By JOHN MIDDLETON
There are no local games for the next few weeks, but this time is among the most exciting of the sports calendar for me. The upcoming weeks rank so high in my hierarchy because they are all that remains before another season of high school football.
I enjoy covering all sports, but there is just something different about football. Judging from the packed bleachers at both Harlan and Harlan County on Friday nights, I think it’s safe to assume much of the rest of the county agrees with me. With just one game each week, Friday is more of an event than it is just a game day. Families have the whole week to prepare for the home games, and the road trips provide a cheap opportunity to get away and still be among a thousand of your closest friends.
Part of the county’s passion for football could be because so many residents can relate to the sport. Football is sport that requires toughness and perseverance, and I don’t know of any occupation that embodies those qualities more than the coal mining industry. Football requires hard work and resiliency. Again, most locals know something about these qualities.
The weather is even better during football season. No matter your preference, football season likely includes the climate your looking for. The first few weeks give fans a taste of summer. The bulk of the season occurs in the fall, which in my wife’s’ opinion is the best time of the year. For the cold weather lovers, the playoffs serve up the chilly conditions of winter.
Success also aids in the excitement for football season, and both Harlan County and Harlan have provided a lot of reasons for excitement over the last few seasons. This year should be no different. Both the Bears and Dragons return talented squads that will be looking to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Harlan County has quickly emerged as a power in 5A football since consolidation just four seasons ago. The Bears captured a regional championship in 2011 and fell in overtime in last years regional title game. Harlan County appears top be the favorite to capture another regional crown this season.
Harlan has had the unfortunate pleasure of being paired in the same district with 1A power and defending state champion Hazard for the last several years. The Dragons have yet to overcome the Bulldogs, but with the best senior class in recent memory leading the way, this year will be as good a time as any to make a run at a regional championship.
Those factors and more should combine to create a great 2012 season for the Bears and Dragons. But as football fans don’t take any week for granted. We will be counting down the days to another football season before you know it.