Thomas’ 166-yard, 4-TD night propels Bobcats past HC

By John Henson, Managing Editor



As a coach at Bell County before he returned home to take over the Harlan County program, Amos McCreary remembers a future star running back who put in all the time needed to be great.
McCreary got an up close look at the results of that hard work Friday as junior tailback Daniel Thomas ran for four touchdowns and 166 yards to lead the Bobcats to a 42-16 victory at Coal Miners Memorial Stadium.
“He’s a heck of a high school player. He’s gotten everything out of his body he could get. He deserves all the credit he gets because he’s killed that weight room and is reaping the benefits of it,” McCreary said. “He’s explosive and strong and knows how to play the game. You could tell when he was in middle school that he was going to be special.”
Senior Dawson Woolum added 112 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries as the Bobcats improved to 8-2 with a 320-yard rushing night.
Harlan County ran for 195 yards and moved the ball well at times but struggled to overcome two turnovers and 82 yards in penalties.
“You can’t come in and make many mistakes against them,” McCreary said. “We were down near the 30 and moving it pretty well when we fumbled. That’s part of the game. That was a pivotal part of what happened tonight.”
Jonah Swanner battled through a week of illness to rush for 122 yards in his second week at quarterback since taking over for the injured Ethan Rhymer
“He has really been fighting off illness. We were just hoping and praying he could make it out here tonight,” McCreary said. “He’s a heck of an athlete. He’s as good of an athlete as anyone around here. He definitely has added to what we can do offensively. We moved the ball pretty well on the ground. We knew they could score because they have done it against everybody.”
Bell took the early lead with an 11-play, 86-yard drive on its opening possession, capped by Thomas’ 16-yard run on a fourth-and-one play. Blake Burnett added the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead with 3:49 left in the first quarter.
The Bears recovered the first of several onside kicks by Bell at midfield and drove 50 yards in 13 plays. The Bears were facing a third-and-eight play from the 13 when Swanner showed just how elusive he can be when he recovered a fumble snap and dodged several defenders in a 9-yard TD run. Swanner found fullback Josh Sergent in the corner of the end zone for the tying two-point conversion with 7:43 to play in the half.
Facing a second-and-20 play after Darren Alred tackled Thomas for a one-yard loss, the Bobcats came up with a big play as Burnett found Thomas with a short pass that turned into an 80-yard touchdown play. Woolum added the two-point conversion for a 16-8 lead with 5:13 left before halftime.
Bell needed only two plays to go 44 yards on the first drive of the second half. Thomas ran 19 yards and Woolum went the final 25. Carter Howard stopped Woolum on the two-point attempt, but the Bobcats led 22-8 only 50 seconds into the third quarter.
Thomas Jordan, who added 54 yards for the Bears, showed off his athleticism as he rolled off a tackle and went 25 yards for a touchdown with 8:51 left in the third quarter. Swanner added the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to six.
Thomas put the game away for the Bobcats with a 24-yard TD run with 4:53 left in the third quarter, then a 1-yard run with 10:03 to play in the game after running 70 yards on the previous play before being caught by Jordan. Burnett teamed with George Pace for a two-point conversion in the third quarter, then fullback Ethan Raby went in for the last points of the game.
Sergent and Scanner each picked up first downs in a late HC drive that ended at the Bears’ 45.
Senior linebacker Will Jones had an interception to stop a Bell drive earlier in the fourth quarter.
The 4-6 Black Bears will take on unbeaten Corbin next week in the first round of the 4A playoffs. HCHS missed the playoffs for the first time in school history last year but doubled their win total this season and posted upset wins over Knox Central and Perry Central.
“Last year was really tough. They could have laid down, and could have folded this year a couple of times,” McCreary said. “We’d love to have more depth, but this team has a lot of fight.”
The 8-2 Bobcats will take on Powell County at Log Mountain in the first round of the 3A playoffs.