A New Harlan defense that couldn’t make a stop last week as Evarts overcame an 18-point deficit in the second half to win 40-36 came up big on the first two plays of the fourth quarter Tuesday with the Patriots clinging to a two-point lead over visiting Bell County.
With Bell County facing a third-and-one at midfield, New Harlan tackle Elijah Smallwood broke through the line for a three-yard stop. Linebacker Garry Henson sacked Isaac Collett for a seven-yard loss on fourth down to give the ball and the momentum back to the Patriots, who went on to win 30-26.
“It was a big stand. We’ve got some young kids who grew up the last two games and tonight it showed,” said New Harlan coach Brett Johnson. “Several stepped up tonight when we needed it and it gives them a glimpse of what they are capable of. I couldn’t be any prouder of them. It was a hard fought win, and we were able to get the pressure off our backs and get back to working hard every day.”
New Harlan (1-2) put the game away with a four-play drive highlighted by Colby Cochran’s 32-yard pass to Dalton Johnson for a first down on the Bell 4. Johnson went in the for the touchdown on the next play. Johnson also added the two-point conversion on a double handoff from Henson for a 10-point lead with 6:19 left.
A 24-yard run by Tanner Asher gave the Bobcats a first down on the New Harlan 2, but the Patriots made Bell run off valuable time with tackles by Noah Saylor, Henson and Johnson to force a fourth down. Ryan Stepp went in from the 5 with 2:28 left to cut the deficit to four.
Henson recovered a fumble on the onside kick, then picked up a first down as the Patriots ran out the clock for the win.
After stopping Bell County on downs on the first series of the game, aided by a sack from Noah Saylor, the Patriots marched 62 yards in five plays as Johnson picked up two first downs and Henson one before Ben Landis went the final 17 yards for a touchdown with 3:36 left in the opening quarter. New Harlan fumbled on the two-point attempt.
Bell answered with an 11-play, 49-yard drive capped by Collett’s 5-yard touchdown run around left end as the Patriots missed a tackle in the backfield, one of several in the first half. Asher was stopped on the two-point attempt.
Jacob Thompson took an inside reverse and beat the defenders to the sideline for a 51-yard touchdown run with 3:35 left in the second quarter. Henson bulled his way in for the two-point conversion and a 14-6 lead.
Asher responded with a 48-yard touchdown run with 2:18 left in the half. Ryan Kilgore knocked down a pass on the two-point attempt.
New Harlan went to the air to try to score again, but Stepp picked off a Cochran pass at midfield and went in for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:24 to play in the half. A missed tackle cost the Patriots again as Collett escaped a defender and found Ben Saylor for the two-point conversion.
The Patriots didn’t abandon the pass as Cochran got the ball just over a Bell defender and into the hands of Henson, who went 56 yards for a touchdown with 1:08 left in the half. Henson added the two-point conversion for a 22-20 lead at the break.
New Harlan returns to action Thursday at home against Cumberland.