Pirates knock off Harlan County
by John Middleton Sports Editor
Belfry joined a very short list of teams that have left Harlan alive on Friday. The visiting Pirates rallied from a halftime deficit to knock off the Black Bears 21-12.
“Belfry has a well-coached football team. They have a class program there and class players. I’m sure their players are disciplined and sometimes that makes a difference when games are close like this,” said Harlan County coach Tom Larkey.
Harlan County senior Cole Wilson turned in several big plays in the first half to keep Harlan County on top at the break. Wilson gave Harlan County the lead on the game’s first possession. He broke free on a reverse and raced 50-yards for the touchdown with 9:26 left in the opening possession. Wilson’s kick was wide left and the Bears led 6-0.
The teams exchanged defensive stands before Belfry tied the game with a big play of its own. Quarterback Sani Warren connected with Keaton Taylor for a 55-yard score. After a Harlan County defensive back fell down, the junior receiver hauled in the pass and cruised into the end zone. Austin Woolum added the extra point to put Belfry in front 7-6.
Harlan County quickly regained the lead on the ensuing possession.
Senior Scotty Bailey hit Wilson down the sideline for a 50-yard pickup to the Belfry 47. Wilson then drew a pass interference penalty to set the Bears up at the Pirates 32. Three plays later, Bailey escaped the pocket and cut back against the grain to find Treyvon Long all alone for a 15-yard score. The two-point attempt was stopped and the Bears led 12-7 with 6:39 remaining before the half.
With Wilson out of the lineup, Harlan County was unable to sustain the offensive momentum in the second half.
Belfry quickly regained the lead when senior Justin Johnson raced in for the score from 58-yards out on just the third play of the third quarter.Woolum added the extra point to put the Pirates up 14-12.
Belfry ran the ball 39 times for 257 yards against a Harlan County defense that had allowed forced opponents into minus-48 yards on the ground in the first two weeks. Senior Justin Johnson led the rushing attack with 133 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries.
“It was just reading those plays. You have a fullback, another back and the quarterback too. Then Cole went out and nobody got reps in practice but him. It takes reps. It wasn’t like out line got whipped. We just had people where they weren’t supposed to be,” Larkey said. “Our defense had a good play. It’s just if everybody doesn’t concentrate and be where they have got to be on the play — you are going to run into somebody if you are there.
After forcing a Harlan County punt, the Pirates scored on another big rushing play. This time it was Xondre Willis who broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run with 5:08 left in the third quarter. Woolum hit the crucial extra point to put Belfry up by two scores.
“I was pleased with our team. We talked at halftime and said we were behind a touchdown, haven’t played well and they had the ball the whole first half. I said we just have to be able to take what we practice and apply it on the field,” said Belfry coach Philip Haywood. “Our kids played awfully hard, and that’s what you like to see — whether we play perfect or not. Harlan County has a good football team, so we are tickled to death to come out of here with a win”
Harlan County was unable to close the gap down the stretch as both teams traded defensive stands.
The Black Bears averaged 4.8 yards per carry with 198 yards on 41 rush attempts. Whitehead carried the ball 14 times for 53 yards, while Wilson added 50 yards on one attempt. Bailey completed three-of-eight passes for 77 yards.
“I wasn’t sure how our defense would respond to a team that was a pretty good running team. We were able to do some things. Our coaches had a pretty good game plan and our kids executed it,” Haywood said. “We are pleased with the win, and I certainly wish coach Larkey and his program good luck the rest of the year. I think they will do well.”
Harlan County (2-1) will host Knox Central on Friday. Belfry (2-0) will travel to Pulaski Southwestern.
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