HARLEM — Coach Cameron Davis believed his team would have a good season entering this year. So far, he’s proven to be right.
On Wednesday night, the boys team pulled off a first. The Bulldogs defeated Jefferson County in a shootout to close out the regular season with a perfect 17-0 record.
The Harlem girls and boys each won the Region 4-AA title – the first time both teams have won region in the same year. The Lady Bulldogs (16-1-1) play host to Swainsboro in the first round of the state tournament at 7 tonight. The Harlem boys play host to Vidalia in the first round at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
“It’s tough to go through an entire regular season undefeated,” said Davis, whose team is looking to make a deep postseason run after falling in the first round last year. “We were expecting to come in and have a good season, but it’s been above all expectations.”
The Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 in the state per MaxPreps. One reason? Their record. The other reason? Goal differential. Harlem has outscored its opponents, 85 to 4, this season. The Bulldogs have allowed just one goal since February.
The team defense came up big in Harlem’s 1-0 win over Glenn Hills last Tuesday. The following night, goalie Garrett Lane recorded three saves in a 6-5 shootout win against Jefferson County to help the Bulldogs remain undefeated. Lane has posted 62 saves and allowed just one goal in 15 contests.
“That’s what we’ve built our success on this year,” Davis said. “We’ve got a really good group of solid defenders. Even though some games we’ve scored a lot of goals, it’s all been built on a good defense. You’re going to do well if you’ve got a good defense.”
The victory over the Warriors bookended the regular season. Harlem opened the season with a shootout victory at Jefferson County.
“It kind of meant a lot, because it started us off on the right direction,” senior Dylan Spivey said. “It gave us a full head of steam and confidence going into the season.”
Spivey leads the team with 23 goals, while Jonah Hatcher has recorded 14 and Logan Phillips 13. Spivey and Phillips each have recorded 11 assists, while Jeremy Glidewell has added 10.
Senior Jake Phillips said team chemistry has been the biggest thing for Harlem this season. Almost all the players played last summer for the Harlem United club team and those players experienced losing to better teams. Those defeats have translated into player improvement as well as an attitude built around defense.
“We always say our will to not lose is greater than our will to win,” Phillips said. “We’re trying to keep goals out of the back of the net.”