From The Sidelines – Football predictions for 2020 season


By John Henson, Managing Editor

A football season that looked very much in doubt not so long ago opens tonight across Kentucky.
The season starts three weeks later than usual due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic and there are no guarantees there won’t be some delays along the way, especially if everyone isn’t careful in following through on the safety precautions that have become a big part of our lives since March. The changes in how the season has started almost caused me to forget my annual predictions column, but I hated to see a 35-year tradition come to an end, even though predictions could be very difficult this season.
This probably won’t be one of my best years considering the uncertainty surrounding the season, but if the teams are going to give their best effort I can’t let it slip past.

Harlan County (6-3)
As usual, the Bears feature a tough schedule and I could see them winning anywhere between four and seven games. Expectations are high with a senior-dominated squad around, but HCHS lost good players at key positions and there are question marks on the offensive front and in the secondary.
The toughest game to pick might be the season opener at Knox Central. The Bears were lucky to rally for a win over Knox last year and will face an even tougher test this year, but I will give the edge to Harlan County.
Wayne County has dominated the Bears in recent years, and I will take the Cardinals again this season with Braedon Slone still around after carving up the HCHS defense a year ago. HCHS should bounce back with district wins over Clay County and Letcher Central. I’ll also take HCHS against Hazard in another game that was extremely close last year and should be a tight one again.
Harlan County returns to district action at home on Oct. 16 against defending state champ Johnson Central, and I will have to go with the Eagles. Harlan County should bounce back with a win at Perry Central before a hard-fought loss at home against Bell County. I will take the Bears to close the regular season with a win at Pike Central.

Harlan (2-7)
The Green Dragons struggled as expected last year but should show improvement this season with several key skilled players coming back. The offensive and defensive fronts could be an issue though, especially against physical teams.
Harlan will face one of its toughest tests in the opener against Middlesboro. The Jackets won’t be as good as a year ago with Jabari Kyle no longer around, but they still should be favored. I will take Harlan to win two of the next three, at East Ridge and at home against Knott Central. The game on Sept. 25 against Berea is also winnable, but I’ll give the edge to the Pirates.
The Dragons’ district won’t be as strong as last year, but Harlan will be an underdog in games against Williamsburg, Lynn Camp and Pineville. A non-district game against Leslie County to close the regular season should go in favor of the Eagles.