ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — One NIC-10 school will end a long conference championship drought in football Friday night when Harlem takes on East in the NIC-10 Championship game.
The E-Rabs players are all about the present, but they know about the past and how long it’s been since East has won the conference.
“It’s been since 1978 since we’ve been conference champions, so we’re just trying to take it all the way honestly,” said East senior running back Shamar Lewis.
East head coach Gary Griffin was in elementary school in 1978.
“I was nine. Nine years old, so what third or fourth grade? Third grade?
That puts it in perspective. When this season began five weeks ago the E-Rabs didn’t exactly look like championship material. They were dominated by Boylan 40-0, but they learned a lot from that game.
“After week one we knew we had to make a ton of changes, so we started making those changes right away,” said Griffin.
Griffin shifted some people around. He re-worked his offensive line and since then Griffin’s run, run, run the ball attack has worked like a dream. The E-Rabs have outscored their last four opponents 220-20. The E-Rabs have the conference’s two leading rushers in senior C.J. Berry and freshman Javius Catlin, and they have three more backs who have also been productive including Lewis, Kingston Haugabook and speedy freshman Deterrace Dotson.
“I think our style is the best,” said Lewis. “C.J. punches it up and I’ll punch it in for the two-point conversion or Javius Catlin, he’s the second leading rusher in the NIC-10.”
“What we do is eat the clock up, run the ball,” said Griffin. “We want to beat you 6-0. We know that ain’t going to happen on Friday night ha-ha because they’re (Harlem) going to throw it all over the place.”
As Griffin likes to say the E-Rabs will show up and compete and see what happens. The E-Rabs believe in each other.
“Those are my guys,” said senior lineman Zander Guttridge. “We’re ready. We’re ready to go out there and win conference. We’re out here to just to prove people wrong that we can do it you know.”
Friday’s game will be played at Swanson Stadium at 7 p.m. Thursday evening I’ll bring you Harlem’s perspective on the game.