Harlem football

By Bob Balgemann


They’ll be at it again, for the second year in a row. Harlem versus Guilford in the NIC-10 football opener for both teams. Kickoff will be at 7:15 p.m. at the Huskies’ home field.

As is the case with openers, this one will have its share of unknowns. There’s no current film of the Vikings, which is a weekly staple of the season once it goes going.

What they usually do on offense and defense could be totally different than the 2015 meeting, won by Harlem, 39-29.

On a positive note the Huskies will have five home games this season (excluding the playoffs), compared with four last year. But the format is the same … games are exclusively against conference opponents.

Harlem once again got a look at what area teams have to offer through summer drills, including those 7-on-7 outings that pit one team’s passing game against anothers. That can be helpful, in a small way, to playoff time when the Huskies usually run into a suburban team.

Actually, Jim Morrow-coached teams have reached the postseason 10 times in his 12 years, and are on a string of eight consecutive appearances. Overall, those teams have posted an 83-39 record.

His teams typically have shown a balanced offense so no opponent can stack its defense against the run or the pass. There’s no reason why 2017 shouldn’t be more of the same.

Senior quarterback Trent Willey returns for his third straight year at the controls. Overall, he has completed 188 of 334 passes for 2,301 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s a threat to run and so far has kept the ball 191 times for 552 yards and six scores.

He is reported to be closing in on a number of school records.

Junior Troy King waits in the wings.

Another senior, Brenton Shaw, returns for his second full season at running back. As a junior, he rushed 233 times for 1,698 yards and 14 touchdowns. Averaging 7.3 yards per carry, he had eight games in which he logged 100 yards or more.

Shaw started on Harlem’s sophomore team in 2014, but was elevated to the varsity after a short time. That initial varsity season he carried 40 times for 209 yards and one touchdown.

He also is a receiving threat, catching a total of 26 passes for 207 yards in 1 1/2 years on the varsity.

Harlem has a relatively new receiving corps this fall with the likes of Ethan Martin and Ethan Hastert having graduated last May. Shaw actually leads the returnees with 12 receptions for 62 yards. Anthony Byrne caught four balls for 22 yards; Gabe Haun had one catch for four yards.

There also are holes to fill in the offensive and defensive lines, where graduation took its toll.

Dalton Hambrock had the most tackles – 23 in five games – of those who had varsity playing minutes as junior. Shaw, who will be playing defense again this year as well as returning punts and kickoffs on special teams, recorded 15 tackles in 10 games.

Some of the others with varsity experience include Jordan Jacobsen, 10 tackles in five games with a blocked punt; Trevor Kramp, Kaleb Cunningham, Gage White and Justin Braskett.

Harlem usually has a strong kicking game with such performers as Sam Libby and Gilberto Fregozo leading the way in 2014 and 2015. Libby was especially productive his senior year, kicking 7-of-10 field goal attempts.

This year’s heir apparent is Kevin Pea, who kicked two extra points in limited action last season.

Another close game with Guilford is expected Friday night.

It hasn’t been all that long ago that the Vikings upset playoff-bound Harlem, 20-7, in the last game of the 2013 regular season. That dropped the Huskies’ record to 6-3 and made them the No. 16 seed in their bracket. They faced top-seeded Glenbard West in the opening round and lost. West continued on to the 7A semi-finals where it lost to Lake Zurich, 16-7.

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