Subscribe
Bitburg's Anton Harris tries to get his team fired up against Ansbach on Saturday. Harris, all-Europe on both offense and defense, had to sit out the game because of an ankle injury. He hopes to be ready for the Barons' Division II playoff game against Naples on Saturday.

Bitburg's Anton Harris tries to get his team fired up against Ansbach on Saturday. Harris, all-Europe on both offense and defense, had to sit out the game because of an ankle injury. He hopes to be ready for the Barons' Division II playoff game against Naples on Saturday. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Pacing frantically back and forth on the sidelines, Bitburg senior running back Anton Harris was desperate to get into the Barons’ game on Saturday.

With his previously unbeaten teammates struggling to score against — or stop — Division II rival Ansbach during a 38-8 torching, Bitburg’s leading scorer, could provide only advice, encouragement and moral support.

“It hurts, it’s tough not being in there,” said Harris, who was forced to sit out the game with a sprained right ankle.

Harris wasn’t the only one hurting. With their two-way All-Europe performer in the lineup, the defending European D-II champion Barons won their first five games by an average margin of almost 24 points. Saturday, the Barons were 24 points down before they scored a touchdown.

Harris, a 5-foot-8, 200-pound running back, is averaging 165 yards rushing per game and has scored 20 touchdowns this season. The previous week against Wiesbaden, he ran 38 times and scored all of Bitburg’s touchdowns in a come-from-behind 22-21 victory to clinch the D-II North conference crown.

Harris also has a key role on defense. As a linebacker, he has recorded 73 tackles, five for a loss, and one fumble recovery this season.

There is one other area in which he is invaluable: His senior leadership makes him a role model on the team, Bitburg head coach Michael Laue says.

“There’s no doubt he’s the leader on the team,” Laue, who has coached Harris for two years, said after Saturday’s loss. “He leads by example. He’s really the heart and soul of the team. It would be great to have 15 or 20 of him on the field.

“Every time you don’t have a player like [Harris] it’ll hurt you.”

During the loss, Harris, in street clothes, could be seen walking into team huddles and pulling players aside to talk to them about the game.

“I’m like the big brother, the team is like my little brother,” Harris said. “I get in their face when they’re wrong, and congratulate them when they do something good.

“Going into the playoffs I’m going to have to bust my butt to lead this team.”

Harris’ injury usually requires a player to sit out for around two weeks, Laue said. While Harris is practicing with the team and hopes to play on Saturday when the Barons open up the D-II playoffs against Naples, the coach said he is still questionable.

“We’ve made some adjustments, in case he’s not there,” Laue said. “We’re not going to throw away everything we do.

“Anton just has that little bit of extra power. We’ll still run the ball, but Anton always adds an extra plus to our game. On offense we need him to hit the line and get the extra three, four or five yards.”

If Bitburg, the II-North winner, and Ansbach, the II-South champ, both win their playoff games Saturday, they’ll meet again in the Division II championship game on Nov. 3 in Baumholder.

If they do, Laue says his team will be ready.

“We’re going have to have everyone healthy and have everyone step up,” Laue said.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up