By Bob Balgemann


Harlem has won again, a decisive 35-14 victory over Rockford East, to open the 2016 season with a perfect 3-0 record.

But the first of five consecutive difficult games is on the horizon in Boylan Catholic. The resurgent Titans, also 3-0, are tied with the Huskies for first place in the NIC-10. They won for the third time Sept. 9 by edging previously undefeated Hononegah, 17-14.

Boylan had its way with Harlem for many years. But the Huskies served notice that was going to change back in 2012, when their sophomore team defeated Boylan, 18-12, at home. The following year the sophs scored a lopsided 54-0 victory.

Those wins translated to a varsity success in 2014 by a whopping 54-13 margin. Last year Harlem made it two in a row, 19-15.

But that was then and this is now.

Boylan is back after consecutive years with 5-5 and 3-6 records. So far this year two of its early victories were against top-caliber, conference teams. After routing Belvidere, 36-12, in their opener, the Titans tripped defending champion Auburn, 14-7, and then edged Hononegah, in a defensive struggle. The Indians had outscored their first two opponents, 54-7.

Harlem’s decisive win at home over East came Sept. 9 and had a boatload of highlights.

The Huskies once again scored early and often, roaring to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter of play. As in the Freeport game, they were up, 28-0, at halftime.

Head coach Jim Morrow said before the start of the season that he would utilize the many talents of senior running back Brenton Shaw.

Multi-tasking Shaw

Snaw’s contribution to special teams was in the spotlight in the first quarter of the East game. He grabbed an E-Rab punt at the Harlem 38 and, after being hemmed in at the 47 he cut left, then backtracked to the right and scampered down the sideline, untouched, for the score. He also blocked a punt later in the game.

But his memorable night didn’t stop there.

Offensively, he carried 23 times for 76 yards and three more touchdowns. For the season, he has run the ball 72 times for 317 yards, an average of 4.4 yards per carry.

Defensively, he intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.

And speaking of the defense, it had five takeaways, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Those resulting in scores were interceptions by Octavio Galvez, and 55-yard return, along with Jordan Jacobsen, who returned his pick 30 yards. Josh Carter also had one interception, giving the linebacking corps two for the night.

Harlem’s defense is relatively young, with a freshman, three sophomores, 11 juniors and nine seniors seeing action.

One of those seniors, Trevor Kramp, leads in tackles with a total of 27 over the three games. He collected five solos and two assists against East.

Next in line are Galvez, a junior, with a total of 15 tackles; junior Nikolas Gracia, sophomore Nick Blades and junior Kamrone McCallister, 14 each; junior Isaiah Welchel, seven; and senior Dalton Hambrocki, junior Jake McKenna and freshman Jalon Benson, six apiece.

Others with playing time who have been credited with making at least one tackle are sophomore Nathan Thies; juniors Christian McGlaughlin, Arthur Daniels, Chris Bolding and Logan Stretz; and seniors Kyle Pea, Gabe Haun, Jordan Jacobsen, Devin Bondurant, Brenton Shaw, Matthew Box, Gage White and Josh Carter.

Against East, the Huskies scored on their first two offensive series, with passes from quarterback Trent Willey instrumental in each drive. The first touchdown came on a long pass down the left sideline. A 33-yard pass down the right sideline, to a wide open Jalon Benson, set them up at the one, where Shaw capped it with a short run.

Willey now has completed 41 passes for the season for 466 yards and six touchdowns. His completions have been caught by 11 different players, including Benson (13), Gabe Haun (12), Anthony Byrne (eight), Seth Kordich (six), Shaw (five), Jake Anderson (two), Alex Christiansen (one), Kamrone McCallister (one), Chris Bolding (one) and Devon Lawrence (one). Some of those catches were on balls thrown by junior Troy King, when he played against Freeport.

Kyle Pea was true on all three extra point kicks in the first quarter against East. He has converted 12-of-13 attempts for the season.

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