By Bob Balgemann


It isn’t often that Harlem and Hononegah take their sports rivalry to the football field twice in the same year. 

That special occasion will unfold Friday night when the Huskies travel to the Indians’ home field in Rockton. Sophomores are scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m. with the varsity following, at 7:15 p.m. 

They played earlier this season, in April, when host Harlem rallied from a 17-0 deficit to win, 26-24, on a late touchdown run by quarterback James Cooper Jr. That was during the abbreviated six-game 2020 season, carried over into the spring of 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, which attacked the world in March 2020. 

Edging Hononegah helped the Huskies go 5-0 in the conference to win their first NIC-10 championship since 1997. That year they finished 7-1, under head coach Brian Benning, one game in front of runners-up Boylan Catholic and Belvidere. Their only loss was to Boylan, 14-0. 

Going back 11 years in their lengthy series with the Indians, Harlem has won six times, once by forfeit in 2012. They played twice in 2011, with the Huskies winning, 41-7, during the regular season, and 41-31 in the first round of the IHSA playoffs. 

The most recent two games have been real nail-biters. 

Hononegah came from a 30-22 deficit to win, 33-30, in the 2019 opener for both squads. 

Earlier this year, in the fourth conference game, Hononegah jumped to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter. 

Cooper got his team on the comeback trail in that period with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Dezzion Jordan – they also connected on the two-point conversion – to slice the difference to 17-8. It remained 17-8 at halftime. 

The Indians went up, 24-8, in the third quarter, but Harlem stormed back on a pair of scoring passes from Cooper to Dominic McCarren, both in the third, to make it a 24-20 game. The first TD throw covered 39 yards and it was down the middle of the field, with McCarren bolting untouched for the score. 

Late in the third quarter Cooper completed a 36-yard pass down the right sideline, to the Indian five. From there he ran in the decisive touchdown in the 26-24 game. 

Impact players

A number of Harlem players who will be suiting up for Friday night’s game were a presence in the 26-24 win back in April. 

Hononegah limited the Harlem ground attack to 41 yards on 26 carries. Senior Anthanee Crawford was the most effective runner, carrying 12 times for 37 yards. He also caught two passes for 37 yards; senior Connor Willard had one reception for two yards.

Cooper, who has since graduated, carried the bulk of the offensive load that night, completing 31-of-53 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns.

On defense, senior and three-year starter Adrian Palos had five tackles and six assists for a total of 11. Seniors Erik Serano and Jack Huffman each had seven tackles; senior Reid Foster logged six; and senior Ethan Taylor and junior Keshawn Harrington-McKinney had five each. 

In addition, Serano and Harrington-McKinney each recorded one quarterback sack. 

Harlem’s nine-game schedule for the fall 2021 season will feature five home contests. 

After Hononegah, the Huskies’ home opener will be Sept. 3 against Rockford Jefferson. Then Rockford Guilford will come to town for a second consecutive home encounter, on Sept. 10. 

Harlem will be back on the road Sept. 17, at Freeport, then return home for consecutive games against Rockford East on Sept. 24 and Boylan on Oct. 1. They’ll be traveling to Belvidere North on Oct. 8; meet Belvidere at home on Oct. 15; and close out at Rockford Auburn on Oct. 22. 

Belvidere’s appearance originally was going to bring former Harlem head coach Jim Morrow back to Clyde F. Peterson Stadium for a return engagement with the team he coached for 15 years.

After leading the Huskies to the state playoffs for 11 consecutive years, he retired in 2018. He was replaced by Robert Moynihan, who came over from Zion Benton in the far northern suburbs and had been coaching for more than 30 years. 

Morrow took a year off and then was named to lead Belvidere’s storied football program, which over the years produced two state champions. But he departed last summer, after the abbreviated 2021 season, to become head coach at South Beloit High School, situated in the shadow of the Wisconsin state line. 

Buy Viagra Overnight Delivery USA.