Coming off of a loss to Knox Central, and with district play beginning next week, Friday’s homecoming contest against George Rogers Clark had all of the makings of a trap game for Harlan County. The Black Bears played that way for much of the contest, before pulling away late for a 23-14 win.
“It took a little bit, but we got it going. With this offense we have got several weapons. Fortunately, I found the right one,” said Harlan County coach Tom Larkey.
George Rogers Clark opened the game in impressive fashion as C.D. Spight broke free for a 76-yard touchdown run on the Cardinals’ first play on offense. Danny Dailey added the extra point to put George Rogers Clark up 7-0 with 8:30 left in the first quarter.
The Harlan County defense settled down from that point, turning in stops on seven of the Cards’ final eight possessions.
After three straight runs by Cole Wilson, senior Jake Middleton broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run to put the Bears on the scoreboard. The Cards jumped offsides on the extra point attempt, and Middleton ran in the two-point conversion to put Harlan County up 8-7 with just 1:44 left to play in the first half.
“It was good to go in with the lead. We had the momentum at halftime,” Larkey said.
Harlan County added to its lead on the first drive of the second half. Middleton and quarterback Austin Maggard each carried the ball twice on a drive that covered 65-yards on just four plays. Middleton capped the possession with a 34-yard touchdown run. After another offsides on the extra point, Middleton ran in the two-point conversion to push the lead to 16-7 with 7:22 left in the third quarter.
George Rogers Clark responded on the ensuing possession. Quarterback Darian Skinner broke loose for a 72-yard touchdown run on the third play of the drive. Dailey added the extra point to close the gap to 16-14 with 6:20 left in the third.
“Without those two big plays they would have probably been in negative yardage,” Larkey said. ‘The defense really stepped up. I thought they played well.”
Maggard set the Bears up with good field position when he recovered a fumble at the Cards’ 17 on George Rogers Clark’s next possession, but the drive stalled inside the redzone.
After a Harlan County punt, George Rogers Clark later drove the ball to Harlan County’s 37, before the Bears’ defense turned in arguably the play of the game. Skinner kept the ball on a fourth-and-inches play, but was stopped just short of the first down by a group of Bears.
Harlan County regained possession with 3:59 left in the contest, and took full advantage. The Bears put together a seven-play drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Middleton with just 1:08 remaining. Wilson added the extra point to close the scoring.
Several Harlan County drives stalled as a result of penalties. The Bears were flagged for over 100 yards in the contest.
“It was holding, after holding, after holding. Every time we had a big play there was a 15-yard penalty,” Larkey said. “You can’t do that kind of thing and beat a good fotball team.”
Harlan County (4-2) will open district play next week at Letcher Central. George Rogers Clark (0-6) will host Lafayette.