CAMBRIDGE — There is an expression about the high school Aaron Shampklin went to, the famed Long Beach Poly in Southern California, one of the most prolific producers of NFL talent in the nation.
The saying goes, "There's speed, and then there's Poly speed."
On Saturday, Shampklin followed in the footsteps of players like DeSean Jackson with a performance that would make those alumni proud. The Harvard sophomore rushed for a touchdown on his first three carries, and the Crimson rolled to a 36-14 season-opening win over San Diego.
Shampklin finished with 178 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 15 carries. Fellow sophomore Devin Darrington added 98 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts, as the Harvard offensive line dominated from start to finish.
Crimson sophomore quarterback Jake Smith completed 13-of-21 passes for 195 yards, with a good chunk to Justice Shelton-Mosley, who caught seven of those balls for 127 yards.
Not a bad start for a team that went 5-5 a year ago.
"Probably back in high school," Shampklin said of the last time he scored four touchdowns in a game. "Back in one of our Moore League games, but that was a little while ago."
The Crimson did not waste any time asserting its will up front, despite an early muffed punt that led to a San Diego field goal with 11:32 to go in the first quarter.
On Harvard's second play from scrimmage, Shampklin found a massive hole along the right side and sprinted 64 yards for a touchdown. It was just the beginning of a wildly successful first quarter for the Crimson, which finished with more points in that frame (27) than it did in seven games last season.
"Coming back on the sideline, a lot of people were congratulating me on good runs, but as I continued to tell them, I couldn't do it without the o-line," Shampklin said. "The o-line was really moving the line of scrimmage. They were doing the big work."
The defense consistently put San Diego quarterback Anthony Lawrence under pressure, who completed 23-of-46 passes for 298 yards and an interception. Lawrence did not take any sacks, but was on the run the entire game, particularly from Harvard defensive end Brogan McPartland.
Smith hit Shelton-Mosley for a 46-yard gain on the next Harvard possession, and Shampklin finished another two-play drive with a 23-yard touchdown run to help make it 14-3 with 8:07 left in the quarter.
Another long Smith-to-Shelton-Mosley hookup, this time for 42 yards, helped set up Darrington's score from 3 yards out.
Captain Zach Miller then picked off Lawrence along the San Diego sideline, and an unsportsmanlike penalty put the ball on the Toreros' 27-yard line. Again, it only took two plays for Harvard to find the end zone, with Shampklin running in from 22 yards out.
The 27-3 lead was all the Crimson needed, and the 2018 season already has a better feel to it than 2017.
"We made a commitment to do a better job running the ball in the offseason in variety of ways," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. "Two, it all starts with defense. You hold any team on our schedule to 14, you've done a terrific job. So, based on that, we did a really good job in the trenches."
Indeed, with players like Liam Shanahan, Tim O'Brien, Ben Shoults, Eric Wilson, and All-American Larry Allen on the offensive line, this has the potential to be a unit that can overwhelm opponents.
In the third quarter, the teams traded field goals before San Diego popped in a touchdown on a 13-yard run by Terrence Smith. Lawrence ran in a two-point conversion to give the game a little drama and cut the Harvard lead to 30-14.
But the Crimson answered with a nine-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in another Shampklin touchdown to start the fourth quarter, this time from 13 yards out around the left end and virtually no defenders in his vicinity.
Asked what grade he would give his teammates for their first test of the season, Miller said they came up aces.
"I give everybody an 'A,' " Miller said. "Any time you get a win on Saturdays, that's not an easy thing. We've been game-planning them all week, they've been game-planning us all week. They're a great team. And for us to come out and get a full, team win — special teams, offense, defense — there's nothing better than that. It's just a relief off our shoulder. Then we've got to go back to work next week."