In the 1970s and ’80s, an incredible baseball tradition was built in Harlem. The Bulldogs won seven state championships between 1974 and 1986 and, while they have not claimed another title since, they can be counted on for 20-25 wins and a trip to the state playoffs. Yes, Harlem is very proud of its tremendous baseball program.
In other sports the Bulldogs have had some success, but nothing close to what their baseball teams have accomplished. Being in a county with much larger schools such as Evans, Lakeside, Greenbrier and even Grovetown, Bulldog fans often feel slighted when it comes to media coverage.
In some cases they may have reason to complain. When other teams in the county are always going head-to-head in region contests with a lot riding on the games, and Harlem playing teams from outside the county so often, the Bulldogs do get less coverage than other county programs. And, to be fair, Greenbrier and Lakeside, especially, have produced a number of great teams in recent years in soccer, golf, tennis, baseball and other sports, and their teams deserved the attention they received.
Well, for the 2012-13 high school campaign, Harlem has had plenty to be proud of, and the Bulldogs’ accomplishments certainly deserve some recognition.
Harlem Coach Kim Chambers has been one of the Bulldogs’ finest advocates since he arrived at the school in 2000. He has had many roles at Harlem, including coaching the boys and girls varsity basketball teams in the same season. Chambers and the Bulldogs athletic program reached new heights over the past several months. Chambers assists Mike Leverett with the Bulldogs softball team; he also serves as the head coach for the boys varsity basketball team and the boys varsity golf team.
After his golf team battled through brutal playing conditions in Dublin, Ga., last week to qualify for the state playoffs, Chambers and the Bulldogs had pulled off an interesting trifecta. All three teams in which Chambers has a hand earned state playoff berths.
For softball, a trip to the state playoffs was no surprise. Leverett has done a wonderful job building this program from scratch. This year’s team was sensational, finishing with 29 wins and going 10-0 in region play. They also advanced all the way to the Elite 8 in Class AA and finished the season ranked in the Top 5 in the statewide polls.
The Lady Bulldogs outscored the opposition 265-83 and featured five First Team All-County performers, including County Pitcher of the Year Amber Garrett and County Hitter of the Year Lindsay Stokes. Garrett, just a freshman, was 16-4 on the mound with 100 strikeouts and she was virtually unhittable in the post season. Stokes hit an eye-popping .524 and led the county with seven home runs and an .864 slugging percentage. In all, nine Bulldogs earned all-county accolades.
The boys basketball team also earned a state tournament appearance. While they had high-scoring guard Reggie Reid back after his incredible freshman campaign, the Bulldogs were no guarantee to advance to state. They played in a very tough region and had not made it to the state playoffs in the last 11 years. Led by Reid, who averaged 27 points per game, Chambers’ crew was tough for anyone in the area. While Reid piled up huge numbers and statewide praise, the Bulldogs were no one-man team. Senior guard Dylan Farmer averaged 14.1 points per game, nailed 57 three pointers and hit 80 percent of his free-throws. Torian Beard and Cameron Brown also played key roles for Harlem as it posted 15 wins and locked up a state tourney trip.
Then came the golf team. Harlem is certainly no hotbed for golfing talent. Playing in a county that has produced several state championship teams at Lakeside and Augusta Prep, and quality state contenders at Greenbrier and Evans, Harlem has always taken a back seat when it came to golf. However, for the first time in more than nearly three decades, Harlem’s golf team has also qualified for the state playoffs.
The Bulldogs finished second to perennial power Westside in last week’s region tournament in Dublin. Playing in extremely tough weather conditions, and with two of their top players struggling, the Bulldogs managed a 333 total to easily qualify for sectionals on May 6. The team’s top player, Ben Gardner, who usually averages 78, shot 87 in the cold, windy conditions, but he was picked up by freshman Cole Madison, who carded a solid 79. Another freshman, Trey Birdsong, shot 80, and with the team’s No. 4 player having a tough day, senior Cody Leeking’s 87 counted toward the team’s 333 total. Freshman Steven St. Clair and senior Caleb Johnson are the other two team members who will travel to sectionals next month.
Congrats to the Bulldogs and all their fans.