CHRIS ANDERSON PHOTO - The Journal Harlem's Octavio Galvez (96) pulls down Auburn's Quay Thompson (3) during the Huskies' loss to the Knights on Oct. 7.

Harlem’s Octavio Galvez (96) pulls down Auburn’s Quay Thompson (3) during the Huskies’ loss to the Knights on Oct. 7.

By Bob Balgemann – REPORTER

It’s almost always a big deal when Harlem and Hononegah meet each other in an athletic contest. Friday night, in Rockton, the two football teams will tangle once more in a game that might very well be more important than in the past. Kickoff will be 7:15 p.m. It’s big for the Huskies. But it’s huge for the Indians. And here’s why.

Harlem (5-2) already is play-off eligible, having won the required five games. Five wins doesn’t guarantee a berth in the post season, however. It merely puts a large group of 5-4 teams into competition for a finite number of openings in the brackets in each of the classes 1A through 8A. Then a variety of factors determine who moves on and who stays home. Six wins guarantees a spot. The Huskies also would appear to have an edge because they close with Jefferson (3-4) on Oct. 21. Yet the J-Hawks showed that they are a dangerous team as they knocked off Hononegah last Friday, 21-20. So Harlem can’t look past the rival Indians – winning that game will be challenge enough – and figure a victory over Jefferson to be in the bag. Hononegah (4-3) needs this one to secure the obligatory fifth win. It will close the regular season on the road at Guilford, currently 1-6. And while the Vikings are having a challenging year, there have been enough upsets in the NIC-10 this season to make it clear nothing is assured on Friday night. The Hononegah game will be the fifth in a row against a top conference opponent. So far the Huskies are 2-2 and they lost their most recent challenge, 49-8, to Auburn. The win put the Knights (6-1) in a tie for first place with Boylan, also 6-1. The Titans were stunned 21-14 by Rockford East (3-4) last Friday in the second of two major upsets in the conference that night. Hononegah is also 2-2 against those four teams with the same results as Harlem: wins over Belvidere North and Belvidere, with losses to Boylan and Auburn.

How they compare

On paper, Harlem has the edge on offense, averaging 417 yards per game. That’s broken out as 249 yards running and 168 yards passing. Hononegah averages 359 yards of offense each game, 233 yards on the ground and 126 yards in the air. That comparison shows both teams like to run. The Huskies, according to numbers compiled by MaxPreps, showcase their Senior running back, Brenton Shaw. Going into the Auburn game, he had run 160 times for 1,279 yards and 16 touchdowns. That’s an average of 213 yards per game and best in the league. Next in line is Senior Chris Bolding with 21 carries for 101 yards. The Indians are led by Senior Christian Fausel, who is averaging 88 yards per game. On the eve of the Jefferson outing he had 66 carries for 529 yards and six touchdowns. Quarterback Dominic Ballano, a Junior, also is a threat to run. He had rushed 66 times for 342 yards and three scores. Harlem gets the nod in the passing department. Senior quarterback Trent Willey, as of Auburn, had completed 66-of-128 throws for 801 yards and 10 touchdowns, with five interceptions. For Hononegah, Ballano was 39-of-83 passing for 606 yards and five touchdowns, with five interceptions. Defensively the Indians, including the loss to Jefferson, had an average game score of 25-18. They were led by Senior linebacker Tanner Schewe with an average of eight tackles per game. He had 49 so far, nine solos and 40 assists. Another linebacker, Senior Trevor Aaby, was right behind with 48 tackles, 18 of them solos. Senior Jordan Shahrikian had recorded four sacks. As a team, Hononegah had four fumble recoveries and four pass interceptions. Harlem’s average score, including the Auburn game, was 33-29. Its tackles leader was Senior Trevor Kramp with 46 in six games. Junior Octavio Galvez had 40 tackles to go with 2 1/2 sacks. Team-wise, they had eight fumble recoveries and five interceptions. Chase Miller, a Senior at Hononegah, was a perfect 13-for-13 on extra point kicks, while converting 3-of-5 field goal attempts. Junior Nathan Eccles was 5-of-6 on PATs. Harlem’s Kyle Pea, a Senior, had made 25-of-27 extra point kicks and was 3-of-6 on field goals.

Updated numbers were not available at press time.

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