A few weeks ago, Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis was asked what he thought about his team's chances this fall.
"We are going to have a tough time being competitive," Lewis replied.
Lewis attributed the negative feelings about the impending season to the new region they will play in this fall. The region includes many good football programs, such as Thomson, Hephzibah and Glenn Hills, that moved down from 4-AAAA.
Compounding the move into a football-heavy region, Harlem lost its star to graduation and to the Air Force Academy.
Tim Camp, one of the greatest football players in the long history of Bulldog football and the first from Harlem to sign a Division I-A scholarship since 1966, will play on Saturdays this fall for the Falcons.
"To do what he did, moving to whatever position we needed him, says a lot about him," Lewis said. "It will be like the Lakers losing Shaq ... in his prime."
The team's biggest question mark this fall will be finding a quarterback.
Senior Jeremy Larson got the first crack at the job, but Lewis wanted to move him to receiver, a position the Bulldogs need help at.
Moving Larson was easier because of the play of two sophomores.
"If one of the sophomores come around that would give us the opportunity to move Larson to somewhere where we really need him like safety or tight end," Lewis said early in the summer.
Alex Hintz has played well in practices, according to Lewis, and he has impressed enough to win the job.
Brandon Gray, a transfer from Evans, is the other 10th grader vying for the job. Although Hintz will open as the starter, Lewis believes that Gray will factor in on the job.
"Gray is the most athletic," Lewis said. "He has game-breaking speed and potential.
"If we do decide to go with a sophomore at quarterback, then we will hopefully have three years for him to master the system. That would be a huge benefit, but we won't hand the job to a young guy because of that reason."
Another Evans transfer, Gabe Greer, will team with sophomore Maurice Williams and senior Chris Newsome to form a potent backfield. Lewis believes both Greer and Williams could potentially receive scholarships when they graduate.
Despite having some potential at skill positions, the team only returns five starters.
"Every position is up in the air, because we didn't bring back any starters," Lewis said. "Piecing together a lineup will be difficult."
The Bulldogs will have to find a kicker and a punter before the season begins.
When asked if they found a kicker, special teams coach Dietmar Perez joked, "Yeah, we have 57 of them."
The staff said they have had some baseball players work out with the kicking unit.
Lewis and his staff hope that the inexperience can be overcome because of the non-region opponents that Harlem faces to open the season.
Harlem began with a preseason contest against Aquinas and the season slate begins with Evans, Hancock Central, Jefferson County and Richmond Hill. Jefferson County and Richmond Hill are in Region 3-AAA, but are in the south sub-region.
"If we weather the non-region contests, then we might be more experienced when the region schedule begins," Lewis said.
Newsome and defensive coordinator Lonnie Morris think the team will be better than Lewis lets on.
"I think we can go 5-5," Newsome said. "We work hard and we will be improved."
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