Speed and talent should make this an explosive season for Harlem


MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — There is excitement all over the Stateline about the upcoming high school football season. No where perhaps is the anticipation greater than it is at Harlem. There is excitement all over the Stateline about the upcoming high school football season. No where perhaps is the anticipation greater than it is at Harlem.

When new coaches step into a program they usually find the cupboard is somewhat bare in terms of talent. It’s just the opposite at Harlem with new head coach Bob Moynihan. He has some big-time talent.

“The boys have worked very hard this summer,” said Moynihan. “They’ve showed it. They went to the Southern Illinois seven-on-seven and they won that and also won the ISU. We went out to Loyola and played them. We played Maine South.”

The Huskies wanted to be challenged over the summer…all the better to prepare them for what they might face in the playoffs this fall, and they do expect to be in the playoffs and make some noise unlike in previous years when playoff success has been rare. No one knows that better than senior defensive back-receiver Jalon Benson does.

“Every year I’ve been on varsity, I’ve been on it since freshman year, we’ve always come up short. We’ve always come up first round you know. We always get like one maybe bad loss during the NIC-10 Conference. I’m ready to go past the first round. I’m ready to do more, better things.”

Benson might be the most talented all-round player in the conference with his playmaking ability on offense, defense and special teams.

James Cooper at quarterback is a Division One prospect, and he’s a perfect fit for Moynihan’s college spread-style offense.

“He’s got such an incredible release,” said Moynihan. “It’s nice to coach a young man with that type of release and that type of moxie.”

And Cooper will have lots of talented receivers to target.

“We literally have eight extremely good receivers,” said Moynihan.

Benson is one of them. Another one is another Division One prospect Dominic McCarren. He was the best tight end in the NIC-10 last season, but he has slimmed down from 230 pounds to 183 pounds to move to wide receiver where he’s more likely to play in college.

“If you look at the tight ends going into college today they’re going to be 6’5 or 6’6. Dom’s not 6’5 or 6’6,” said Moynihan explaining the switch which both he and McCarren were in favor of. But McCarren does have good size and length for a wide receiver at 6’3 and 4.57 speed to go with it.

“Throughout the seven-on-sevens all summer and the colleges that we went to everyone of them wanted to talk to him because of his catch radius. It’s incredible!,” said Moynihan.

The Huskies also have Brandt Hixon and Austin Casteel among others at reciever to give defenses headaches. Logan Johnson, Omarion McFadden and Adrian Palos give the Huskies three tailbacks who would be the envy of most teams.

“I really think the real question is is there enough corners to stop our weapons?” said H-back Tristen Shackelford. “I really don’t think there is. There’s just no possible way they can game plan for each and every one of our weapons on offense.”

The defense doesn’t have much size, but there’s speed aplenty on that side just like on offense.

“We’re going to be fast,” said Moynihan. “We moved second-string linebackers to defensive linemen and they’re aggressive and they’re fast.”

Benson at cornerback and Palos and Tristen Shackleford at linebacker will be some of the key players on defense.

Aggressive seems to be the best word to apply to Moynihan’s coaching style.

“I am a defensive coach, but I really like to score. I like to play fastbreak football. So aggressive, yes that’s what I am.”

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