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Hot Harlem here looking for the upset
Bringing with it the top two rushers in Region 4AA, the upstart Harlem Bulldogs (4-1, 2-0) will come to Kelly Memorial Stadium Friday night looking to prove themselves as not merely a region playoff contender but a region championship contender.
Waiting on them will be the third-ranked Screven County High School Gamecocks (4-0, 2-0) for what is the annual Hall of Fame Game.
As they await the two red hot rushers in junior AJ Brown (5-6, 160) and freshman Cameron Garnet (6-1, 210), the Roosters will counter with the top scoring offense in all of Class AA at 48 points per game (along with region foe Jefferson County) and the second best scoring defense (8.25 per game) in all of Class AA. Only the Brooks County defense is better.
For a team that has not been to postseason since 2001, won just one region title in its history (1974), and never won a state playoff game, Friday evening represents a chance for a statement game.
With its 2-0 start in region play, Harlem has put itself squarely in the 4AA playoff picture for no worse than a third seed with a win on Sept. 30 putting it in line for at least a second seed.
Coming off its 49-14 win over Butler last week, Harlem has moved up to the point of fifth in the state in scoring principally on the strength of Brown (87-934 for 10 TD) and Garnett (69-713 for 12 TD). The duo has accounted for 89 percent of the team’s rushing and 80 percent of their total offense as the Bulldogs have averaged 414 yards per game.
Passing is an afterthought as quarterback Chase Pennington is 16-34-0 for 228 yards and two scores.
Compare those offensive numbers to the Dirty Birds’ defense who have allowed a total of 143 yards per game and just 68 yards rushing per game (2.3 per carry).
Harlem averages better than 370 yards of that rushing per game and better than 10 per carry. Someone’s numbers must give.
While the Harlem offense may be a two-headed snake, the Gamecocks are a many times over multi-headed snake.
Of the 1,251 yards rushing of SCHS (in just four games), four different rushers each have more than 17 percent of the total with a very equal balance. The SCHS triple option will present the Dawg defense with a tremendous challenge.
HHS’s loss came 34-7 to 5-0 AAAAAA Greenbrier, a team dedicated to the run with a single back accumulating 60 percent of the team’s rushing. Harlem will run a multitude of formations, but execute the same basic plays from different formations.
The Maxwell Computer rankings criticize the SCHS schedule for including two out-of-state teams, both were AAA and both are coming off stellar seasons.
Harlem opened with a 70-0 win over 1-5 Glascock County (giving up 42 ppg) and a 48-16 win 0-4 Warren County (38 ppg). Both are members of Region 7A.
The Bulldogs cannot be criticized for their blowouts of region foes Glenn Hills (37-16) and Butler (49-14). SCHS has to play the same schools.
This will mark the sixth contest between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs in the series that did not start until 2012, Duncan’s first season at SCHS. It has been remarkably one-sided with the Red and White winning all five games by an average margin of 45-12. A season ago it was SCHS 42-10 in a game that was not that close.
For Harlem, a pair of these losses have been back breakers.
In 2013, the Dawgs were off to their first 4-0 start since 1981 while the Roosters were 2-2 in a season that had already seen them blow a game in Springfield. The Gamecocks won the game going away at 35-13.