Bears, Dragons to close regular season
Another week, another coaching legend on the opposite sideline for the Harlan County Black Bears.
Harlan County (4-5 overall, 3-1 district) closed its district schedule last week at home with a 38-14 win over Perry Central, led by former HCHS coach Tom Larkey, who ranks among the all-time state leaders in wins. The Bears face another tough test Friday at Log Mountain against Bell County and coach Dudley Hilton, who was at the top of the list for victories when he left Bell several years ago to coach at the University of Pikeville. Hilton is back at Bell and has helped the Bobcats improve from 4-8 a year ago to 6-3 heading into the regular-season finale.
“Anytime you bring a coach that has three state titles, plus they’ve named everything up on that hill after him, it has to be a factor, ” Harlan County coach Eddie Creech said. “They’ve scored 40 or more points in five of their games. He’s really brought the tradition and got those guys going. They are playing hard and are back to smash-mouth football.”
“Things had been let go for two or three years and our kids didn’t have a lot of experience,” Hilton said. “Our juniors and seniors didn’t play when they were freshmen and sophomores. We’re playing a bunch of freshmen and sophomores now, so when they get to be juniors and seniord they will at least have one or two years under their belts. We’re lacking experience. We’re a good looking team, but we’re lacking experience.”
Colby Frazier, a sophomore, has led the Bell ground attack with 1,375 yards and 26 touchdowns through the first eight games. Jordan Wombles is second with 336 yards rushing.
Isaac Collett has completed 42 of 83 passes for 618 yards, with six touchdowns and three interceptions. Jason Jones is the leader in receptions with 21 for 342 yards.
Antonio Zachary leads the Bell defense with 70 tackles. Kyle Burnett is second with 67.
“We better go up there and straight our chin straps on pretty tight. They are a physical football team,” Creech said. “They will run right at us and try to outphysical us on both sides of the line of scrimmage. We’re looking for an absolute war up there Friday.”
Harlan County also features a strong ground game with seniors Tyrese Simmons and Quintin Mickens each above 500 yards rushing on the season. Junior quarterback Colby Cochran has also played well, passing for over 600 yards since taking over as the starter.
“(Creech) does a great job. He’s got a good offensive mind,” Hilton said. “He does a lot of formations and has had this bunch three years. All the playmakers are seniors, and they know what’s going on. Our kids still don’t know what’s going on.
“I know they lost a few early when they were beat up a little bit. The wolves came out a little, but they shouldn’t because when you lose people like they did you lose a lot of weapons. I knew they had a good team, and I think they will make some noise in the playoffs.”
Bell has had trouble stopping the run for much of the season and has given up at least 20 points in seven games.
“We’ve got to execute our running game. If we don’t get the running game going early then we’ve not had a lot of success this year,” Creech said.
“We just don’t have any experience (on defense),” Hilton said. “We lost our best corner to a school in Knoxville and lost our best linebacker the first game to a shoulder injury. We’re trying to play two or three freshmen on defense and it’s hard to do that.”
Linebackers Garry Henson and Caleb Carmical have led the HCHS defense, recording 95 and 88 tackles, respectively, through the first eight games.
Creech said a win Friday would provide a momentum boost going into next week’s first-round playoff game at Pulaski County.
“We wish we had more wins, but if we do get a win Friday it would be the first time since 2013 that this program has won at least five,” Creech said. “Our kids are fired up to go up there to Log Mountain.”
Harlan (3-6 overall, 1-2 district) will also close its regular-season schedule against a non-district opponent, playing host to South Laurel on Friday.
The Green Dragons rallied for a 35-28 win last week at Pineville to secure third place in District 7 of Class A and pick up some much needed momentum after a tough loss the previous week at Lynn Camp.
“We went in at halftime with the attitude we could win this game,” Harlan coach John Luttrell said. “We fought hard. Our kids played extremely hard. It was a good win and it was packed on both sides. It was a great atmosphere.”
The Dragons will face a tough test against the only 5A opponent on their schedule. South Laurel (5-4 overall, 1-2 district) also claimed third place in its district with a win last week over Lincoln County.
South Laurel features a balanced offense led by quarterback Adrian Fultz, who has completed 100 of 206 passes for 1,790 yards and 18 touchdowns and is second on the team in rushing with 450 yards and 12 touchdowns. Will Lenoir leads the South ground attack with 619 yards rushing. Matthew Dalton has 36 catches for 671 yards and Logan Madden has 23 receptions for 462 yards.
“(Fultz) is probably their best athlete,” Luttrell said. “He does a good job with what they do. They get in spread and go with the run-pass option. They’ve put a lot of points on the board this year. They really held their own against Pulaski County and Pulaski Southwestern. Their defense is pretty stout and they will have plenty of depth as a 5A school.”
Jacob Christensen and Ace Allen lead the South defense with 89 and 81 tackles, respectively.
John Brady Brock has taken over as the Dragons’ primary ball carrier with 655 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Senior Kendal Brock, slowed by a knee injury, is second with 308 yards. Junior quarterback Kilian Ledford has completed 34 of 79 passes for 472 yards. Ledford also leads the defense with 84 tackles. Freshmen Braydon Shanks and Ethan Clem are tied for second with 51 tackles each.