HARLEM — Off to its best start since 1981, the Harlem football team brought out the red rally towels, a “WE ARE CHAMPIONS” banner and a hyped crowd for its region opener.
But it turns out the Bulldogs aren’t there quite yet. They’re closer, however.
Harlem lost for the first time this season on Friday, falling at home to Screven County 35-13 in the Region 3-AA opener. The Gamecocks scored 28 consecutive points to pull away a year after they beat the Bulldogs by 41.
Screven County, the defending region champion, has now won two games in a
“We almost put together a complete game,” Gamecocks coach Ron Duncan said. “We’ve got a young team, but we’re getting there.”
Harlem led on a 55-yard touchdown pass from Hunter Rippe to Dalton Green, but the Gamecocks’ defense got tough and Kenton Foy changed the game.
With the Gamecocks (3-2 overall) forcing a punting situation down 7-0, they got pressure on Harlem’s punter to get a block. Foy then picked up the ball and easily ran in the short touchdown.
Not much later, Foy stepped up on defense, intercepting a pass that gave the Gamecocks the ball at the Bulldogs’ 23.
In the first half, Screven County took a short field and finished the job. The Gamecocks did just that for a third time when the defense stuffed Harlem on fourth-and-short inside the Bulldogs’ 15. Tavarious Johnson ended the possession with the first of his two rushing scores about a minute later.
After allowing a third touchdown, Harlem (4-1) had to walk back onto the field down 14 but ahead in the yard battle – it had outgained the Gamecocks 96-91 to that point.
Up 21-7 at the half, Screven County later added two more touchdowns as Harlem never got closer than 28-13 in the second half. The Bulldogs picked up their second touchdown after the defense forced a turnover.
For most of the game, both teams preferred to go on the ground, with Johnson getting 57 second-half rushing yards. He was the Gamecocks’ leading rusher, while Rashad Hughley added 42 and Jimmie Robinson contributed 33.
From the other side, Harlem’s Austin Burt was the busiest rusher, getting 86 yards on 26 attempts, with 17 of those carries coming in the first two quarters.
But Foy’s game-changing plays in the first half were the difference.
“He does a great job,” Duncan said. “He always does what he’s supposed to do.”