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Class 7A playoff preview: Carmel at Harlem

Seventh-seeded Harlem (7-2) plays host to 10th-seeded Carmel (6-3) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs. Here’s what you should look forward to this weekend:

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Carmel

Rondel Jamison, running back, soph. — Don’t let his youth fool you. Jamison scored 17 touchdowns this season, with 15 rushing and two receiving. He has three TD runs in each of his past two games. Jamison racked up 186 rushing yards in Week 8 and 154 more in Week 9. Both were victories.

Michael Huiras, quarterback, sr. — What Huiras (5-foot-8, 151 pounds) lacks in size, he makes up for with heart and performance. Opposing defenses have been forced to stack eight in the box at times while keying on Jamison, which allowed the agile Huiras to run for 102 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame last Friday.

Harlem

Malik Lightfoot, wide receiver/defensive back, sr. — He’s one of two Huskies who are two-way starters. In a Week 9 win over Guilford, Lightfoot (570 receiving yards in 2014) caught a 15-yard TD pass, and also had a 49-yard interception return for a score.

Trent Willey, quarterback, soph. — Despite Willey’s youth, Harlem hasn’t been afraid to let him throw. He’s 82-for-140 for 1,099 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He also likes to run (82 carries, 298 yards), though he’s not usually a threat to rip off a huge gain. Look for him to be directly involved in roughly half the team’s plays on offense.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

When Carmel runs the ball…

The Corsairs don’t hide what they’re throwing at opposing teams, which is a balanced triple-option rushing attack. In addition to Huiras and Jamison, who is more of a speedy, powerful back, senior Joe Hoy and junior Zavier Barnes have the ability to produce big yardage. Their success will depend on the offensive line, which is anchored by Division I prospects Adam Stull (6-4, 272) and Sean Foster (6-8, 270). Their size could be a factor.

When Harlem runs the ball…

Harlem averages almost exactly 200 yards per game on the ground, and it has done so in balanced fashion. Senior Raymond Lee (109 carries, 722 yards, 8 TDs) is the Huskies’ workhorse, averaging 6.6 yards per run. He’s fresh off a 12-carry, 114-yard performance in Week 9, and had a 193-yard, four-TD game against Boylan in Week 3. Senior Nathan Woosley, junior Cody Paholski and sophomore Brenton Shaw also are threats out of the backfield.

When the going gets tough…

Harlem, the biggest school in the NIC-10, manhandled teams that finished below them in the conference standings. The average margin of victory in the Huskies’ seven wins was a whopping 20.3 points. But their two losses were huge. They fell to Belvidere North, 48-22, and Hononegah, 49-14. Those two teams finished above Harlem in conference play. Carmel faced a grueling ESCC schedule that included wins over St. Patrick, St. Viator, and a three-point loss at Benet. Harlem is 5-0 at home, but Carmel averaged 30.7 points per game in ESCC play — no easy task.