The Harlem and Evans high school football teams suffered similar fates last week, but the Columbia County squads are about to go in very different directions.
Last Friday at Harlem, the Bulldogs were outmanned during a 39-6 loss to Laney, and that Region 3-AAA defeat not only ended the 2003 season for Harlem, it could be a sign of more bad things to come.
Next season Harlem is back in Region 3-AAA, but the region was reshuffled and expanded by the recent Georgia High School Association realignments.
The Dogs are expected to struggle in 2004 against larger Class AAA schools with traditionally powerful football teams, such as Thomson and Burke County.
Following three respectable seasons, including trips to the Class AAA state playoffs in 2000 and 2001, Harlem took a step backward this fall. The Dogs started the campaign with a 2-1 record, but stumbled down the stretch and lost their final seven games.
Harlem (2-8, 0-7 in Region 3-AAA) lacked the speed to counter its region opponents this season, but Dogs coach Jimmie Lewis didn't question the effort of his team.
Senior Robin Jacobs ices an injured knee near the end of Evans' 40-3 loss against Douglass High School.
Photo by Mike Adams
"They never backed down and didn't quit," Lewis said. "They played real hard, hung in there and did everything I asked them to do. As strange as it might sound, I'm actually sorry to see this season end."
Perhaps that sentiment isn't so strange - Lewis knows how tough the new region alignment is going to be in football.
Evans, meanwhile, put up a fight Friday night in its regular season finale at Blanchard Stadium.
In the first half the Knights stuck close to Region 7-AAAAA foe Douglass, but the Astros exploded for 27 third-quarter points to stick Evans with a 40-3 whipping.
The Knights capped the season with a 3-7 record, but now they'll say goodbye to talent-laden Region 7-AAAAA.
Starting with the 2004 season, Evans will compete in a lower classification, with the key word being "compete."
The move to Class AAAA means fewer road trips for Evans, but the best benefit of moving to Region 2-AAAA is facing teams with less firepower.
No one at Evans is going to miss being manhandled by Class AAAAA squads Stephenson and Tri-Cities. While the Knights will enter a region with Statesboro High School, which field a perennially strong football squad, the 2004 region slate features Greenbrier and Lakeside, so the playing field will be much more balanced for Evans.
Also, the Knights made significant strides in 2003 under first-year coach Marty Jackson. The past two seasons, Evans won just three games, and earned only one victory in Region 7-AAAAA; this season the Knights won three straight games in region play.
Like Harlem, the Knights finished the season with a losing streak, but one of those teams will break the string to start 2004 - Evans and Harlem meet in the season opener next August.
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