By Bob Balgemann

Machesney Park Mayor Steve Johnson invited members of the most recent Harlem High School football team to drop by the Jan. 3, 2022, village board meeting, to be recognized by trustees and staff for all they accomplished during the 2021 season.

Machesney Park Mayor Steve Johnson started 2022 by taking a look at something significant that happened in 2021.

He invited members of the most recent Harlem High School football team to drop by the Jan. 3, 2022, village board meeting, to be recognized by trustees and staff for all they accomplished during the 2021 season.

It was a record-breaking fall during which the Huskies came within nine points of winning the NIC-10 championship. In the very first game back in August, they were edged by their long-time rival Hononegah, 14-6, and that determined the league’s 1-2 spots eight weeks later. Hononegah wound up in first place with a 9-0 record; Harlem was the runner-up at 8-1.

In the games that followed, including the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) playoffs, Mayor Johnson recalled what Harlem did to distinguish itself as a dominant force in northern Illinois football. He said the team set a school record by only allowing opponents to score 8.33 points per game, as well as holding its opponents’ offenses to 138 yards per game. In addition, not one team ran for more than 100 yards against the Harlem defense.

He read from a specially made plaque honoring the Huskies, which recalled how they:

* Defeated their first-round (playoff) opponent for only the fourth time in school history.

* For only the second time in school history won a playoff game against a school (Crystal Lake South) outside the NIC-10 (64-39).

* Set an IHSA playoff record by rushing for 549 yards in a 6A game.

* Had 11 players earn all-conference honors and two all-state recognition.

* Had a member of their team selected as Defensive Player of the Year in the NIC-10.

* Had a member of their team selected as Stateline Player of the Year.

The mayor concluded by telling all of them, “Congratulations from the village of Machesney Park.”

After a hearty round of applause, he added, “I, personally, want to thank all the coaches, players and parents for all the time and dedication they put into this football season to achieve these high standards.”

Players and coaches then came to the podium in front of the meeting room to accept the plaque from Mayor Johnson.

Their head coach, Bob Moynihan, offered a tribute to the hard work and dedication his players put into this season. Then he said that in addition to the achievements mentioned by the mayor, 13 of the Huskies also were recognized as NIC-10 scholar athletes.

In looking at the group of players who had assembled at the podium, he said only three of them were seniors and “a lot of these guys will be coming back next year.”

Moynihan came to Harlem in 2018 and in that time his three teams have combined for a 22-6 record.

During the 2020 season, shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Huskies went 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the NIC-10, winning the conference championship for the first time since 1997.

Also in 2020, Moynihan was selected by the Chicago Bears as their Coach of the Year in Illinois.

Thanks to all

Also Jan. 3, Mayor Johnson read a letter he received that day from Jerry Gibson, director of the Helping Hands Pantry, on the grounds of North Park Church of Christ, 7620 Elm Ave., Machesney Park.

He said gifts such as those received from the village assisted Helping Hands’ efforts to meet food insecurity needs in the neighborhood. “We are proud of the work we do because of friends like you,” he said. “We not only provide the traditional canned and dry goods, but we also are fortunate to have meat, milk, cheese, butter and bread nearly every time we are open.

“We are a client service pantry, where clients shop with grocery carts like they would do in the supermarket. We believe this method is the more dignified way of doing this pantry, and they only take items they would use, (resulting in) reduced waste.

“We are proud to report we have remained open through the COVID-19 pandemic, although we did have a drive-up rather than in-person type of pantry for the first few months. Thank you for allowing us to be your partner in making the holiday season a little brighter for our families in our area.

“Special thanks goes to (Village Trustee) Joe Seipts and Mayor Johnson for overseeing this work and representing the village so well.”

Helping Hands opened in 2003 and on average serves 400 families each month.

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