By Bob Balgemann


Harlem’s varsity football and girls volleyball teams were on the same path last week as the abbreviated 2021 season neared an end. 

In football, the Huskies came from serious deficits for the third consecutive week to improve their record to 5-0 with one game left to play. And the 43-42 win April 17 was not against the scheduled opponent, Boylan Catholic. The Titans ended their season early because of problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.’

So Harlem was able to line up a fifth game at the last minute, against suburban Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge (2-2). The Wolves took a 35-21 lead midway through the third quarter only to see the host Huskies rally to pull within 42-41 in the waning moments. Rather than kick another extra point and tie it, they gambled and it paid off with senior quarterback James Cooper Jr. providing the two-point conversion for the one-point victory. 

Meanwhile, in volleyball, the Lady Huskies swept the two-game conference series from Rockford Auburn. They rallied from a 25-21 opening game loss to win the middle contest in a thriller, 26-24, and then the decisive game, 25-20, to take the win. 

Bria Johnston sparked the win with eight kills and 11 digs, while Ali Cserep contributed a monumental 20 assists. 

As the volleyball season nears its conclusion, unofficial standings show Belvidere North leading the NIC-10 with an 8-0 record followed by Guilford at 3-1; Hononegah at 6-2; and Harlem at 3-4 in sole possession of fourth place. 

A big night

Against Prairie Ridge, Cooper had another standout night throwing the football, totaling 432 yards in the win.  For Harlem, it was the third consecutive win by a total of five points.  

Offense and special teams clicked in the thriller that saw two touchdowns scored in the opening minute of play. The Wolves first returned the game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown, then Harlem responded with a 98-yard scoring pass 31 seconds into the game to create a 7-7 tie. 

Subsequent touchdowns on runs by Adrian Palos and Dezzion Jordan kept the Huskies in a shootout that saw Prairie Ridge match them for a 21-21 tie. The Wolves then followed with 14 unanswered points for the aforementioned 35-21 advantage in the third period. 

A Cooper-to-Jordan TD pass trimmed the deficit to 35-28, then special teams stepped up when Palos blocked a field goal attempt and Reid Foster scooped up the loose ball and returned it for a game-tying touchdown. 

Prairie Ridge went ahead again, 42-35, only to see Harlem bounce back in the closing seconds to secure the win. 

Also April 17, in another pulsating outcome at Clyde F. Peterson Field, Harlem’s frosh-soph Huskies edged Woodstock, 14-12. 

The varsity Huskies will wrap up the season on Saturday against once-beaten Rockford East, with the game being played on Guilford’s field. 

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