RICHMOND — The Harlan County Black Bears traveled to Madison Central on Saturday to play a football game, and a track meet broke out.
With four receivers and a quarterback quicker than anyone Harlan County has on its roster, the Bryan Station defenders carved up the Harlan county secondary on the way to a 56-22 win.
Tom Larkey knew bad things would likely happen if his Bears allowed Andre Davis and the high-powered Bryan Station offense an opportunity to make big plays. Larkey wanted a ball-control offense in an effort to limit the Defenders’ opportunities. The Bears succeeded in that quest, owning the time of possession stat in the first half with 44 plays on offense camped to eight for Bryan Station.
As it turned out, eight was more than enough.
Davis connected on five touchdown passes in the first half as the speedy Bryan Station defenders ran free on the way to building a 36-point halftime lead. He finished by completing six of six passes for 204 yards and five touchdowns as the Defenders won 56-22.
“He did a great job. He was very composed back there,” said Bryan Station coach Frank Parks Jr. “He and our receivers have a really good rapport. He tells them to take off and they will. It was a good offensive day for us.”
“We knew they had athletes. We knew they had much more team speed than us,” Larkey said. “We than any time they touched the ball they were apt to score, because we don’t have the speed to run them down.
Harlan County moved the ball on the ground the entire day, just as Larkey had hoped, rolling up 351 yards and 25 first downs. Junior Dylan Cornett, making his first varsity start at tailback, ran for 161 yards on 33 carries. Senior fullback Bobby Huff added 95 yards on 10 carries.
The problem for the Bears proved to be reaching the end zone as three first-half drives ended in turnovers inside the Bryan Station.
“My game was to take the ball and run it down their throats and take time off the scoreboard,” Larkey said. “I felt we could have scored every time if we had not fumbled it or thrown an interception or got penalties.”
Trailing 7-0 after the first of five Davis TD passes in the first, this coming on a 50-yard strike to K-Ci Carmical, the Bears marched 41 yards in 11 plays and were facing and third-and-four on the Bryan Station 17 when a procedure penalty moved the ball back. Jarett Ford threw a pass over an open HCHS receiver on fourth down and Devon Key came up with the ball in the end zone and returned it 80 yards. Davis threw to Carl Walker for a touchdown on the next play. Anthony Lopez’s second extra point stretched the Defenders’ lead to 14-0 with 6:29 left in the first quarter.
Cornett, Huff and the HCHS offensive line moved the ball down the field again, picking up three more first downs, before Jake Ball coughed it up on the Bryan Station 26. The Defenders’ fourth offensive play resulted in their third touchdown as Davis stepped up in the pocket and found Walker for a 74-yard touchdown strike with 2:20 left in the opening period.
The Bears immediately went back to work, picking up five more first downs behind Cornett and Hunter Lewis, before the most devastating turnover of the game destroyed another HCHS drive. Cornett appeared to be about to cross the goal line before the ball was stripped away and returned 100 yards for a touchdown by Carmical. Lopez’ kick made the score 28-0 with 8:04 to play in the first half.
Harlan County continued to grind, this time marching 75 yards in a 10-play drive. Cornett had the final seven carries, including a 4-yard TD run with 3:11 top play in the first half.
“Our defense was out there a lot with Harlan County’s style of football,” Parks said. “We knew what they would do, and it was good for us to see someone like that. Teams like that give us problems, and they did a little bit, but we made them go on real long drives. They are a very good running team.”
Bryan Station needed only three plays to answer, its longest drive of the half, as Davis found Josh Marcum with a 21-yard TD pass. Davis teamed with Marcus Floyd with a 37-yard scoring pass after forcing the Bears into the only punt of the afternoon. Two more Lopez extra points gave the Defenders a 42-6 lead at the break.
With the clock running the entire second half, each team scored two more touchdowns.
Ball made up for his earlier turnover by picking up three straight first downs in a 10-play, 71-yard drive that ended with his 8-yard TD run. Ford threw to Huff for the two-point conversion.
Key, the most exposive of the Defenders, picked up a squib kick and took it back 75 yards to answer.
Huff had a 26-yard catch and runs of 10 and 16 yards before another fumble ended a Harlan County drive early in the fourth quarter.
Colby King, one of four freshmen to see action in the HCHS secondary, picked off a Dallas Bruton pass at midfield to set up the final HCHS touchdown. Cornett ran 16 yards, Lewis ran 25 and Huff went the final 14 for the score with 7:28 left in the game. Ford found Nikki Huffaker for the two-point conversion.
D’Andre Mack, Bryan Station’s senior tailback, had runs of 18, 13 and 14 yards as the time ticked away. Bruton went the final 2 yards for a touchdown with 2:35 to play.
“I’m not ashamed of the way our kids played,” Larkey said. “We played one of the most athletic teams around. We do what we do best. Folks can holler that you need to do what Bryan Station does, but we don’t do that well. This was really Dylan Cornett’s first varsity game, and the same for Jake Ball and Jarett Ford. This will be good for them. Hunter Lewis and Bobby Huff now realize how much we need them. They aren’t JV players anymore.”
Harlan County (0-1) will play its home opener on Friday against Clay County in the ARH Bowl.
Bryan Station 21 21 7 7 — 56
Harlan County 0 6 8 8 — 22
BS — Carmical 50 pass from Davis (Lopez kick)
BS — Walker 15 pass from Davis (Lopez kick)
BS — Walker 76 pass from Davis (Lopez kick)
BS — Carmical 100 fumble return (Lopez kick)
HC — Cornett 4 run (pass intercepted)
BS — Marcum 21 pass from Davis (Lopez kick)
BS — Floyd 37 pass from Davis (Lopez kick)
HC — Ball 8 run (Huff pass from Ford)
BS — Key 75 kickoff return (Lopez kick)
HC — Huff 14 run (Huffaker pass from Ford)
BS — Bruton 2 run (Lopez kick)
First downs 9 25
Rushes-yards 8-86 59-351
Passing 204 20
Comp-Att-Int 6-7-1 1-4-1
Punts-Avg 0-0 1-32
Fumbles-Lost 4-3 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-70 5-50
RUSHING—Bryan Station, Mack 7-84, Bruton 1-2. Harlan County, Cornett 33-161, Huff 10-95, Ball 7-52, Lewis 5-47, King 2-5, Ford 2-(-9).
PASSING—Bryan Station, Davis 6-6-0-204, Bruton 0-1-1-0. Harlan County, Ford 1-3-1-26, Branson 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Bryan Station, Walker 2-89, Floyd 2-44, Carmical 1-50, Marcum 1-21. Harlan County, Huffaker 1-26.