By Bob Balgemann, REPORTER

Harlem’s dramatic 17-14 road win over Hononegah on Oct. 14 went a long away toward helping them in the upcoming State Playoffs. Now 6-2 for the season, the Huskies are guaranteed a berth in those playoffs for the 11th time in Jim Morrow’s 13 years as Head Coach. Now, a win Friday and a resulting 7-2 record would enhance their position in determining who they play in the opening round on Oct. 28. Additional motivation would be presenting Coach Morrow with his 90th win at Harlem. But this Friday’s regular season finale at home against Jefferson (3-5) is no walk in the park. The J-Hawks were a minimal threat over the past 10 years. Harlem is a perfect 10-0 in that time with an average score of 40-8. The average score likely would have been more lopsided had not the Huskies been awarded a forfeit in 2013, with that final tally being 1-0. But that was then and this is now.

Jefferson may be 3-5 and out of the playoff picture but it stunned Hononegah, 21-20, along the way. And most recently, it came within five points of knocking off Boylan, co-leader of the  NIC-10, in a 29-25 loss. So Harlem coaches, and their players, know they can’t afford to be looking past Friday night’s game. Kick-off Friday will be at 7:15 p.m.

The three-point margin of victory over Hononegah was made possible by Senior Kyle Pea’s fourth field goal of the season, which came in the third quarter. But, it was a late fourth-quarter touchdown pass that brought the Huskies back from a 14-10 deficit. That pass was thrown by Junior quarterback Troy King, subbing for the injured Trent Willey. Winning his first Varsity start likely produced a bag full of memories that will last a lifetime. That includes his first touchdown pass for the Varsity, covering 27 yards, to ensure the come-from-behind victory.

An 87-yard drive

The decisive drive began at Harlem’s 13-yard line, after receiving a Hononegah punt. Coach Morrow once again dipped into his bag of trick plays and called a half-back pass, which was complete and covered 60 yards to the Indian 27. Last time he did that Brenton Shaw threw for a 64-yard touchdown against Boylan. This time, after two incomplete passes, King threw the game-winner into the left side of the end zone. Pea then kicked the important extra point, his 27th of the year in 29 tries. Hononegah got the ball back with less than one minute remaining in the game. After a quarterback sack started this final offensive series there were two completed passes that moved the Indiana into Harlem territory. But, then came the Huskies’ sixth pass interception of the season as time ran out. The theft produced an immediate celebration along the Harlem sideline, which spilled over onto the field. It’s hard not to get excited about defeating a rival and, at the same time, being guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.

Earlier in the evening the Huskies took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to a Hononegah mistake. A bad snap from center was recovered by Harlem at the Indian four-yard line. Shaw scored on the next play, Pea kicked the PAT and the visitors were up by a touchdown. But the lead didn’t last long as Hononegah scored on a 16-yard pass in the second period to create a 7-7 tie at halftime. Pea had missed a 35-yard field goal try early in the second quarter. But he was true on the second attempt, this one from 36 yards out in the third period, to give Harlem a 10-7 advantage. That edge didn’t last long, either, as the Indians scored later in the quarter, on a short pass, to take a 14-10 lead into the final 15 minutes of play.

Harlem now is 6-4 in its last 10 meetings with Hononegah and has won two in a row. Last year’s 22-17 victory snapped a two-game losing streak. The Indians actually had won three in a row during 2012-14, but used an ineligible player in the 2012 win and wound up forfeiting that game. The two have met once in the playoffs, in 2011, with the Huskies winning, 41-7. Updated Harlem statistics for the current season were not available.  Pairings for the eight classes in this year’s state playoffs will be announced Saturday night. Harlem continues to be a 7A school with slightly more than 2,000 students.

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