As it turned out, both players answered the call in impressive fashion and led their respective offenses in a game that went down to the wire.
Lynn Camp’s Person, a former tight end who moved to tailback after the top two at the position went out with injuries, rushed for 133 yards and scored three touchdowns as the visiting Wildcats held off a Harlan rally for a 25-17 victory.
“He gives us some offense,” Lynn Camp coach David Mitchell said. “He gets his shoulders downhill and runs hard. He’s really a good solid runner for us. Three games ago, he’d never taken a snap at running back.”
“He brings a load. He made some plays,” Harlan coach J.B. Donahue said.
Carr, playing in place of Kenny Pennington, who missed the game after suffering a concussion in last week’s loss to McCreary Central, completed eight of 14 passes for 97 yards.
“I thought Aaron Carr did a terrific job stepping in at quarterback in a tough situation, not only running the offense, but throwing the ball and making a run or two,” Donahue said.
“It surprised me they threw the ball as well as they did with a backup quarterback,” Mitchell said. “They made some crucial plays on third down.”
While Harlan fell to 1-5, Lynn Camp improved to 4-2 despite being without tailback Wes Steele and halfback Sidney Wagner due to injuries.
“At the start of the year, if you told me we’d play without our three top running backs, a starting linebacker and a starting defensive back, we’d take it,” Mitchell said.
Lynn Camp saw drives to open the first two quarters end with fumbles, including one lost by Person at the Harlan 8 with 7:57 left in the first quarter.
“I thought we should have had it about knocked out at halftime, but we fumbled twice and had one called back. We were our own worst enemy,” Mitchell said.
Person made up for the mistake by returning Austin Wolfe’s punt 43 yards, back to the Harlan 8. Person reached the end zone two plays later on a 2-yard run. Jonah Mitchell’s extra point gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 3:34 to play in the first period.
An interception by Mitchell started another drive by the Wildcats, but it also ended with a fumble, this time by backup tailback Josh Smith on the Harlan 14.
The Dragons were again unable to move the ball, and Lynn Camp got the ball back on the Harlan 10 after senior linebacker Steven Davis blocked a Wolfe punt.
Davis, at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, was the best player on the field as he made life difficult for a Harlan running attack that put up big numbers the previous two weeks.
“My hat is off to him. We couldn’t block him,” Donahue said. “I’ll take that one on my shoulders. He was making play after play. He’s a heck of a football player.”
“Steven has really played well,” Mitchell added.
Person scored two plays after Davis’ blocked punt with a 5-yard TD run that gave Lynn Camp a 13-0 lead with 5:54 left in the second quarter.
A Harlan offense that could manage only 23 yards in the first quarter found its rhythm at that point, marching 66 yards in six plays. Junior tailback Andrew Link, who topped the 200-yard mark the last two weeks but was held to 60 by Lynn Camp, scored on a 22-yard touchdown run that was set up by a 27-yard pass from Carr to Eric Robinson. Wolfe’s extra point cut the deficit to 13-7 with 2:47 to play in the first half.
“I thought Andrew showed a lot of toughness to keep running and taking that pounding from (Davis),” Donahue said.
Lynn Camp drove to the Harlan 19 before time expired in the first half, then started another long march after sophomore linebacker Tanner Keith recovered an Allen Hensley fumble on the Harlan 48.
The Wildcats needed eight plays to reach the end zone as Person scored his third touchdown on a 4-yard run with 7:14 left in the third quarter, stretching the lead to 19-6.
Harlan battled back yet again with a 13-play, 55-yard drive that featured passes to Robinson and junior tight end Ben Cornett. Hensley’s 15-yard run moved the ball to the 1, but the Dragons were stopped cold on the next two plays. Standout lineman James Hill picked up the final yard as he bulled in from the 1 after moving to fullback. Wolfe’s kick made the score 19-14 with 1:54 to play in the third quarter.
Lynn Camp reclaimed the momentum on the first play of the fourth quarter as Mitchell broke loose down the sideline, then cut back toward the middle of the field for a 50-yard touchdown run that pushed the lead to 11.
A long kick return by Hensley gave the Dragons a chance to answer. Facing fourth-and-one from the 4, Donahue called on Wolfe, who hit a 22-yard field goal that sliced the deficit to eight with 7:03 to play.
Harlan had a chance to pull even after Cornett deflected Mitchell’s punt, which rolled dead at the Lynn Camp 46 after covering only nine yards.
Link picked up one first down on the ground and Robinson secured another on a 15-yard pass from Carr to the Lynn Camp 18.
“Eric played an outstanding game for us,” Donahue said. “He came up and tackled that big tailback two or three times. He also made some plays in the passing game.”
Facing fourth-and-seven from the 15, the Dragons tried some trickery. Carr handed off to Link, who tossed the ball to Robinson on a reverse. Hensley appeared to be open briefly in the back of the end zone, but by the time the ball arrived, Smith was in position for an interception to end the Dragons’ last hope with 1:17 left in the game.
“I can’t stop talking about how much this team has improved. They probably grew up more tonight than they have in three or four weeks combined,” Donahue said. “There was a lot of heart and a lot of character showed out there tonight.
“That’s a good football team. I think it was real challenge for our offensive linemen. We’ve bragged on them for a couple of weeks. Their guys are pretty good up front. They have size and move well, and I thought our linemen really answered the challenge tonight.”
After running for 146 yards in the first half, the Wildcats were limited to 78 in the second half.
“I thought coach (Frank) Shope again coached a great game defensively, and our kids played their hearts out defensively,” Donahue said. “Those were some big rascals up front they had to get through, and that was a big rascal running downhill at them.”
Harlan faces another former district rival on Friday with a game at Williamsburg. Lynn Camp travels to Whitley County.
Lynn Camp 7 6 6 6 — 25
Harlan 0 7 7 3 — 17
LC — Person 2 run (Mitchell kick)
LC — Person 5 run (pass failed)
H — Link 22 run (Wolfe kick)
LC — Person 4 run (run failed)
H — Hill 1 run (Wolfe kick)
LC — Mitchell 50 run (run failed)
H — Wolfe 22 field goal
First downs 15 14
Rushes-yards 47-224 37-120
Passing 12 97
Comp-Att-Int 1-4-0 8-15-1
Punts-Avg 1-9 1-29
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-45 4-29
RUSHING—Lynn Camp, Person 31-133, Mitchell 12-84, Davis 1-4, Sapcut 2-3, Smith 1-0. Harlan, Link 19-60, Hensley 8-46, Carr 7-11, Cole 1-2, Hill 2-1.
PASSING—Lynn Camp, Mitchell 1-4-0-12. Harlan, Carr 8-14-1-97, Robinson 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Lynn Camp, Sapcut 1-12. Harlan, Robinson 4-60, Hensley 2-22, Bianchi 1-8, Cornett 1-7.