The good news is that Somerset, the team that denied the Green Dragons a district championship last season and handed Harlan two of its losses during an 8-4 campaign, is no longer a member of District 7 in Class A. Somerset moved up to 3A in the statewide realignment, which also shifted old rivals Lynn Camp and Williamsburg to District 6.
The bad news is that eight of the starters on both offense and defense that helped Harlan put together an outstanding season will graduate, leaving coach J.B. Donahue with several positions to fill.
"We've got a lot of open holes with three people back on each side of the ball. There's a chance for a whole lot of people to get some playing time," Donahue said.
Harlan loses its leading rusher (Jon Lundy) and leading receiver (Will Pope) to graduation, but quarterback Chase Jones will return for his senior season after passing for 1,377 yards last year.
The Green Dragons also return two of their top linemen in seniors Westley Howard and Aaron Jones (players are listed by grades next season). Junior Jacob Cole is a returning starter at guard.
Returning starters on defense include Jones at nose guard, Howard at tackle and senior Josh Johnson at end.
Harlan should also be given a boost by senior running back/receiver Hunter Luttrell, who sat out last season after transferring.
The Dragons have been limited in what they can accomplish in spring practice due to several players participating in other sports, but Donahue is pleased with his team's off-season workouts.
"We had a real good six-week span of lifting prior to baseball getting started," he said. "We've got dedicated kids putting in some time, and we have some new faces as far as some big kids (sophomore linemen Bryan Cloud and Logan Nantz)."
Harlan, Cumberland, Evarts and Pineville are holdovers in District 7, which will now also include Hazard and Jenkins.
"It's going to be pretty competitive as long as we have Cumberland and Evarts still in it," Donahue said. "Jenkins is a lot better than they have been, and Hazard will probably be the most athletic bunch in the district."
Aug. 24 Cawood
Aug. 31 Lee (Va.)
Sept. 7 at Evarts
Sept. 14 Hazard
Sept. 21 at Pineville
Sept. 28 Lynn Camp
Oct. 5 Cumberland
Oct. 12 Open
Oct. 19 at Jenkins
Oct. 26 Perry Central
Nov. 2 at Clay County