Jimmie Lewis will sometimes be doing laundry after a Harlem football game and marvel at how sweaty the team's uniforms are.
"They're the nastiest, dirtiest things you've ever seen," the Bulldogs coach said. "It's unreal."
The Bulldogs have had to labor a bit harder than most this season, because Lewis plays only about 15 players each game. Hard work and the ability of senior quarterback Zach Morris to run the team's offense gave the Bulldogs their first win last week, and they hope to finish the year strong beginning Friday with a game at Region 3-AAAA leader Hephzibah.
Morris is the catalyst for Harlem's triple-option offense, which has allowed it to remain competitive even though the Bulldogs are undoubtedly the smallest Class AAAA team in the state.
"We're a (Class AAAA) school with private-school numbers," said Lewis, in his 18th season coaching Harlem football. "But I'll tell you one thing, this is the best crowd I've coached in my career. I couldn't ask for much more. It's lots of fun coaching this crowd."
Harlem and Morris work on the option for at least 30 minutes every practice. Lewis said the offense obscures the disadvantages when his team faces a larger opponent that can shuffle fresh lineman in and out of the game.
"We get to block at angles and double-team instead of head-on," Lewis said.
Morris, in his second year starting at quarterback, is the only regular who does not play both ways, Lewis said. He will line up in the defensive backfield only on obvious passing downs. Opposing coaches have praised Morris for his ability to run tough even though he weighs only 160 pounds.
"We have to be careful," Lewis said. "If he goes down, we're through."
Lewis didn't know much about his team before the season other than Morris would take the snap from center and make a quick decision. With the opening of nearby Grovetown, Harlem (1-5) returned only three starters. It looked like a formula for disaster facing much larger schools, but Harlem could record the same record as last season if it wins three of its final four games. Harlem's last three opponents after Hephzibah are a combined 3-14.
Morris has rushed for 584 yards through six games, second in Region 3-AAAA to Evans senior Jonathan Finch among those teams playing a region schedule. His improvisational 55-yard run against Cross Creek last Friday on a play designed for him to pass was the key score in his team's 19-8 win. Morris said he realizes the competition picks up this week, but is confident the Bulldogs will play hard enough to make their coach pinch his nose while doing laundry.
"We're running ... trying to keep everybody in shape," Morris said. "To stay in the game (against Hephzibah), we're going to have to play our hearts out the whole time."