MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — The Harlem Huskies made the deepest playoff run in school history last season, reaching the state quarterfinals. This could be another historic football season for the dogs with the talent they’ll put on the field.
On paper and on the practice field this is an impressive bunch, starting with perhaps the most dangerous playmaker in the NIC-10 junior Jahmani Muhammad. He led the conference in rushing as a sophomore with almost 1600 yards. He also led the conference in breathtaking kick returns.
“Jahmani can handle whatever we put on Jahmani,” said Harlem head coach Bob Moynihan. “Jahmani is a unique individual who, he’s built for success, and that what he is. He’s that guy.”
“This year, I’m definitely more confident,” said Muhammad. I have more experience on the varsity level. Just being around guys. Last year learning from them. Just going out there and playing football this year, so I’m just ready.”
Senior Derek Anderson is the Huskies’ starting quarterback. He made two starts last season when an injury to Austin Redmon opened the door for him to play. The Huskies won both of those games. Anderson’s progress has been sped up by the addition of new assistant coach Jake Arnold. Last year at Jefferson, Arnold helped turn Sebastian Bracius into a prolific passer.
“He’s been helping me tremendously with everything, and he knows what he’s talking about,” said Anderson of Arnold. “He knows the game. He knows coverages, so I feel like I have a better grasp on the game of football IQ-wise because of him.”
The size of the receivers on this team would make most basketball teams envious. There’s 6’10 Damian Atherton, 6’5 Jordan Vyborny, 6’3 Chandler Jacks and perhaps the most gifted receiver of all Drake Ferguson. He’s the short guy of the bunch at 6’2.
As good as the Huskies’ potential is on offense, it’s probably greater on defense. This could well be the fastest defense in Harlem history.
“We don’t have anyone over a 4.9. I’ll leave it at that,” said Moynihan. “They’re fast.”
Even our defensive linemen go 4.7, 4.6, 4.7.”
Isaac Johnson is one of those defensive linemen. He had 74 tackles and 16 tackles for loss last year. He predicts more of the same this year.
“I guarantee you we’re not going to allow the quarterback to have any time to be comfortable. We’ll lead the conference in sacks, and I guarantee we’ll lead the conference in TFLs.”
Behind that line will be a linebacker bunch that brings even more speed and size. Starting with 6’3 230 pound inside backer Tim Wessels.
Lining up on one side of him will be Joe Holloway. He sat out last season after transferring from Rockford East where he was a big, strong defensive lineman. Now Holloway has transformed his body into that of a faster, leaner edge rushing outside backer.
Sitting out a year has Holloway eager to get on the field.
“It definitely fuels the tank for sure. Like I said at first, it’s a lot to prove. Hey, this season is going to speak for itself.”
“I think this team is probably the most explosive I’ve seen, and the linebackers are the fastest I’ve seen,” said Wessels. “We’re going to be flying around.”
“Every year we’ve been getting further and further in the playoffs, and we’re just going to bring it to the next level, so everyone thinks that we can. We know we can.”
NOTE: Harlem has already made school history this season with a record number of more than 200 players in their program according to Moynihan.