HARLEM — Once Harlem kept the ball from hitting the ground, the rout was on.
The Bulldogs had issues on a few option plays early, but those mistakes only delayed the ground game’s explosion as Harlem dominated in a 35-8 home win Thursday night against Josey.
The fumbling problems were quickly forgotten once Austin Burt and the rest of the Harlem rushers sped and juked by defenders for four second-quarter touchdowns.
“We blocked well and we ran the football well,” Bulldogs coach Jimmie Lewis said. “If we eliminate (the mistakes), we’re not a bad football team.”
The Bulldogs (2-6 overall, 1-3 Region 3-AA) rushed for 274 yards, but Burt was particularly tough to bring to the ground, as the back bested would-be tacklers and, on one big run, found the sideline and turned up the speed for a 58-yard sprint late in the second quarter.
Burt, Dontel Frails and quarterback Trey Price combined to score those four touchdowns in a huge 28-point second quarter that had all of the first-half points. Price scored Harlem’s other touchdown in the third quarter to make it 35-0.
But while Harlem’s offense hummed on the ground, Josey’s got halted whenever the Eagles (1-6, 0-3) threatened.
Josey, which has scored only 20 points total in its past four games, had the ball on Harlem’s side of the field on four different possessions in the first half but couldn’t cash in, even when a Harlem fumble gave it the ball at the 13.
Vontrez Andrews paced the Eagles’ rushing attack in the first half, but two costly interceptions – including one made by Harlem lineman Jalen Ramsey – and a partially blocked punt kept the gap large.
Mason McDaniel’s first of his two interceptions in the game stopped Josey when it was most desperate to score in the first half. After the Eagles had two solid plays to get inside the Harlem 20, McDaniel came down with the ball on the final play of the second quarter.
Harlem finished with five forced turnovers and didn’t give up a point until Josey’s Darius Williams found Bart Corley with less than a minute to play in the game.
“We hope this gives us confidence,” said Lewis, whose team visits Dublin next week. “We’ll do the best we can.”