A no-name offense no longer, the Harlan County Black Bears are showing they can still move the football even without having an established running back coming into the season.
Harlan County followed its 351-yard rushing effort in last week’s loss to Bryan Station with an even more impressive effort against an outmanned Clay County on Friday. The Bears gained 350 yards on the ground and had a running clock by the second quarter on the way to a 51-14 victory.
Dylan Cornett and Jake Ball continued to provide an impressive 1-2 punch at tailback as Cornett ran 17 times for 129 yards and Ball added 80 yards on seven carries. Senior fullback Bobby Huff reached the end zone four times as he gained 72 yards on seven carries.
“Dylan and Jake did a good job, and of course you can count on Bobby Huff and Hunter Lewis,” Harlan County coach Tom Larkey said.
Junior quarterback Jarett Ford also played well, completing three of three passes for 81 yards.
“I felt Jarett did a good job running the offense,” Larkey said. “His ball handling was much better this game, and both Nikki Huffaker and Nick Cornett made nice catches.”
The Bears scored on six of seven possessions in the first half to start a running clock late in the second quarter. HCHS was stopped only once and that was due to a fumble.
Cornett was the featured back on the opening drive, carrying it six of eight times in a 60-yard march culminating in his 4-yard touchdown run over the right side. Huff went in for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead with 8:04 left in the opening quarter.
James Kelly, a junior lineman, came up with the first of two onside kick recoveries to put the Bears in business again. Ford rolled out on a play-action pass and found Nikki Huffaker, the Bears’ senior tight end, for a 36-yard scoring pass. Huffaker weaved his way around two Clay defenders on the play. Huff’s conversion stretched the HCHS lead to 16-0 with 7:48 left in the first period.
Hunter Lewis and J.T. Cabbell, two senior linemen who dominated up front with their quickness, teamed up for a turnover as Lewis hit Clay quarterback Will Sexton and Cabbell came up with the ball.
Ford returned the favor when he fumbled. Clay’s Nate Sizemore picked up the loose ball and returned it 81 yards for a touchdown. Sexton hit the extra point.
Harlan County wasted little time answering as Ball broke free on a trap play and raced 50 yards for a touchdown. Cornett added the two-point conversion for a 24-7 lead with 2:35 left in the opening quarter.
Another Kelly kick recovery put the Bears back in business. Cornett ran 24 yards and Huff went the final 3 for a TD with 1:39 left in the first quarter. Ford’s two-point conversion made the score 32-7.
Ford went to the air on the opening drive of the second quarter, finding Huffaker for a 16-yard pass and Nick Cornet for 29 yards to the Clay 1. Huff went in from the 1.
Freshman Tyrese Simmons showed off his tremendous athletic ability with an 84-yard punt return. Simmons picked up a Cabbell block near the sideline on his way to a touchdown. Lewis’ extra point pushed the Bears’ lead to 45-7.
A 71-yard touchdown run by Sam Carr was the only big play for the Clay star, who was held to 69 yards overall on seven carries.
Cornett, Ball and Ford each picked up first downs on the Bears’ final scoring drive, capped by Huff’s 5-yard run in the final minute of the half.
Neither team scored in the second half with a running clock.
Clay County was limited to only 91 yards on the ground and 34 through the air.
“Hunter and J.T. did a great job. Hunter is awfully strong and quick and uses his body,” Larkey said. “Those two guys did a great job on the defensive line. We still have a lot of inexperience at linebacker, so we need those guys to continue to play well as we get experience.”
Harlan County (1-1) returns to action Friday at Belfry, the defending 3A state champion.
HC - Cornett 4 run (Huff run)
HC - Huffaker 36 pass from Ford (Huff run)
CC - Sizemore 81 fumble return (Sexton kick)
HC - Ball 50 run (Cornett run)
HC - Huff 3 run (Ford run)
HC - Huff 1 run (kick failed)
HC - Simmons 84 punt return (Lewis kick)
CC - Carr 71 run (Sexton kick)
HC - Huff 5 run (kick blocked)
RUSHING—Clay County, Carr 7-69, Byrd 4-27, Alevras 3-9, Runion 3-7, Sexton 6(-16). Harlan County, Cornett 17-129, Ball 7-80, Huff 7-72, Stapleton 8-35, Ford 2-13, Baird 1-9, Adams 2-6, Alred 1-4, Lewis 2-3, Branson 2-(-1).
PASSING—Clay County, Sexton 2-7-0-34. Harlan County, Ford 3-3-0-81.
RECEIVING—Clay County, Byrd 1-31, Sizemore 1-3. Harlan County, Huffaker 2-52, N. Cornett 1-29.