Harlem seems to have come a long way since it opened the season against Greenbrier on Sept. 5.
After that game, a 49-28 Harlem loss, Bulldogs coach Jimmie Lewis bemoaned his team's lack of tackling.
In recent weeks, and after beating Josey 41-20, Harlem has won three of its past four games. On Friday, the Bulldogs defense spent much of the night chasing down Eagles quarterbacks Brandon Brown and Travis Crawford.
Josey's featured back, Charles Hankerson, broke free for some big gains, including a 55-yard touchdown run. But Brown and Crawford, who might have been the fastest players the Bulldogs have encountered, carried a combined eight times for 19 yards.
"We've been practicing real hard lately," Harlem linebacker Forrest Christian said. "We didn't want to go out with a losing season, even though we will. We just want to play hard and let everybody know we're not just weak Harlem."
Lewis' team entered Friday's game knowing it wouldn't make the postseason. But the Bulldogs (3-6, 3-5), behind their rejuvenated defense and an offense that's clicking at the right time, have played lately like a team making a playoff push.
"We've come out focused and ready to play," quarterback Zach Morris said.
Harlem running back Seth Hill scored three times in the first half, including a touchdown on a 22-yard screen pass with less than a minute remaining in the second quarter. He finished with four touchdowns, which he said was his highest total since he played recreation league.
Hill was a week removed from shredding Butler for nearly 300 yards on the ground as the offense piled up more than 500 yards of total offense.
Morris ran for a first quarter touchdown and completed three of his four passes. The junior took control of the starting job after fellow quarterback Tyler James suffered a concussion against Lakeside.
James has played linebacker since the Bulldogs' loss to Hephzibah three weeks ago, while Morris has run the offense.
Morris doesn't think there was any magic formula to the team's turnaround.
"We've played hard," he said. "We've practiced hard."
A botched pitch in the first half was the Bulldogs' lone turnover and led to an Eagles' touchdown -- but Harlem would make it up.
The Bulldogs blocked a punt and ran down the Eagles' punter on another fourth down play. Both led to Harlem touchdowns. Bulldogs lineman Barry Davis, who was in on both blocks, said Harlem exploited a hole between Josey's center and right guard.
Harlem's defense also was able to break through the line. Christian and his defensive teammates kept Crawford and Brown fleeing in the backfield and held the Eagles' passing game in check.
"We've been penetrating," Christian said. "We didn't give up the deep ball. Teams have been getting the deep ball on us lately."
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