By Matt Nestor
It is a new season. There are some new players. But when Harlem and Hononegah squared off, it looked like a replay of last year’s game.
The Huskies (4-1) stunned Hononegah (4-1) with great special teams, timely turnovers and a strong running game to take a 26-0 lead in to halftime. The Indians played tough in the second half, before ultimately falling to Harlem 26-7.
“That’s two years in a row that they have come out and been like gangbusters,” Hononegah coach Tim Sughroue said. “I thought the biggest play of the game was the opening kickoff. We were on that side of the field the rest of the game then.”
A big return on the opening kickoff set up Harlem with great field position, and the Huskies took a quick lead on a 5-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Keenan Kellett.
After holding Hononegah to a quick three-and-out, a great punt return by Tyler Cox again gave the Huskies great field position, and a 10-yard touchdown run by Miles Hembrough gave Harlem a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
“The fast start was big,” said Harlem coach Jim Morrow. “It let us control the game from the outset. Their offense, coming from under center and running the option like they do, against our defense, we knew it could be tough if we give them long fields and make them come from behind. Getting up on them was very important to the rest of the game.”
The Huskies weren’t done, either. A 22-yard touchdown pass from Kellett to Demetris Fambro extended the lead. Brian Phomboutdy added a 55-yard touchdown to help extend it to the halftime margin.
Kellett said he thought the hot start was the result of preparation. He said the play calling took advantage of Harlem’s best asset, their speed and athleticism.
“I think it’s speed and determination,” Kellett, who threw for 140 yards, said. “I think we were mixing up our formations, and they didn’t know what was going on. We kept them off balance. We wanted it more than they did.”
While the offense gave the Huskies the lead, the defense made sure Harlem kept it. Ryan Rizzio and the Harlem defense frustrated Chase Robinson and the Indians all night. Hononegah was the top rushing team in the conference, but after falling behind, the Indians weren’t able to get their offense rolling.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” Morrow said. “They put themselves at a bit of a disadvantage getting some personal fouls that allowed them that one score. But we have a good defense, and I hope people start talking about them a little bit more.”
Robinson scored the Indians’ only touchdown of the game. He also had 55 yards rushing.
Hembrough led the Huskies with 109 rushing yards on only nine carries. Phomboutdy added 94 rushing yards, and Fambro caught three passes for 51 yards.
Hononegah did outscore the Huskies 7-0 in the second half. But despite shutting out the Huskies in the second half, the Harlem offense moved the ball effectively enough to keep the game out of reach.
“We get a couple of third-down stops, and it’s a different ball game,” Sughroue said. “They converted some big third downs. They are an explosive team. I said we had to tackle well, and we didn’t tackle well, and that was a big part of it.”
In other NIC-10 action:
υ Belvidere moved to 3-2 in conference play with a 48-35 victory over Freeport (1-4). Marcus Gooden had a masterful game for the Bucs, rushing for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
υ Boylan (5-0) stayed in first place, shutting out Jefferson (1-4) in a 48-0 victory. Michael Moorman was 12-17 passing for 89 yards and two touchdowns, while Paul Barmore ran for 79 yards and a touchdown.
υ Tim Hill ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries to lead Guilford (3-2) to a 41-17 victory over Auburn. The Knights (0-5) did get 182 rushing yards from Bruce Whitaker in a losing effort.
υ Belvidere North (2-3) topped East (2-3) by a final of 35-18. Zackery Stinson plowed through the E-Rabs defense for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
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From the September 30 – October 6, 2009 issue