Unbeaten Harvard football team tough when it counts

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One crucial factor in Harvard’s perfect football season has been its ability to perform under pressure.

Three of the Hornets’ games have been decided by one score, and each time they delivered in the clutch.

“We’ve been through a lot of situations as a team and come out on top,” wide receiver-defensive back Justin Nolen said. “You can go back to it and know what you did in the past. It helps a lot.”

Harvard would prefer to win comfortably at Genoa-Kingston in their 7 p.m. game Friday, but the Big Northern Conference East Division co-leaders look evenly matched, so there is a good chance it will be tight.

“It’s just a group that’s very unselfish,” Harvard coach Tim Haak said. “That’s the tradition of our program: Do whatever it takes to be successful. It’s a close group, and they care about each other a lot on and off the field.”

Harvard is trying to win its first BNC East title since 2007 and can clinch a share by beating G-K. The Hornets also have a chance for an unbeaten regular season for the first time since 1988.

“Our big focus is winning the division, week by week, and clinch a home playoff game,” quarterback Peyton Schneider said. “Nine-and-oh would be special. G-K is looking pretty good, and we’re fighting for the [division] in a really key game.”

Harvard, which started only five seniors last year, beat Oregon, 20-14, Burlington

Central, 17-13, and North Boone, 20-14, this season. The Hornets had a breather with a 48-0 victory over Rockford Christian on Friday but now face the other two best teams in the BNC East with G-K on Friday and Richmond-Burton next week.

“This group has just developed their talents and worked hard in the weightroom,” Haak said. “We won four of our last five games [last season] and had most of our kids returning. My expectations don’t matter as much as theirs. They had high expectations.”

Winning the BNC East was near the top of the Hornets’ preseason list of goals, Nolen said.

“Last year, missing the playoffs was really disappointing,” Nolen said. “We wanted to get that and win the division. It’s huge if we can do that. We’ve been trying for a long time, and this would go out to all the guys before us for the work they put in, too.”

Haak likes that his team has continued to get better.

“We’ve had to do a lot of things well [to be 7-0],” he said. “The consistency is what we’ve done best to this point, consistently improving. We’ve added some depth after having some injuries and having other guys step in and do well.”

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