NEWPORT NEWS—— Back in his high school days, Marcellus Harris III was a receiver for Ferguson who played in a passing offense with Aaron Brooks and Michael Vick. In college, he caught passes from David Garrard at East Carolina.
That's three quarterbacks who ended up playing on Sundays.
"We spent a lot of time on it in training camp," Harris said. "We probably spent more time on passing than running, which is kind of different from most everybody else. But we knew if we wanted to make any noise this year, it would be through the air."
So far, so good.
Two weeks into the season, Denbigh is 2-0 with wins over Heritage and Granby. And after riding tailback Jodey McNeil last season, the Patriots have become Air Harris.
Junior quarterback Allen Simon, last year's backup, has completed 23 of 38 passes for 410 yards and five touchdowns. He has three receivers who are capable of finding the end zone: Lavon Pearson (10 catches, 186 yards, 1 touchdown), Rodriguez Jones (6-63-2) and Nate Matthews (4-124-2).
Sometimes they play together in the three-receiver set. Sometimes it's just two of them, with someone rotating in and out. Either way, it's been effective.
"Without Jodey here, that's a big chunk of our offense gone," Matthews said. "It would have to come from somewhere else. I feel we can do as much as we want in the three-receiver set. I think we can get whatever we need done."
Each brings something different. Pearson can turn a quick-out into a 30-yard gain. Jones, who has a 6-foot-3 frame and a 34-inch vertical leap, can go up and get the ball. Matthews is the sure-hands guy, though he's also averaging 30 yards a catch.
"Rodriguez Jones is a jump-ball receiver," Simon said. "Lavon Pearson, 20 yards out there, he'll just go get the ball. Nate's hands are magnificent. You can throw it behind him, and he'll still catch it. We have dominant receivers."
Coming into the season, only Jones was a known commodity around the Peninsula District. He was an All-PD receiver as a sophomore last year with 33 receptions. Harris knew Jones would draw double-team coverage this year. And he knew someone else would need to step forward.
Pearson and Matthews have. Pearson caught seven passes for 117 yards and a touchdown in Denbigh's season-opening win over Heritage. Matthews had three catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns in last week's win over Granby.
"They tried to double-team me," Jones said. "Then Nate cut across the field, and it's a touchdown. I love our receiving corps because if you double-team me, Lavon will be open or Nate will be open. It's the best thing that can happen to us, really."
Jones, Pearson and Matthews have been the main three, but Harris has others he believes will contribute. Among them: sophomores Devione Greene and Raymel Paige and junior Tevin Platteborze.
"We have a lot of good receivers," Pearson said. "The cornerbacks out there, they have to watch him, watch him … we have a lot of good receivers. Our passing yards will be nice every game."
And, of course, there's Simon. In limited work last year as a sophomore, he completed 5 of 23 passes. But this season has been significantly different.
"Last year, I don't think he was used to the varsity speed," Pearson said. "But he worked hard over the summer and he's been completing passes."
So far, the results are positive. Denbigh is leading the Peninsula District in passing at 205 yards per game. More important, the Patriots are 2-0 entering Saturday's game against Kecoughtan.
"It's hard, especially at our level, to guard three good receivers," Harris said. "We put a lot of pressure on defenses.
"When I got here, they were a Wing-T team. Transferring everything over to an air-it-out offense, we went through some struggles. But they're getting it."
Quite the catch for Coach HarrisDenbigh coach Marcellus Harris III, a former college wideout, has three big-play receivers:
LAVON PEARSON | 6-1/165, senior (10 catches, 186 yards, 1 TD)
RODRIGUEZ JONES | 6-3/195, junior (6 catches, 63 yards, 2 TDs)
NATE MATTHEWS | 5-10/165, senior (4 catches, 124 yards, 2 TDs)