Nearly everyone in Harlan County was in attendance for the unveiling of Coal Miners’ Memorial Stadium Friday, and Scotty Bailey made sure they all went home happy. With the lead reduced from 20 to six in the final minute the junior safety picked off a Peyton Collett pass to give Harlan County the win.
“That was everybody’s dream - to play Bell County and get a win,” said Harlan County coach Tom Larkey. “Any time you beat Bell County it is a big win. I thought we were going to try to give it away a time or two tonight.”
In a night that will likely be talked about for years to come, the Black Bears gave them a game to remember as well, knocking off the visiting Bobcats 40-34.
“We had a good crowd. I was proud that they came out to see us,” Larkey said.
Carson Whitehead scored on a 1-yard run with 7:15 remaining in the fourth to give Harlan County a 40-20 lead and seemingly put the game away before the Bobcats rallied.
Just four plays later Collett connected with D.J. Warwick on a 14-yard touchdown with 5:26 remaining. Hayden Gilbert’s extra point closed the gap to 40-27.
The Bobcats recovered a fumbled snap on the the ensuing Harlan County possession and took over at the Bears’ 40. The drive stalled when Cole Wilson sacked Collett on fourth down.
The Bears were unable to capitalize on the stop, and Bell recovered a Jake Middleton fumble at the Harlan County 11-yard-line on the next possession to stay alive. Two plays later, Jonathan Polly went in from 8-yards out. The extra point closed the gap to 40-34 with just 44 seconds remaining. Polly carried the ball 31 times for 158 yards to lead the Bobcats.
“Polly is just a warrior. That is all you can say about him,” said Bell County coach Wayne Mills. “He has put us on his back and wants to lead us. I am very proud of him and what he has done.”
The situation became even more tenuous as the Bobcats recovered the onside kick at the Bears’ 45. However, Bailey put everyone at ease on the next play as he picked off Collett at the Harlan County 18 to secure the win.
“I am proud of our kids, but I have to give credit where credit is due. We have rode our defense all year and took pride, but they took it at us,” Mills said. “If you would have said we would give up 40 points I would have said you were crazy. My hats off to coach Larkey. They have a great football team.”
Treyvon Long put together his own highlight reel in the first half. The junior scored on the ground, through the air and nearly returned an interception for a touchdown. Long picked off another pass in the third quarter.
“Treyvon is a super athlete and a great player. He does it all,” Larkey said.
Cole Wilson gave the Bears an early lead as he scored on a 20-yard option with 5:55 left in the first quarter. Wilson added the extra point.
Bell County quickly responded as Collett found Polley for a 67-yard touchdown strike.
Long served as the workhorse on the next Harlan County possession, carrying the ball six times for 54 yards. Long capped the drive with a 5-yard scoring run. The extra point was blocked and Harlan County led 13-7.
After Long returned an interception to the Bobcats’ 2, Bailey capitalized with 1-yard quarterback sneak into the endzone to make it 19-7.
Bell responded with a 10-play drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run from Polly. Gilbert’s kick made it 19-14.
Harlan County closed the first-half scoring on the following drive. Bailey scrambled to his right and found Long, who hauled in a 46-yard touchdown reception in double-coverage to make it 25-14.
Bell County put together its best drive of the game to open the second half. The Bobcats marched the ball down the field on a 16-play drive that covered 80 yards. Collett closed the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 3:38 left in the third. The two-point pass was incomplete and the score remained 25-20.
Harlan County (8-2) will host Lincoln County in the first round of the 5A state playoffs next week. Bell County (8-2) will face Elizabethtown in the 3A playoffs.