Are you ready for some Kentucky high school football?
If you answered yes, this is your lucky weekend, as both Harlan County teams kick off their seasons.
First out of the gate are the Harlan High School Green Dragons, who open the season Friday night on the road against Leslie County.
The Green Dragons are looking to rebound from last season’s 2-9 campaign. While improving record-wise will be a tough task for a team dominated by underclassmen, coach J.B. Donahue is optimistic.
“I definitely think these guys will have to learn on the run and get better each and every week,” Donahue said.
Harlan has 18 freshmen and sophomores in its 25-man roster. Despite their struggles of a year ago and their youth this season, the Dragons have brought passion and a good work ethic to practices.
“We have a very upbeat, positive attitude. The kids are working hard. We’re really young and will get a lot better,” Donahue said.
It’s a somewhat unusual start to a season for Harlan High, as following their game Friday they will be off the next two weeks before playing their home opener Sept. 12 against Lynn Camp.
Harlan County High School’s Black Bears also open the season away from home, as they travel to Richmond to tackle Bryan Station in the Roy Kidd Bowl. The game is being played at Madison Central High School.
The Bears are once again playing a difficult schedule, but coach Tom Larkey says his team will not back away from the challenge.
“We have a real tough schedule and we’re playing with a team that doesn’t have a lot of experience, so there will be some ups and downs,” Larkey said. “We have to try to keep the morale high from game to game and do the best we can. My expectations are always way high and I will keep them that way and work hard every day to try and achieve those goals.”
Following Saturday’s game, the Bears will play their home opener next Friday against Clay County.
Harlan County enters the season on a 12-game district winning streak that stretches back to a loss to Letcher Central in the second round of the 2009 playoffs. The Bears haven’t lost a district game over the past four seasons and will be a heavy favorite again this year with Perry Central, Letcher Central and Whitley County still trying to rebuild.
“I’d be disappointed if we weren’t the favorite,” Larkey said. “Coach (Mike) Halcomb is doing a good job getting Letcher back to where they were. Coach (Jason) Chappell is at Whitley County, and he likes to throw the ball around and plays an exciting style for the fans. Then, Perry Central has Jordan Amis, who played over there a few years back. Two teams have new coaches and one is in his second year. I’m sure they will all improve.”