HARLEM — The losses were frequent and questions were asked.
Harlem football coach Jimmie Lewis even did some of the questioning himself. As head coach from 1983-1986 and 1996 to the present, he understood people might have wanted changes as the Bulldogs went through another losing season in 2012.
“I get that every year,” Lewis said. “In fact, I tell myself that every year. I tell myself, ‘What are you doing?’ But I’m going to tell you, there ain’t nothing like Friday nights.”
This year’s team has spent its first two Friday nights winning games, beating Georgia Military and Oglethorpe County by a combined 49-14. For the first time since 1981, the Bulldogs are 2-0.
Perhaps even more impressive, Harlem isn’t even a year removed from its 13-game losing streak that started in 2011 and continued through the first three games of 2012.
Harlem beat Social Circle to halt the skid and wound up 2-8. Three of those losses were by six points or less, with turnovers the culprit.
But with a veteran team led by 17 seniors, the Bulldogs have turned a corner. The defense is strong, and the offense is simple.
“We went from a fumble offense to the I-formation,” Lewis quipped.
Harlem hasn’t won more than four games in a season since 2005, but the Bulldogs could be 4-0 heading into region play if they do what they expect to do against Glascock County and Social Circle.
Right now, Harlem just wants to keep doing what it has been doing.
“We’ll just continue to play like we have been playing, and we’ll keep winning,” senior defensive back/wide receiver Mason McDaniel said. “And if we keep winning, do not get a big head.”
At the very least, Lewis, who gives credit to his staff, has seen players who have taken hits early in their careers now getting wins.
“It feels a whole lot better than freshman year,” senior Hunter Maddix said.
With the offense picking up yards and not turning the ball over, and the defense forcing turnovers, Harlem’s struggles are in the past.
“They’ve been here for a while now,” Lewis said about the seniors. “They’ve gone through the hard knocks right along with me. But they haven’t faltered. It just tickles me to see them win and see their faces. That means all in the world to me.”