By Bob Balgemann


Harlem football fans will have another big game to watch at home Friday night. 

Boylan Catholic is coming to town, hoping to rebound from last week’s last-second, 16-14 setback to NIC-10 co-leader, Hononegah (5-0). That put the Titans at 3-2 for the season and one game behind the Huskies, who are alone in second place at 4-1, having won their last four outings. 

Harlem prevailed over Rockford East, 20-0, on a rainy Sept. 24 at Clyde F. Peterson Stadium. It was another strong defensive showing for the Huskies and their second straight shutout, coming on the heels of the 49-0 rout of Freeport the week before.

Belvidere North (5-0) remained in a tie for first place by defeating Auburn, 24-14. And this Friday, the Blue Thunder will travel to Hononegah with the top spot at stake. 

Boylan history 

Looking back over the past 11 years, Boylan has won seven of those 10 games, starting with its state championship years in 2010 and 2011. But things began to change in 2012 when Harlem’s sophomores stunned the Titans, 18-6. The surprises continued in 2013 with a 54-13 Huskie victory. 

Harlem’s varsity took up where the sophomores left off in 2014 with a 54-13 rout of Boylan and followed by winning, 19-15, in 2015. The most recent span of six games, from 2014 to 2019, has seen those teams split, 3-3, but Boylan has won the last two, 24-21 in 2018 and 21-13 in 2019. 

Those teams didn’t play in the abbreviated 2020 season, which was pushed into the spring of 2021 by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were scheduled to meet in the fifth of six games, both unbeaten with 4-0 records and the conference championship on the line. But Boylan had to end its season at that point, because of pandemic-related problems, and Harlem picked up a game with Crystal Lake Prairie Ridge, winning in a thriller, 43-42. 

The Huskies then won their first league title since 1997 by throttling Rockford East, 48-8.

Defeat East 

So, Harlem and East met for the second time this year, on Sept. 24, and the Huskies came away with their fourth consecutive victory over an 11-year span. 

Playing on their home field, Harlem took a 6-0 lead with 5:19 left in the first quarter. 

A short, 9-yard punt set them up at the East 41. They faced a fourth down and 3 yards to go at the 25 when the E-Rabs were whistled for off-side, which gave Harlem a first down at the 20. Adrian Palos slipped through the left side to the 15, then completed the TD march by breaking several tackles at the line of scrimmage, and bursting untouched into the end zone. The extra point snap was fumbled, leaving the early score at 6-0.  

The Huskies picked up another touchdown along the way, then notched up an insurance score after Ben Larsen recovered a fumble at the East 24. Palos once again combined his speed and strength, rumbling through a number of East tacklers on the way to the end zone. The 2-point conversion was good and the 20-0 final score was established.

Sophomores win 

In the preliminary game Sept. 24, before the rain fell, Harlem bounced back from a 15-14 loss to Freeport the week before to blank Rockford East, 28-0. 

Quarterback Derek Anderson threw two touchdown passes as the Huskies scored once in each of the four quarters. 

They opened the game with a 65-yard scoring drive that Anderson capped with an eight-yard scoring toss. The two-point conversion made it 8-0. 

A short E-Rab punt covering just 16 yards gave the hosts a short field midway through the second quarter. A one-yard TD run increased the difference to 14-0 at halftime. 

Harlem special teams blocked a punt at the East 25 late in the third quarter. Anderson completed a 21-yard pass to the five, then two plays later a two-yard scoring run upped the lead to 20-0. 

The Huskies put together their final TD drive, covering 78 yards, after intercepting a pass early in the fourth period. Anderson initially scrambled his way to a seven-yard touchdown, but it was nullified by a five-yard penalty back to the 12. On the next play he threw his second scoring pass of the game, the conversion was good leaving the final 28-0 score. 

Harlem’s defense allowed East just one serious scoring threat, late in the second period, which was thwarted by the help of two penalties. One especially painful infraction came after a quarterback scramble covered 60 yards and put the E-Rabs at the Harlem 3. But the walkoff pushed them back to the 35 and while they did get to the Huskie 13 moments later, three consecutive incomplete passes ended the opening half.  

Late in the game the E-Rabs did reach the Harlem 42, but two sacks pushed them back to their own 38, and the Huskies took over on downs, running out the clock. 


In NIC-10 girls volleyball, Harlem improved to 3-5 by upsetting Boylan Catholic, 25-23, 16-25, 26-24. The Lady Titans were 6-3 coming into that match. 

Belvidere North (10-0) remained in first place and now leads Hononegah (8-2) by two games. In their recent meeting, the Lady Blue Thunder scored a 2-0 sweep. 

Guilford  (4-2), Boylan (6-4) and Belvidere (6-4) are continuing their battle for third place. 

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