No one doubts the Bryan Station Defenders can score points, lots of points, in lightning fashion.
Bryan Station topped the 40-point mark five times in a 5-6 campaign last year. The Defenders were held below 20 points only once, a 55-7 loss to eventual 6A state champ Scott County in the second round of the playoffs.
A scrimmage win over Ryle last week indicated that the Defenders could be just as explosive this year, which makes the game plan pretty clear for the Harlan County Black Bears as they prepare for a 5:30 p.m. matchup Saturday at Madison Central High School in the Roy Kidd Bowl.
“They have a lot of speed and great athletes on their team,” Harlan County coach Tom Larkey said. “It’s going to be really important to sustain drives. The longer we keep the ball the less they have it, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We can’t afford too many penalties. Our backs have to be physical and take care of the ball. We have to play smart and not put it on the ground. We have to give ourselves a chance to score.”
Andre Davis, an elusive junior, has taken over at quarterback for Bryan Station. Devin Key, a junior wide receiver, is also a big concern for the Bears, along with senior receiver Marcus Floyd and junior running back Andrew Quarles. Brannon Sturgeon, a senior tackle, anchors the offensive front.
“We were watching them last year in the Roy Kidd Bowl get smashed against Murray, then they scored on three straight plays,” Harlan County defensive coordinator Ovie Canady said.We thought a kid named Dallas Bruton, who could throw it through a wall, would be their quarterback, but Davis is a clone of the Johnson kid last year (Ora Johnson threw for 3,403 yard and 36 touchdowns last season). Davis can move. He can go 80 yards at any time.”
Former HCHS quarterback Jordy Brewer, now an assistant with the Bears, has done his best Davis imitation in practice this week as the scout team quarterback.
“I suggested to coach Canady that we put Jordy back there,” Larkey said. “He’s a great athlete. He’s young and can run. Our kids have been chasing him all over that field. They will be chasing the Bryan Station quarterback all over the field on Saturday, just, hopefully, not down the field.”
“We’ve been trying to learn to corral the quarterback. Having Jordy back there this week in practice has helped a lot,” added Canady. “We’re trying to teach them better angles. We haven’t seen a quarterback like this since we played Cooper (in the 2012 state semifinals). (Davis) kept a lot of plays alive against Ryle with his speed.
Harlan County is coming off an 8-4 season, but the Bears were hit hard by graduation, except on the offensive front where Zach Caldwell and Gary Helton are back.
Larkey split the carries last week in a 13-6 gridorama loss to Wayne County with juniors Dylan Cornett and Jake Ball sharing time at tailback. Seniors Hunter Lewis and Bobby Huff will serve as the primary blocking backs. Jarett Ford, a junior, will make his first varsity start at quarterback on Saturday.
Three freshmen — linebacker Caleb Carmical and defensive backs Tyrese Simmons and Paul Stapleton — will start for HCHS on defense.
“It’s good to get good competition early. It helps you to judge your team and find out what you need to work on,” Larkey said. “Our kids have to get used to speed.”