Harlem was hoping to make a statement by knocking off the top team in Region 3-AA on Friday night.
Facing Dublin, things looked good early. The Bulldogs drove 85 yards and scored on their first possession of the game, but then the Fighting Irish took control, rolling to the 42-14 win.
The Bulldogs (6-3, 2-3) entered the night tied for third in the region with Westside, which holds the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs. After the loss, the Bulldogs are in fifth place and will need help to reach the playoffs.
Offensively, the Fighting Irish (6-2, 4-0) were balanced, rushing for 285 yards while passing for 210. The Bulldogs could muster just 182 yards of total offense and six first downs.
“They dominated the line of scrimmage and they’ve got a heck of a lot of talent, a heck of a lot of athletes,” said Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis.
“The kids played hard the whole game, but they just got out-athleted and sometimes it happens like that. They’ve got a good team and they should win the region.”
On the Bulldogs’ first possession, Mason McDaniel connected with Carson Gurley on a slant that picked up 56 yards to get deep into Fighting Irish territory. Hunter Rippe finished off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown strike to Tyler Sheppard with 7:18 left in the first quarter.
The Fighting Irish displayed their own quick-strike capability and tied the score two possessions later as Robert Strickland found D’Angelo Darrisaw for a 53-yard touchdown.
Rippe fumbled on the Bulldogs’ ensuing possession and the Fighting Irish went ahead for good just two plays later on a Brandon Coney 12-yard run.
Darrisaw was Strickland’s main target as he caught four passes for 124 yards and Larry McGirt rushed 14 times for 153 yards and two scores.
While Strickland passed for 210 yards, he also threw interceptions to Gurley and McDaniel.
Following their initial drive, the Bulldogs were stymied offensively until McDaniel’s interception led to Rippe finding Jonathan Worrell for a 15-yard touchdown with 42 seconds left in the contest.
Austin Burt led the Bulldogs’ rushing attack with 52 yards on 15 carries and Jordan Dorsey added 47 yards.
“They had bigger people in the front,” Lewis said. “My kids give it all they’ve got, but when you’re outweighed 80 pounds a man, it’s tough to move them every play.”
The Bulldogs have a bye week then finish the regular season against Laney.
In South Carolina Inde-pendent School Association play, the Augusta Christian Lions (3-6, 3-5 Region 1-AAA) defeated Heathwood Hall (2-7, 2-6) to clinch a playoff spot.
In Georgia Independent School Association action, Augusta Prep finished the regular season 8-1, 5-0 in the Glory for Christ conference, beating the Augusta Eagles (1-8, 1-6), 51-6.
In Georgia High School Association Region 2-AAAAA play, the Lakeside Panthers (6-2, 4-1) climbed into a third-place tie with a 35-20 win over Jones County (4-4, 2-3). Wins in the final two weeks and the Panthers will clinch a No. 2 seed heading into the state playoffs.
Evans’ playoff chances took a huge hit as they dropped a 20-9 decision to Houston County (5-3, 3-2), falling to 4-4, 2-3.
Warner Robins (7-1, 4-1) took out Grovetown (1-7, 0-5) 59-10 while Northside, Warner Robins (8-0, 5-0) beat Greenbrier (0-8, 0-5) 41-7.