The Harlem High School football team routed visiting Oglethorpe County High School last week, and the 54-13 victory served two purposes: it tuned up the Bulldogs for a Class AAA state playoff appearance this Friday in Forsyth, Ga., and also clinched Harlem's first winning season since 1981.
While Harlem (6-3-1 record) easily outclassed the Patriots, there was plenty to lose in Friday's contest against the Class AA nonregion opponent.
Harlem head coach Jimmie Lewis was worried about injuries in the regular-season finale, but the Dogs emerged unscathed and ready to take on Mary Persons in first-round playoff action.
"I think we came out of this pretty healthy, and that was my main concern," Lewis said. "It's a win we had to have for momentum going into the playoffs, and it gave us our first winning season in 20 years. The seniors have got something they can remember for a long time."
Oglethorpe County won't soon forget Friday night, either. The Patriots were pummeled by Harlem's triple-option offense, which rolled up 506 total yards. For the game, the Dogs rushed for 458 yards and averaged 11.2 yards per play.
Junior running back Kelvin Sturgis rushed for 108 yards in the first quarter, and scored twice on just five carries. Tae Dorsey also tallied two touchdowns in the first half, and added a 2-point conversion run.
Quarterback Dominique Brown directed the ground attack and finished with 79 yards on eight carries, despite a 16-yard loss on a missed option pitch.
Sturgis, Dorsey and Brown benefited from the play of Harlem's offensive line, which blasted huge holes in the Oglethorpe defense. Harlem sophomore Tim Camp, however, cleared his own path by breaking numerous tackles on a 45-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Lewis sidelined most of his offensive starters in the second half. Still, Sturgis added a defensive score with a 25-yard fumble return, Jordan Whitaker scored on a quarterback sneak, and Jerome Crawford broke off a 48-yard touchdown run.
All in all, the final tuneup indicates that Harlem should be firing on all cylinders when the 7:30 p.m kickoff time arrives Friday in Forsyth.
"Our offense did a real good job tonight getting ready for the playoffs. The defense played a real good game, too," said Harlem senior lineman Travis Reese. "We hope to go far in the playoffs. As long as we play good, we can go a long way."
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