable. They listen. They want to learn and get better.”
Opting to come out for the football team is a decision Harris is glad he made.
“Everybody told me how much fun it was; I wanted to go out there and see for myself,” Harris said.
The Terriers had plenty of fun last season. Despite an 11th-hour head coaching change before its first game, the team quickly adapted to Manin at the helm and reeled off 10 straight wins. They won their district title despite being the only public school in the district and captured a thrilling playoff win against Glades Day. The season ended on a bit of sour note as the Terriers were rocked by powerful Champagnat Catholic of Miami-Dade County in a regional final, but Champagnat steamrolled everyone in its path to winning the 2A state title.
Football is not the only sport that Fish and Harris quickly excelled. They joined the track team last spring and, similar to their football experience, soared right away. They did shot put. Harris won the district title and both made it all the way to the state finals.
“You see what they did in track with the shot put. They started off throwing like 20 feet and at the end they were throwing 40 feet and they were making it to states. They’re incredible athletes. They’re big kids, but they move really well. They’re very coachable,” Manin said.
Meanwhile, Thomas might not bring the same kind of size to the O line as Fish and Harris, but his presence is felt in many ways as a fearless leader. Listed at 6-foot, 300 pounds, Thomas gets the most out of his frame and his heart. Manin said Division II schools are interested in Thomas and he has received an offer from Ave Maria University.
“He’s good. He’s got a ton of talent. He’s one of our team captains,” Manin said. “He’s a natural leader. He’s the kind of guy you want taking your daughter out. He’s honest, hard-working, great in the classroom, great on the field. Good teammate, good peer.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Cook.
“For his size, he’s super athletic,” Cook said. “He’s good. I wish he was a foot taller. He’s not a short guy, but if he was three or four inches taller, he would have everybody looking at him. He moves very well.”
As for the team’s expectations this season, the Terriers know they won’t surprise anyone coming off a 10-win season. They’ll have to replace some key skilled players, such as elusive running back John Cox, who is playing for Colgate University in New York.
“We lost a lot of talent, but we’ve got a lot of talent returning,” Manin said. “We had a great offseason. We got a ton of guys lifting. We look good.”
Moore Haven opened its season with a 14-6 win at Lake Placid on Aug. 31. The home opener will be Sept. 21 against Community School of Naples.
2018 Moore Haven High School varsity football schedule
Aug. 31 at Lake Placid, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 at St. John Neumann (Naples), 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 home vs Community School of Naples, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Glades Day (Belle Glade), 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 home vs SW Florida Christian, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 home vs Oasis, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Mullberry, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 at First Baptist (Naples), 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 home vs LaBelle, 7 p.m.