South Laurel overpowers Dragons

South Laurel rolled into the playoffs with a confidence-building 55-18 blowout win Friday at Harlan, scoring on all seven of its possessions in the first half with a big-play offense that featured six Cardinals reaching the end zone.

“We’re just faster,” said South Laurel coach Donnie Burdine. “We weren’t able to move them up front, so we just ran around them.”

“They have a lot of athletes and we’re down on bodies,” said Harlan coach John Luttrell, whose Dragons had 23 in uniform with several key players injured, including receivers Caleb Adkins and Will Varner. “They would jet one side or jet the other side, and we couldn’t keep up. Because of that we got winded. We never could recover.”

Despite his team’s success moving the ball, Burdine wasn’t always happy with the Cardinals’ intensity.

“I thought we came in with a lack of discipline and focus in the first quarter and they punched us right in the mouth,” he said. “That’s a good little football team and they come with everything they’ve got. If my guys played that hard they would be tough to beat.”

Junior receiver/running back Jay Sams scored on a 2-yard run with 9:22 left in the first quarter to cap a seven-play, 56-yard drive to open the game. Cameron Jackson followed with first of seven extra points.

Harlan wasted little time answering as freshman Ethan Clem broke free on an 85-yard kickoff return. A pass failed after a botched snap on the extra-point try and the Dragons trailed by one.

Bailey Fultz found Sams open across the middle for a 59-yard touchdown to cap a three-play drive.

Jacob Turner blocked a Kilian Ledford punt on the Harlan 21, and the Cardinals scored two plays later when Ace Allen went in from the 1 after William Lenoir ran 20 yards. Jackson’s extra point made it 28-6.

Fultz teamed with Matthew Dalton for a 50-yard touchdown pass with 4:16 left in the opening period. Jackson’s extra point made it 28-6.

Logan Madden pulled in a 42-yard touchdown pass with a great catch over Harlan’s Jon Eldridge with 10:44 left in the second quarter for a 35-6 advantage.

Allen ran 78 yards for a touchdown as the Cardinals needed only one play to score on their next possession. Saylor Haarsma went in from the 7 with 5:37 left in the half to start a running clock and put South up 48-6 at halftime.

The Dragons kept the ball the entire third quarter with a 15-play, 86-yard drive featuring senior fullback Kendal Brock as the Wildcat quarterback. He had seven carries in the drive and scored on a 6-yard run with two minutes left in the period to cut the deficit to 48-12.

“I was proud of our kids. It was a good way for Kendal to end his career on this field with some smash-mouth, hard-nosed football,” Luttrell said. “We wanted to get (quarterback) Kilian (Ledford) out in space a little and that’s the only way we can do it.”

Traeton Napier scored on a 19-yard run for the Cardinals with 7:53 left and Jackson followed with an extra point before the Dragons went on a much quicker drive. Clem returned the kickoff 60 yards and Harlan scored two plays later when Kendal Brock teamed with Ledford for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 4:25 left.

Ledford recovered an onside kick and the Dragons drove to the South 17 before time expired.

Harlan (3-7) will travel to Pikeville on Friday for the first round of the Class A playoffs. South Laurel (5-5) will play at Whitley County in the 5A playoffs.

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South Laurel 28 20 0 7 — 55

Harlan 6 0 6 6 — 18

SL — Sams 2 run (Jackson kick)

H — Clem 85 kickoff return (pass failed)

SL — Sams 59 pass from Fultz (Jackson kick)

SL — Allen 1 run (Jackson kick)

SL — Dalton 50 pass from Fultz (Jackson kick)

SL — Madden 42 pass from Fultz (run failed)

SL — Allen 76 run (run failed)

SL — Haarsma 4 run (Jackson kick)

H — K. Brock 6 run (run failed)

SL — Napier 19 run (Jackson kick)

H — Ledford 12 pass from K. Brock (run failed)

SL H

First downs 10 17

Rushes-yards 16-209 45-250

Passing 231 26

Comp-Att-Int 7-10-0 4-11-2

Punts-Avg 0-0 2-36

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0

Penalties-Yards 4-30 1-16

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—South Laurel, Allen 2-94, Gentry 2-27, Lenoir 2-21, Napier 1-19, Sams 1-19, Haarman 2-16, Chambers 3-7, Dalton 1-4, Fultz 2-2. Harlan, J. Brock 15-105, K. Brock 15-81, Clem 10-51, Ledford 3-8.

PASSING—South Laurel, Fultz 6-8-0-227, Gentry 1-2-04. Harlan, Ledford 3-9-2-14, K. Brock 1-2-0-12.

RECEIVING—South Laurel, Sams 2-80, Madden 2-69, Dalton 1-50, Allen 1-28, Haarsma 1-4. Harlan, Shanks 1-11, Ledford 1-12, Eldridge 1-7, Clem 1-(-4).