Hononegah football rides defense to season-opening win over rival Harlem

Jay Taft
Rockford Register Star
Harlem's Anthanee Crawford tries to break free of Hononegah defensive lineman Aidan Peters during Hononegah's 14-6 season-opening win Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, in Rockton.

ROCKTON — This time, it was Hononegah's defense that provided the difference-making plays in a 14-6 win over NIC-10 rival Harlem in Friday night's season opener.

In the first game in four years for Harlem without its record-setting quarterback James Cooper Jr., Hononegah held the Huskies to 148 total offensive yards. Harlem's new QB, junior Austin Redmon, was 9-for-32 for 94 yards with a second-half touchdown pass and one late interception. And he was consistently pressured by Hononegah's defensive line, including 6-foot, 230-pound Alex Escamilla.

"We just felt so prepared and were clicking right from the start tonight," Escamilla said after a pair of tackle for losses, and six QB pressures. "I think we got under their skin, and they started getting upset and stuff... It's an amazing feeling to start off like this."

Harlem's Anthanee Crawford is tackled by Hononegah's Dylan Seymour in the first quarter of their game on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, at Hononegah High School in Rockton.

The last two meetings between the largest and most northern schools in the league came down to the wire in a 33-30 win for Hononegah in 2019 and a 26-24 victory for Harlem last spring. Cooper Jr. threw for over 300 yards in each of those contests.

Despite a dominant first-half performance by Hononegah — in which the defense gave up 38 yards and just three first downs — and a 14-0 score to start the fourth, Redmon's 60-yard TD pass to Adrian Palos with 4:27 left to play forced this one down the wire as well.

"We had our chances all night, but we just kept making little mistakes that hurt us," Redmon said. "They were blitzing us all night, and coming at me from everywhere... I have to be better."

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Hononegah running backs Stuart Hale (18 rushes for 53 yards) and Bryce Goodwine (7-32) each had touchdown runs, and they were able to help the hosts chew up the clock at the end to seal the deal. Hononegah QB Isaac Whisenand went 9-for-21 for 128 yards in the win as well.

"I'll take a win like this against a team like that any day of the week," Hononegah head coach Brian Zimmerman said. "It doesn't matter by how many points or how many points are scored, just a win against these guys is nice."

Jay Taft: jtaft@rrstar.com; @JayTaft