During the 2016 high school football season I had an opportunity to cover four Interlake Saints football games.
The Saints, who finished the 2016 season with an overall record of 7-4, lost to the Gig Harbor Tides 14-13 in a winner-to-state, loser-out playoff game on Nov. 4 at Interlake High School in Bellevue. While the Saints had a bevy of talented players on its roster, there was a player who donned No. 1 and consistently stood out to me while I meandered up and down the sidelines with a notepad in hand detailing the events of each contest.
Saints’ senior wide receiver, safety and kick returner Naoki Harmer was one of the best football players I saw on the gridiron in 2016. Harmer was a threat to score a touchdown any time the ball was in his hands. This was evident in Interlake’s tiebreaker playoff game against the Redmond Mustangs. Harmer’s 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave the Saints a 20-7 lead with 9:18 left in regulation against the Mustangs. Interlake defeated Redmond 27-14 on Nov. 1. It was undoubtedly one of the biggest plays of the season for the Saints and didn’t surprise me in the least bit.
Harmer possessed the unexplainable “it factor” that is impossible to measure with just raw statistics. He just had a knack for making plays at the most critical junctures of the game. Coaches in the KingCo 3A Conference took notice of Harmer as Interlake’s star captured the Class 3A KingCo Defensive Player of the Year award. Harmer also earned first-team all-league honors as a safety, wide receiver and kick returner.
Harmer, who was listed on the roster at 5-feet, 11-inches tall and just 165 pounds, delivered bone rattling hits from his safety position. The hard-hitting defensive back wasn’t a sizable imposing force by any means but proved himself to be adept at crushing other team’s offensive players due to his speed and football instincts between the white lines. Following the 27-14 loss to the Saints in the tiebreaker playoff game, Redmond head coach Jason Rimkus admitted that avoiding Harmer was an integral part of the game plan.
“We always wanted to know where No. 1 (Harmer) was at. Any deep shots (passes) we were trying to throw away from him because he had the speed to catch up. We always knew where he was even in the running game,” Rimkus said of Harmer.
It will be interesting to see where Harmer lands with regard to the collegiate football world. Whatever school lands Harmer is getting one heck of a football player.