After a 2-8 season in 2012 in which it lost three games by a touchdown or less, Harlem put together a 7-3 campaign a year ago.
The Bulldogs enter this season with challenges ahead of them, especially the departure of most of that 2013 squad.
“We’re real young. We lost 17 seniors,” head coach Jimmie Lewis said. “We’ve got a few good
kids coming back that have got some experience. We’ve got some young kids that have got to fill some big shoes.”
Another obstacle for Lewis is the revamping of Region 3-AA.
“It’s a murderous region now,” Lewis said. “Jefferson County’s coming in with 160 players, you’ve got Swainsboro, Metter, Dublin, East Laurens, Screven. So it’s a tough region. We’re going to have to take it one week at a time and prepare and do the best we can do.”
Lewis has experience at some key positions. Senior running back Austin Burt returns after a first team all-region and first team all-county season in which he rushed for 1,186 yards and nine touchdowns on 211 carries.
Unity is the concept he thinks will make the season a successful one.
“We’re a team, I don’t focus on me,” Burt said. “It’s all about the team. Going out there as brothers, not one person. We’re all out there together.”
Lewis is concerned about blocking for Burt and senior quarterback Hunter Rippe as senior Alex Kamara is the only experienced offensive lineman he has coming back.
“He’ll (Kamara) be the leader on the line and when we run the football it’s going to be behind him,” Lewis said.
“He’s got a big frame – about 275 pounds and he can move people out of the way. I just hope he gets a little help.”
The Bulldogs open the season at home vs. Greenbrier on Aug. 22 and Grovetown on Aug. 29.
“The impetus: money,” said Lewis of picking up the two Columbia County schools. “Two good money gates and if you’re going to play somebody who’s a bigger school, you might as well make some money doing it.”