Anchoring a school filled with history and tradition, the Harlem High School athletic program saw its share of successes during the 2005-06 season.
Although the Bulldogs held an obvious disadvantage when it came to number of athletes, Harlem fielded the strongest public school football team in the county last fall. Under the leadership of coach Jimmie Lewis, the Bulldogs sported a 6-4 record overall, and their 4-2 subregion mark was only one game short of a state playoff berth.
The Harlem volleyball team also narrowly missed the state playoffs last fall, despite a strong run through the Region 3-AAA Tournament's losers' bracket. The highlight of the fall season came from the Harlem softball team. The Lady Bulldogs finished the year with a 22-10 record and claimed second place in the Region 3-AAA Tournament. Behind a Brittany Newsome no-hitter, Harlem won its first-round state playoff game against Mary Persons en route to a top 16 finish. In competition cheerleading, Harlem brought home a 21st-place finish in the state.
Basketball season came to Harlem with a record number of boys participating in tryouts. Bulldog coach Kim Chambers led the team to an up-and-down season but made history after the season's conclusion. Chambers saw the first Harlem basketball player in more than 10 years sign a college scholarship when senior Ajay Miller earned a spot at Truett McConnell.
Meanwhile, the Lady Bulldogs came one quarter shy of a state playoff berth and posted another winning record. With senior April Woodard leading the way, Harlem went 5-2 against Columbia County schools, including a 46-43 win over Evans to claim the Firehouse Subs Shootout Championship.
The spring sports season brought the most success for the Harlem athletic program. Both the boys and girls soccer teams once again fielded strong squads, with the Lady Bulldogs claiming the 2006 regular season Region 3N-AAA championship.
The Harlem girls made a run at the state title with a state quarterfinals appearance after a first-round win and an upset over top-ranked Westover in the second round. The boys soccer team also upset a No. 1 seed with a 2-1 overtime win against Spalding in the state tournament. The Harlem tennis team also qualified for state competition with a second-place finish in the region tournament.
Perhaps the comeback story of the year came in the form of the Bulldog baseball team. After suffering four straight blowout losses to begin the season, Harlem made monumental comebacks, including an eight-run rally in the final inning to beat region-rival Thomson in a regular-season game. The comeback sparked a strong second-half push that landed the Bulldogs as the top seed coming out of their subregion and a guaranteed home game in the state tournament.
Harlem defeated Peach County in the first round by riding the shoulders of junior pitcher Mike Sanders. The Bulldogs' run stopped short in the state's second round but not before Harlem earned a 16-13 record.
Though the 2005-06 season didn't bring state championships and dominating performances to Harlem, it still brought much-needed experience and success. Many of the teams, including baseball and softball, had young squads, but still managed to win.
Harlem fans can expect to see that work pay off as a new sports season approaches.
ABOUT THE SERIES
This is part four in a six-part summer series recapping the 2005-06 sports year in Columbia County. Each week The Columbia County News-Times will focus on one school's athletic program and its successes and failures in the 2005-06 school year. A full-page photo recap of the school's Athlete Spotlight students can be found on the back of the sports section.
Year in Review
June 28 - Evans
July 5 - Greenbrier
July 12 - Lakeside
July 19 - Harlem
July 26 - Augusta Christian
August 2 - Augusta Prep
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