Ward runs wild as Dragons regain 119 supremacy and home playoff game


Chris Jones

Harlan senior tailback Jayden Ward ran for 232 yards and scored four touchdowns as the Green Dragons earned a home playoff game by downing visiting Pineville 42-20.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

For a group of Harlan Green Dragons who had never held the Battle of 119 trophy following five straight losses to Pineville over the past three years, a dominating 42-20 victory Friday over the visiting Mountain Lions was especially satisfying.
Senior tailback Jayden Ward ran for 232 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries as the Green Dragons earned a first-round home playoff game in two weeks against Sayre with the win.
“Jayden was a workhorse for us, with Dylan (Middleton) up there lead -blocking,” Harlan coach Eric Perry said. “I was glad to see those two get this ‘W.’ They were my first group here and they were around for the hard times. They deserve this. All of our seniors do. Pineville had gotten in our heads a little. I thought we probably should have won the last two playoff games. I hope this gets the monkey off our backs.”
Harlan rolled up 351 yards on the ground as a team in a game they never trailed
“I thought we did a nice job running the football,” Perry said. “We did what we do offensively. Our offensive line has carried us all year, and that’s what they did tonight.”
While Perry said the Dragons were far from perfect on defense, they were able to make enough plays to control the game. Senior defensive back Will Austin showed off his Division I potential with two interceptions, along with an electrifying kickoff return, a long punt return, a leaping touchdown catch and a sack.
“When you have the athletes we have out there it covers up a lot of things,” Perry said. “We made some mistakes defensively, but Will made some tremendous plays. I think he’s gone every time he touches it. I don’t know if people realize how good he is. I think the sky is the limit for him. I don’t think he’s touched the surface of his potential yet. I think people are missing out on him.”
After a four-and-out by the Lions to open the game, the Green Dragons rode Ward down the field as he had all five carries in a 58-yard drive capped by a 6-yard TD run over the right side. Ward was stopped short on the two-point attempt but Harlan led 6-0 with 8:52 left in the first quarter.
Harlan threatened again on its second drive as Ward ran for 14 yards, Darius Akal ran for 35 and Middleton ran for 12 for a first down inside the Pineville 10. Akal was stopped for no gain though on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
An Austin punt return to the Pineville 37 set up the next score. Donovan Montanaro scrambled and found Austin for a 15-yard touchdown pass that he deflected to himself around a Pineville defender with 7:45 left in the second quarter for a 12-0 lead.
After being limited to 12 yards of offense in the first quarter, the Pineville offense finally found traction with the help of a 39-yard pass from Sawyer Thompson to Evan Biliter on a second-and-38 play. Landon Robbins found an opening around the right side on the next play for a 30-yard touchdown run, cutting the deficit to 12-6 with 5:58 to play in the half.
Another big play by Austin, this one on a kickoff return to the Pineville 33, set up Ward for a 21-yard touchdown run with 2:49 left in the half.
Ward scored again on a 2-yard run in the third quarter as the lead grew to 26-6.
Robbins went 21 yards for a touchdown with 3:31 left, then Thompson found Luke Akers for the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 26-14.
Montanaro grabbed an onside kick and took it back to the Pineville 25, setting up a five-play drive that ended with his 1-yard touchdown run. Ward’s conversion pushed the lead to 34-14 with 36 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
King’s 7-yard TD run with 8:24 left cut the deficit to 14, but Ryley Mefford stopped Nassir Wilson on the two-point attempt.
Ward closed the scoring with a 9-yard run at the 2:07 mark of the fourth quarter, then added the two-point conversion.
The 7-2 Green Dragons close the regular season Friday at Leslie County. The 7-2 Mountain Lions travel to Middlesboro.


Harlan quarterback Donovan Montanaro eluded Pineville’s Landon King in Friday’s district clash. Montanaro passed for one touchdown and ran for another in the Dragons’ 42-20 victory. (Chris Jones)