By Bob Balgemann


Harlem will have its 2021 home football opener at 7:15 p.m. Friday when NIC-10 opponent, Jefferson, comes to town. 

The Huskies have enjoyed most of their games against the J-Hawks, especially over the past 15 years when they won 14 of their 15 meetings. Friday, they will seek to even their conference record at 1-1 following the season-opening loss to rival Hononegah, 14-6. 

Harlem is riding a three-game winning streak against the J-Hawks, having won 33-14 in 2017; 32-0 in 2018; and 63-26 in 2019. They did not play Jefferson during the abbreviated 2020 season, which was moved to last spring because of effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jefferson’s only win during that time was a major upset in 2016, when it took a 42-40 victory in the last game of the regular season, which had a substantial effect on the Huskies and their playoff schedule.

Harlem brought a 6-2 record into that outing, Jefferson was 3-5 and, with the loss, the Huskies dropped to 6-3. That put them up against a higher-ranked 7A opponent, suburban Lake Zurich, in the first round of the IHSA tournament. The Bears won that game, 40-0. 

Lake Zurich lost its next game, 20-14 to Oak Park Fenwick, which reached the semi-final round, where it lost 18-17 to the eventual state runner-up, Plainfield North. 

Prior to the 2016 upset, Harlem won over Jefferson 34-0 in 2015; 52-7 in 2014; by forfeit in 2013; 42-13 in 2012; 38-16 in 2011; and 41-7 in 2010. 

The 63-26 win in 2019 marked the start of Robert Moynihan’s first season as the new head coach. Most of the starters have since graduated but Adrian Palos, now a senior, was a major presence in that game as a sophomore. He played on both offense and defense, running two times for 48 yards and one touchdown, while adding one two-point conversion, on offense. Defensively, he made 13 tackles, two of them for losses, and now is in his third year as a starter for the Huskies. 

Harlem finished 7-3 in 2019, reaching the IHSA playoffs for the 12th consecutive years where they were defeated in the first round by Wheaton Warrenville South. The Huskies then marched to the NIC-10 championship during the abbreviated 2020 season, finishing 6-0 and routing Rockford East, 48-8, in the title game. There were no postseason playoffs last spring. 

Earlier this year, Moynihan was named Coach of the Year by the Chicago Bears and Athletico for his efforts and those of his team. 

Friday’s action at Clyde F. Peterson Stadium will begin with the sophomores at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity at 7:15 p.m. Jefferson is 0-1 in the NIC-10, having lost its opener to Boylan Catholic, 68-14. The Titans salted away the game early, scoring 41 points in the first quarter.  

Season opener 

Harlem’s Aug. 27 regular season opener on the road at Hononegah was a defensive standoff. 

The Huskies were down by just 7-0 at halftime as the Indians scored late in the second quarter, after being pinned at its goal line by a 54-yard Huskie punt. A 45-yard pass completion down the right sideline, which gave the Indians a first down at the Harlem 10, sparked the 99-yard drive. They scored on the next play and kicked the extra point moments before halftime. 

The defensive struggle continued into the second half, with each team scoring once to cement the 14-6 decision for Hononegah. 

Among those filling offensive voids for Harlem were junior quarterback Austin Redmon; wide receivers Mahari Taylor, a junior, and senior Zaire Sherman; senior running backs Anthanee Sherman and Tyrone Tyus; and punter Connor Willard, a junior. Palos returns on both offense and defense. 

Other sports 

Belvidere North (2-0) and Rockford Guilford (1-0) have emerged as the early leaders in NIC-10 girls volleyball. Following closely, all at 1-1, are Belvidere, Auburn, Boylan Catholic and Hononegah. 

Harlem is 0-2 at the moment, having lost its opener to Boylan, 2-1, and Belvidere North, 2-0. The Lady Huskies won their first game against the Lady Titans, 25-22, but dropped the next two, 14-25 and 22-25. 

Meanwhile, rain curtailed attempts by Harlem’s boys golf team to get its season under way. 

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