Bears in ‘soul-searching time’ heading into Clay game

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Demarco Hopkins battled for yardage in last week’s game against Wayne County. The Bears were limited to 28 yards on the ground in a 42-0 loss.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

A Harlan County football team that entered the season with lofty expectations following an 8-4 campaign in 2019 finds itself at a crossroads going into its district opener Friday at home against Clay County.
The Black Bears enter the game with an 0-2 mark, showing plenty of grit in a hard-fought 14-13 loss at Knox Central in the opening week before sleepwalking through a disappointing 42-0 loss at home on Friday.
“Don’t get me wrong. We have watched all of Clay’s films and have put together a game plan specific to them, but these next couple weeks we are focused on ourselves,” Harlan County coach Eddie Creech said. “We are going to amp up practices and find out who really wants it. This week is soul-searching time for us. Effort and heart will sometimes overcome inexperience and lack of physical skill, but right now we just aren’t seeing that from all 11 on the field. If you are outmanned and lose 42-0, that is one thing. But if you are outhearted and lose 42-0, that is very concerning. Clay is 2-0 and has a nice ball club, but this week are biggest opponent to defeat is ourselves.”
Clay County enters the game at 2-0 following wins over Lynn Camp (35-20) and Leslie County (26-21) to open the season. The Tigers were a run-dominated team last year when they lost twice to Harlan County, including the first round of the 4A playoffs, but they have turned the offense over to freshman quarterback Tate Rice this season. Rice completed 20 of 37 passes for 264 yards and five touchdowns in the comeback victory over Leslie County. Raven Abner, Adam Collins, Connor Farmer, Brady Wolfe and Zachary Saylor are the Tigers’ top receivers.
“They have a really talented quarterback and some big, long targets to go with him,” Creech said.
The Bears have been a run-dominant team in recent seasons and got off to a good start when senior Demarco Hopkins ran for 140 yards against Knox Central but could manage only 28 yards on 24 carries as a team last week.