CHRIS JONES/Daily Enterprise
Harlan County's Jake Middleton fought for yardage during a 65-54 victory over Tates Creek in the Fayette County Football Frenzy on Saturday. Middleton rushed for 334 yards and six touchdowns in the win.
CHRIS JONES/Daily Enterprise
Junior Treyvon Long broke free for a big gain.
By John Middleton
LEXINGTON – The first game of Saturday’s Fayette County Football Frenzy turned into a track meet as the Harlan County Black Bears held off Tates Creek 65-54 in an offensive showcase.
“I didn’t think we’d score this many points, and I sure didn’t think we would give up this many points,” said Harlan County Tom Larkey.
The Black Bears were unstoppable on the ground piling up 532 yards and eight touchdowns on 66 carries. Senior tailback Jake Middleton led the way with a career high 42 carries for 334 yards and six touchdowns behind fullbacks Carson Whitehead and Tucker Lewis.
“Jake is a tough kid. I am real proud of him, and of course Carson and Tucker in front of him and the offensive line,” Larkey said. “I swore to everybody that he would get some rest today, but we had to go back to him.”
Harlan County threatened to put the game away early with the first three touchdowns. Middleton, Tucker Lewis and Cole Wilson each had rushing touchdowns as the Bears went ahead. Middleton ran in the two-point conversion on the first two touchdowns, and Wilson added the extra point on the final score to make it 23-0 with 11:44 left in the second quarter.
Tates Creek got on the scoreboard on the ensuing possession as R.J. Taylor hauled in a 76-yard touchdown reception from Graham Gordon. The two-point run failed leaving the score at 23-6.
The Bears quickly added to the lead as Middleton scored on a 3-yard run to cap a four-play 42-yard drive. Wilson’s extra point made it 30-6 with 10:04 left.
After a pair of defensive stands, the Commodores got back in the game with three straight touchdowns. Gordon completed a 38-yard pass to Tim York for the first score. Gordon then found Marcus Wilkerson for the two-point conversion to close the gap to 30-14.
The Bears’ offense was unable to get back on the field as Tates Creek recovered the next two onside kicks. The Commodores converted both recoveries into touchdowns, with senior Dennis Oxendine scoring a pair of touchdowns. Gordon connected with Casey Grimes on the first score as the Commodores cut the deficit to 30-28 at the half.
The scoring didn’t stop in the second half.
Oxendine and Middleton each scored rushing touchdowns on their team’s first possession. Following Middleton’s 1-yard score, Martavius Carter returned the kickoff 79 yards for another touchdown to give Tates Creek a 41-37 lead.
The lead was short-lived however, as Middleton carried the ball all four times on Harlan County’s next possession, capped by a 37-yard score to put the Bears back up with 5:59 left in the third quarter.
The Harlan County defense forced a turnover on downs on the ensuing possession, and Middleton closed a six-play drive with a 3-yard scoring run. Wilson knocked in the extra point to push the lead to 50-41 with 1:27 remaining in the third.
Tates Creek scored just three plays later as Gordon connected with Wilkerson on a 63-yard score. Jake Ryan added the extra point to make it 50-48 with 25 seconds left in the third.
Harlan County answered with a methodical drive that covered 65 yards on 12 plays. Junior Treyvon Long closed the nearly six minute drive with 3-yard score with 6:36 left. Middleton ran in the two-point conversion to push the lead to two scores 58-48.
The Commodores stayed alive with a score on its next possession. Gordon completed four-of-five passes on the drive, including a 4-yard touchdown to Tavon Dunn. Gordon was sacked on the two-point attempt and Harlan County led 58-54.
“We have to get more physical on defense. We have a couple of kids going both ways, and I think their legs got tired. I would like to get more people in the ball game,” Larkey said.
Fred Massey sealed the win when he recovered an onside kick at the Bears’ 48. Middleton then broke free on the next play for a 52-yard run and the final touchdown. The Bears were flagged for excessive celebration on the play – one of 16 penalties for 115 yards on the night. Wilson added the 35-yard extra point.
“We worked on PAT’s all week long. I felt like we improved in that, and Cole figured out how to kick the ball,” Larkey said.
Harlan County (1-1) returns to action Friday at home against Gate City, Va.