By John Middleton
After allowing 89 points combined in the first two weeks, the Harlan County defense apparently grew tired of hearing about how bad it was. Some filthiness returned to that side of the ball Friday as the Bears held visiting Gate City, Va. to zero yards of offense on the way to a 55-0 victory over the Devils.
The filthy animal defense lived up to its nickname limiting Gate City to minus-26-yards of offense in the first half, and allowed 26-yards in the second half, with second and third teamers getting much of the playing time. The Devils didn’t pick up their initial first down until late in the third quarter, and finished with just two in the game.
“I think they got tired of listening to people talk negative about them. They have some pride,” said Harlan County coach Tom Larkey. “The defense is going to get better all year long.”
Harlan County controlled the game from the opening kickoff, as Treyvon Long returned the kick 78 yards to the Gate City 17-yard line. The return set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Jake Middleton just three plays later. Cole Wilson added the extra point to make it 7-0 with 10:55 left in the first quarter.
After the Bears forced a three-and-out, Middleton served as the workhorse on a 10-play, 63-yard drive that was capped by a 4-yard touchdown run from Long. Wilson’s extra point pushed it to 14-0.
Harlan County’s defense got in on the scoring on the ensuing possession, as Carson Whitehead scooped up a fumble by Gate City quarterback Seth Gardner and raced 35-yards for the score. Wilson nailed the extra point as the lead grew to 21-0 with 2:45 left in the first.
After another Gate City punt, Wilson raced 59-yards for the touchdown on the Bears’ first play from scrimmage. Wilson also added the extra point to make the score 28-0 with 46 seconds left in the first quarter.
Harlan County went to the air for its next touchdown, as quarterback Austin Maggard connected with Long for a 19-yard touchdown strike with 7:07 left in the second quarter. Wilson’s extra point stretched the advantage to 35-0.
Maggard continued his success through the air on the Bears’ next possession. The senior completed all three of his pass attempts on the drive for 51-yards, capped by an 18-yard touchdown completion to Long. The extra point was no good, and the score remained at 41-0 with 3:12 left before the half.
Maggard completed all six pass attempts on the night for 96-yards and a touchdown.
“We were much more physical than they were. I felt like we were probably doing them a favor by spreading it out and throwing the football,” Larkey said. “We could have lined up and run it at will, but we had three people catch passes. We can (throw the ball), we just have to work on our pass blocking a little more.”
The Bears substituted heavily throughout the second half, but the reserves turned in a solid performance.
Sophomore Fred Massey carried the ball all five plays for 52-yards, including a 15-yard touchdown on Harlan County’s first possession of the second half. Wilson added the kick to make it 48-0.
Hunter Lewis scored the final touchdown on Harlan County’s next drive with a 4-yard run up the middle. Wilson added the extra point.
Harlan County (2-1) is off next week and will travel to Lee, Va. on Sept. 14. Gate City (0-2) returns to action Friday at Sullivan South, Tenn.