Before the season began, John Bowen knew well what his Hephzibah squad and his favorite NFL team had in common.
Like the Atlanta Falcons, the Rebels never had posted consecutive winning seasons. Until Friday night.
Hephzibah scratched another item off its to-do list with its 53-7 homecoming win over Harlem.
The Rebels are off to the best start in school history at 6-1. They also remained atop the Region 3-AAAA standings at 6-0.
"Now we're just going to try to secure a second consecutive playoff berth," Bowen said. "We're just trying to establish that winning culture."
With its key region matchup with Evans a week away, Hephzibah showed no signs of looking ahead. The Rebels scored on three of their first four drives to and led 27-0 at halftime.
"It shows we're playing our hearts out," Hephzibah senior defensive tackle Kwame Collins said.
Hephzibah senior running back Antoine Nabors scored on runs of 5 and 45 yards in the first half. After Harlem pulled within 20 early in the third quarter, Nabors picked up a one-hop kickoff at the 15 and rumbled 85 yards for a touchdown.
Rebels senior wide receiver Gary Robinson hauled in three passes for 107 yards and two TDs. Sophomore quarterback Terry Robinson, Gary's younger brother, tossed touchdown passes of 30 and 38 yards and finished 4 for 9 passing for 113 yards.
"It's wonderful having guys like that on field," Rebels senior safety/tight end Chris Owens said. "We expect big plays from them."
Harlem (1-6, 1-5) couldn't keep its momentum going after last week's win over Cross Creek. The Bulldogs managed just 20 rushing yards in the first half.
Hephzibah's defense held Harlem to 173 total yards of offense. Bulldogs quarterback Zach Morris carried 18 times for 66 of his team's 126 rushing yards.
"We gave great effort," said Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis, whose team had only 16 players. "They go hard every game. I can't ask for no more."
Harlem faced bad field position most of the evening. Hephzibah kicker Dustin Deckert booted eight of nine kickoffs into the end zone, forcing Harlem to start from its own 20.
The Bulldogs' lone score came after they recovered an onside kick to start the second half. A 29-yard run on third down by Morris set up Tyler James' 6-yard scoring run one play later.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HEPHZIBAH 53, HARLEM 7
PLAY OF THE GAME: Hephzibah quarterback Terry Robinson found his older brother, Gary , in the back of the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown pass to stake the Rebels to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Antoine Nabors . The senior running back rushed for a pair of scores and returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
WHY HEPHZIBAH WON: Firepower. The Rebels scored on the ground and through the air and had superior special teams.
WHY HARLEM LOST: Depth. The Bulldogs have some quality players on both sides of the ball, but just not enough of them. Harlem features just 16 players on Friday nights.
WHAT'S NEXT: Butler at Harlem, 7:30 p.m., Friday. Hephzibah plays host to Evans, 7:30 p.m., Friday.