Harlem High School football fans saw something Friday night they haven't seen in 15 years: they watched the Bulldogs win their home opener.
A strong defensive turn by the Dogs kept the Aquinas Fighting Irish from getting on the scoreboard, while Harlem's triple-option put up 35 points.
"I know it's bad to say, but I honestly can't remember the last time we won our first home game," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said. "It must have been sometime back in the mid-'80s."
The Irish's luck turned bad early. An Aquinas fumble on the second play of the game set up a 21-yard touchdown run by Dogs' running back Travis Perry on Harlem's second offensive play.
The 35-0 win was great for Harlem and its fans, but the shutout was bad news for another coach with Columbia County ties.
Jim Connor, who led the Evans High School football team from 1988 through 2000, was making his debut as head coach for the Irish, and was stuck with watching Harlem's coming-out party.
A tough Dogs defense forced three Aquinas turnovers, one interception and two fumbles, and allowed only 110 yards of total offense.
"Aquinas is a good football team, but our defense played tough and kept them off balance," Lewis said.
Harlem's running game, meanwhile, seemed unstoppable.
Senior quarterback Tim Camp didn't put up any passing yards, but he ran for 71 yards and three touchdowns.
Also scoring was running back Renard Wright late in fourth quarter with a 13-yard run.
Although he posted no touchdowns, Dogs fullback Chris Newsome gained 104 of Harlem's 286 rushing yards on 14 carries.
If the Dogs showed any weakness, it was penalties. Harlem committed five penalties for 74 yards.
"We've got to show a little more discipline and keep those penalties down," Lewis said. "We pretty much cost ourselves a touchdown in the third quarter with a couple of personal fouls."
Happy with the final score, Lewis said he still needs to work on tightening up his offense before heading to Elbert County on Friday.
"Our guys played well and they deserve this victory," he said. "We're off to a good start and we need to work to keep that momentum going."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.