By Bob Balgemann


Harlem will wind up the 2021 regular football season Friday night at Auburn, seeking its eighth win in nine outings and a probable home game the following weekend in the opening round of the Illinois High School Association 7A playoffs. 

Pairings and locations will be announced Saturday night, with dates and times being revealed Monday. 

The Huskies (7-1) won their seventh consecutive game on Oct. 15, celebrating their annual homecoming celebration with a 37-0 victory over Belvidere (1-7).

Homecoming stands as one of the most memorable times in the life of a high school student. 

Such was the case for many Harlem seniors last week, among them Adrian Palos. 

He was introduced as this year’s Homecoming King, along with the Queen, Myah Udell, and others in the court, during the traditional pregame ceremony. Then, as one of the stalwart members of this year’s varsity football team, he emerged as a key ingredient in the win over Belvidere. 

On special teams, he returned the game’s opening kickoff across midfield and to the Bucs’ 49-yard line. Then, on offense, he was the first to carry the ball and picked up five yards. Not long after that he scored the evening’s first touchdown, on a 19-yard run. 

Defensively, his name was mentioned often by the game’s public address announcer as making tackles from his middle linebacker position.  

There were many other contributors, of course, such as those on the defense who gave Harlem its third shutout of the 2021 season. They were introduced at the beginning of the game and included junior Keyshawn Harrington-McKinney, senior Ethan Taylor, junior DeAndre Young, senior Deven Ortiz, junior Jaden Thornton, Palos, senior Erik Serrano, senior Braxton Tufte, senior Reid Foster, senior Jack Huffman and senior Shawn Hopper.  

After a staunch defensive effort held Belvidere to a three-and-out the first time it got the ball, the Huskies marched 79 yards on the backs of runners Palos and Young to take a 14-0 lead. 

Ethan Taylor blocked Harlem’s first punt of the season and returned it for a touchdown to open the second quarter. Palos ran for the two-point conversion and it was a 22-0 game. The Huskies added one more TD before halftime to increase the margin to 30-0. 

Junior Tyrone Tyus had a significant moment in the second half but it didn’t get into the scorebook. That was a punt return for a touchdown early in the third quarter that was nullified by a block in the back during the runback. Harlem did get the score, a bit later, on a four-yard run by senior Sai’vun Partee, with 6:25 left in the period. Sophomore Meghan Gentry’s extra point kick supplied provided the 37-0 final score. 

Didn’t count 

There was another memorable effort on the football field during Homecoming 2021 and while it will be remembered, it won’t be in the official scorebook. 

That occurred early in the first quarter when quarterback Austin Redmon threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Lathan Lewis, who was wide open in the middle of the end zone. The play was nullified by a holding penalty. 

Harlem was able to overcome that miscue by eventually capping the 51-yard drive. 

Auburn history 

Most of Harlem’s opponents in the NIC-10 ledger have managed just one victory over the Huskies during the past 10 years. The list includes Belvidere, Belvidere North, Jefferson, Freeport, Rockford East and Guilford. The exceptions are Boylan Catholic, Hononegah and Friday night’s opponent, Auburn.

Harlem had controlled the Knights until the arrival of a new head coach, Dan Appino, for the 2012 season, in the wake of his Boylan Titans winning consecutive state championships in 2010-11. During his tenure there, Auburn split six games with the Huskies, losing the first three, 36-28, 21-20 and 14-13 in 2012-14, and winning the last three, 36-24, 49-8 and 28-7, in 2015-17. 

The Huskies are 8-3 overall during that time, winning the last three games, 34-7, 55-12 and 36-12, the latter during the abbreviated 2020 season that was pushed into the spring of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

So far this year Auburn is 3-5, having lost last weekend’s outing against conference-leading Hononegah, 44-12.  

Sophomores win

In the preliminary game Oct. 15, Harlem’s sophomores had another strong showing by both their offense and defense as they routed visiting Belevidere, 60-0. 

The defense kept the Bucs on their side of the 50-yard line all night, especially during the first half when Harlem roared to a 38-0 intermission lead. Belvidere had the ball six times, losing two fumbles, throwing one interception and going three and out on three occasions. The Huskies recorded five tackles for losses during this time, and added two more in the second half. 

Quarterback Derek Anderson ran for one touchdown, threw for one and supplied two, two-point conversions running the ball. 

Harlem’s first score came after a fumble recovery on Belvidere’s first possession at the visitor’s 21-yard line. The TD came on Harlem’s initial play of the game, a 21-yard run around right end. 

Anderson got his first touchdown on his team’s second possession. He faked a handoff to the left, then ran to the right, untouched, for a 23-yard score. 

Another three-and-out stop by the defense gave the Huskies the ball at the Buc 38. Two plays later a 37-yard run around end made it 22-0. A short time later a muffed Belvidere punt set up Harlem at the visitor’s 11-yard line. On the second play, Anderson threw an 11-yard scoring pass and with 3:37 left until intermission, Harlem was up, 30-0. 

The defense stood tall moments later, intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown for a 38-0 margin with 1:25 remaining left in the half. 

An 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown started the third quarter for the Huskies to make it 46-0. Other TDs in the second half came on a 39-yard run down the right sideline and a 42-yard run along the left sideline. 

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