Carmel ran over Harlem from the opening minutes — Rondel Jamison had 110 yards on his first three carries — to the last Saturday. Yet the Huskies stayed in the game until Sharief Bailey turned them back with two second-half takeaways.
Carmel (7-3) ran for 474 yards, but needed those two turnovers and Michael Huiras’ only pass completion to beat Harlem 42-28 in the first round of the Class 7A football playoffs.
Carmel coach Andy Bitto called Huiras’ 20-yard TD pass to Joe Hoy on third-and-9 — which gave the Corsairs the lead for good at 21-14 — the play of the game.
“Ironically, that was the play that helped us the most,” Bitto said.
The Corsairs ran 48 times and threw only two passes.
Harlem (7-3) pointed to Bailey’s end zone interception on third-and-inches from the 16 when the Huskies were trying to tie it late in the third quarter.
“Sharief is a point guard on the basketball team,” Bitto said. “He’s really athletic and has got great ball skills. He could be a receiver himself.”
That play — where Bailey outjumped Malik Lightfoot (100 yards on five catches) — a failed fourth-and-5 double-reverse on the next drive that led to a Huiras 34-yard TD run on the next play and Bailey’s fumble recovery just past midfield on the next Harlem drive sealed the Huskies’ fate.
“Malik can usually come down with those,” Harlem coach Jim Morrow said. “I was thinking the worst-case scenario would be an incomplete pass and we could come back and get those inches. Maybe I didn’t exercise the best patience at times.”
Harlem converted five of six fourth downs, including attempts at its own 22- and 33-yard lines to begin the second half. But the one failure on the double-reverse try will probably be remembered most.
“I don’t know if we had momentum, but we were trying to build some,” Morrow said.
Morrow said the Huskies needed to be aggressive because they could never stop Carmel’s run game. Jamison had 229 yards on 25 carries and Huiras had 136 yards on only 10 runs.
“Rondel is a big star,” Huiras said.
Even though he’s only 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds.
“He’s a threat,” Bitto said. “He slips through. You can’t even see him half the time.”
And when Harlem watched Jamison, Huiras slipped through.
“That’s what happens when the defense keys on him; other backs get the ball,” Huiras said. “All credit goes to the guys up front. Our offensive line is one of the best in the state. They push every down, just work their butts off and make huge holes for everybody.”
The playoff win was big for the Corsairs, who had made the playoffs 12 years in a row under Bitto before missing the previous two years.
“Winning is a fragile thing,” Bitto said. “Getting on a roll again is just a tremendous thing for our program.”
The 10th-seeded Corsairs advance to play No. 15 seed Fenwick (6-4), which upset No. 2 Highland Park 17-10 Saturday.