Spain Park coach Shawn Raney and his team were planning to build on his offense this season, knowing his defense needed time to grow and freeze.
That meant giving a lot of responsibility to senior quarterback Harrison Barker, a first-year starter.
So far, so good.
Barker completed 57 of 87 passes for 846 yards and seven touchdowns in two games for the Jags (1-1) before Friday’s Class 7A, Region 3 opener against Vestavia Hills (1-0).
“There’s a progression that he goes through and he goes through them very quickly,” said Raney, snapping his fingers three times to illustrate his point, “and that’s what makes it very special. Lots of kids go back to it. and start to stroke him. They look at this one and that one and then they get fired. He goes bam-bam-bam.
“He knows if the cover is spinning or if they stay in what they’re showing,” he added, “and he knows very quickly where to go with the ball, and that’s why he succeeded.”
Barker hijacks the credit, although he didn’t throw an interception and unleash an attack averaging 38.5 points per game.
He praises his receivers, a group he calls “the playmakers,” and names four of them by name. He pointed out the protection against a three-year-old offensive line in second year, and thanked quarterbacks coach Marty Rozell and the coaching staff for making the right choices. He even wants to congratulate the defense of the Boy Scout team for faking what he will see on Friday nights.
“It’s not slowed down, but it got easier for me,” he said of his performance. “Last year was really fast and I really didn’t know attacking as well as I do now, so I’ve been doing it for three years. I understand everything much better.
It is impossible for Barker to avoid the expectations associated with his last name.
His father, Jay, played at Hewitt-Trussville before leading Alabama to the 1992 National Championship. His sister, Sarah Ashlee, is a basketball star who helped Spain Park win the Class 7A state title. in 2018 and engaged in Georgia.
His older brother, Braxton, started at Spain Park two years ago and threw for 2,228 yards and 19 touchdowns before joining Alabama as the preferred substitute.
“I love them so much, but I don’t have to be compared to them,” Harrison said. “I want to be on my own path. “
Harrison said he often talks about football with his father and brother, and Raney said he sees Jay’s influence on the three Barker children who have been to Spain Park.
“They are very hardworking, humble and respectful children. … When you’ve been raised in this environment your entire life, you understand what it takes to be a leader, ”said Raney.
Like Braxton, Harrison lost the battle to hold Spain Park ahead of his junior season, then took over as a senior.
Despite his relative inexperience, Raney said the offensive success early in the season came as no huge surprise due to his confidence in his quarterback.
“He’s ready for this,” Raney said. “He had a great summer. We knew he would step in and take the lead.
Harrison added: “The offense went very well. We executed. The receivers played very well.