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By Bob Balgemann


Trent Willey and Brenton Shaw have emerged as household names around town when it comes to the success of Harlem football.

Now it’s time to make way for some newcomers to the list such as freshman Jalon Benson, sophomore Nick Blades and others.

They stood tall Aug. 26 as Harlem won for the 84th time in the storied coaching tenure of Jim Morrow before an appreciative home-opening crowd. The final tally was 38-14 over Guilford.

Now they’ll be on the road Friday night, at Freeport, hoping to begin at a perfect 2-0 in NIC-10 play. The Pretzels, who finished 2-7 last year, are 0-1, having lost their opener to Hononegah, 26-0.

Harlem won last year’s game against Freeport, 35-20.

The Pretzels once again will be called on to defend against a multi-dimensional offense if they want to have a chance to win.

While the Huskies graduated a lot of players in the skill positions, a number of underclassmen stepped up in the opener with Guilford to show they’re ready to fill those voids.

Benson already logged a memorable varsity experience by starting on both offense and defense that night.

Offensively, he led the team in receiving with eight catches for 79 yards. Defensively, he intercepted a pass and returned it 50 yards. And he scored one of his team’s five touchdowns.

Blades recorded seven tackles, a team best four of them for losses. He also recovered a fumble that he caused and had his team’s only sack.

Potent ground attack

Varsity newcomer Chris Bolding, a junior, was part of the running game that showcased senior Brenton Shaw. Shaw led the attack with 19 carries for 168 yards and two touchdowns. But Bolding was in the mix with 11 rushes for 53 yards.

Senior Anthony Byrne had the best average per run of the game, carrying twice for 25 yards. He also caught two passes for 15 yards.

Five others contributed to Harlem’s inexperienced receiving corps. Senior Gabe Haun joined Shaw with three catches but his totaled 69 yards, and he scored one touchdown. Sophomore Seth Kordich hauled in one pass for nine yards; senior Devon Lawrence caught one for five yards.

At the controls for the third consecutive season was senior Trent Willey. He completed 18 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. And he continued to be a threat to run, carrying five times for 40 yards and one score.

Another senior, linebacker Trevor Kramp, sparked the defense with a total of 13 tackles, 10 solos and three assists. Junior Kamrone McCallister had five solo tackles and two assists to go with his pass interception. Junior Octavio Galvez had four solo tackles and two assists.

Others registering tackles were junior Nikolas Gracia with three; and junior Jake McKenna, junior Christian McGlaughlin, senior Devin Bondurant and senior Gage White with two each.

There were no close games in the five 2017 openers.

In addition to the one-sided wins by Harlem and Hononegah, defending conference champion Auburn drubbed Rockford East, 48-8; Belvidere North romped past Jefferson, 49-28; and Boylan Catholic upended Belvidere, 36-12.

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