GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — A trip across state lines wasn’t enough to allow Harlan County to rid itself of the turnover problems that plagued the Black Bears in a loss just the week before. After giving up four fumbles in a loss to Johnson Central, Harlan County put the ball on the turf three more times in the first half Friday in a 45-0 defeat at Tennessee power Greeneville.
“We have to find a remedy for that. I don’t know what it is. It’s hard to work on not fumbling. It’s just a fundamental thing to tuck the football away,” said Harlan County coach Tom Larkey. “We have to hang on to the football if we are going to be successful. This score would not be this way if we just correct ourselves on a lot of things.”
The Harlan County offense and defense performed well at times, especially in the first half, but the Bears lost three fumbles in the first two quarters. All three turnovers came in Harlan County territory and resulted in 17 Greeneville points.
“We played pretty good defense, I felt like, a lot of the game. We played good defense and then several times all of a sudden a big play. They had a lot of speed. We are working with new people back there in the secondary too. They came over here to learn really,” Larkey said.
After a Harlan County punt on the opening possession, the Green Devils wasted little time putting points on the board. Quarterback Zack Finchum found Quan Wilson on a screen pass that ended 63-yards later in the end zone. Ethan Ellis added the extra point to make it 7-0 with 9:02 left in the opening period.
The Bears’ next possession ended in a fumble at the HC 40. Harlan County held Greeneville out of the end zone, but Bassa Rogosic drilled a 37-yard field goal to make it a two-score game with 5:27 left in the first.
Greeneville’s next score came off of a turnover. The Devils recovered a fumble at the Bears’ 40 and scored three plays later. This time, Finchum found receiver Hays Culbreth for a 38-yard touchdown reception with 7:49 left in the half. The extra point made it 21-0.
Greeneville put the game out of reach late in the first half. Funchum teamed up with Culbreth on a 26-yard score with 1:08 remaining as the lead grew to 24-0.
The Devils then recovered the ensuing kickoff on a Cole Wilson fumble at the Harlan County 20. Funchum capitalized with a 1-yard keeper. The extra point made it 31-0 with just 25 seconds left in the half.
Desmond Dabbs turned in two touchdowns in the second half as Greeneville continued to pull away.
“This is an awful good football team. I was disappointed that the score was what it was. But, if we eliminated some of the turnovers I don’t think it would have been that way,” said Larkey.
The Bears combined for 205 yards rushing on 36 carries despite being held scoreless. Junior Fred Massey led the way with 88 yards on 14 attempts.
Greeneville (5-0) will host Grainger, Tenn., on Friday. Harlan County (3-3) will open district play Oct. 11 at home against rival Letcher Central in the Friends of Coal Bowl.
“We have an open week coming up, and we have a new season ahead of us. We want to get past Letcher, Whitley and Perry and see if we can’t win the district. Then we will go to Bell County and see what we do,” Larkey said. “We have a lot of exciting things to do before this season comes to an end — and that is going to be on down the road a ways.”