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Athlete of the Week: Ledford's Dalton Harris

Ledford's Dalton Harris is The Dispatch Athlete of the Week. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

WALLBURG | There were two big storylines in Friday’s Mid-Piedmont Conference clash at Ledford: the running back who was there (Southern’s Reggie Gallaspy) and the running back who wasn’t there (Ledford’s George Melvin).

Dalton Harris plowed in and stole the show from everybody.

Harris, a junior who has turned into the very definition of a workhorse since Melvin’s injury, ran for 287 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 78 yards to lead the suddenly red-hot Panthers to a surprising 38-35 victory over the Storm. Heading into the regular season finale at North Forsyth on Friday, Ledford has won two straight games in impressive fashion and put itself in position to finish second in the MPC.

Harris certainly hasn’t minded the increased workload. “It’s just like last year, when both the backs got hurt and I had to come in,” Harris said. “It’s my responsibility. I had to put everything on my back, and step up and be a leader.

“I’m a junior, about to be a senior. So I got to start early, working on my leadership skills.”

Ledford coach Chris Adams had no reservations about Harris’ ability. He has been in the backfield, at least part-time, since his freshman season. “We’ve known, from the first day we ever saw Dalton on the practice field out here, that he had the potential to be a special back,” Adams said. “Great vision, great I-back, he sees things that a lot of backs don’t see. He’s able to find holes that don’t look like they’re there but all of a sudden they show up. And he’s got great speed, and he can break away.”

That showed early Friday night, when he broke an 80-yard run in the first quarter to set the tone against Southern. He hit 100 yards rushing before the end of the first quarter, and he knew he was on the verge of a big night.

“I felt like they couldn’t stop me,” he said. “With the offensive line blocking like they were, everybody doing their jobs like they were, I felt like I was unstoppable.”

While he was unstoppable, Gallaspy has been unstoppable virtually all year. The junior who carries the load for the Storm has run for 1,448 yards and 20 touchdowns. After Friday night, Harris isn’t far behind. He leads all Davidson County rushers with 1,382 yards on the ground, and has scored 14 TDs. The two big gainers he picked up in the passing game Friday gives opponents something different to think about when trying to plan against the Panthers.

For now, Ledford likes where it’s heading as a team. After disappointing losses to Central Davidson and Asheboro to start conference play, the Panthers have reeled off three straight wins and will carry a load of confidence into North Forsyth on Friday. The Vikings are 5-0 in league play and have locked up the MPC title, but the Panthers would love to keep their momentum going with the playoffs looming.

“We feel great going into this week,” Harris said. “We feel like we can go in there and beat them.

“It’s gonna be a battle, but Coach Adams told us every week in conference was gonna be a battle. We’re not gonna play soft, we’re gonna go in there and play aggressive like we have the past two weeks.”

Jason Queen can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 220, or