Strong ground game helps Bears record first win


Kim Henson

Harlan County’s Luke Kelly sliced between two South Laurel defenders in Thursday’s game. Kelly scored a touchdown as the Bears won 40-26.

Harlan County’s eighth-grade team earned the first win in program history Thursday, overcoming three first-half fumbles with a strong ground game to claim a 40-26 victory over visiting South Laurel.
“This is a big win for our eighth-graders,” Harlan County coach Scott Caldwell said. “We made some mistakes, especially in the first half, but we are still learning how to win. I thought our offensive line and our running backs did a great job. We moved the ball real well.”
Luke Kelly showed off his quickness on the Bears’ second offensive play, breaking free around the left side for a 42-yard touchdown run. Jason Fultz’s two-point conversion run gave Harlan County an 8-0 lead.
South answered when Noah Smith teamed with Wagers for an 83-yard touchdown pass, cutting the deficit to 8-6.
The Bears drove deep into South territory before Fultz fumbled on the Cardinals’ 11.
Jake Brewer got the ball back with an interception.late in the quarter. Connor Daniels hooked up with Hunter Napier for a first down to set up James Ryan Howard’s 2-yard touchdown run with 7:50 left in the first half.
Another Smith to Wagers touchdown pass tied the game at 14.
Howard and Kelly each picked up first downs on the ground as Harlan County drove into South territory before another fumble ended the threat on the South 2. The Bears’ defense held and forced a punt that gave Harlan County time for one play from the South 22. Daniels found Landon McClain in the back of the end zone for a touchdown that helped the Bears take a 20-14 halftime lead.
The Harlan County defense made another big play early in the second half as Michael Torres hit Smith as he released the ball, which flipped into the air and into the hands of lineman Brayden Smith for a 50-yard interception return. Fultz’s conversion run gave the Bears a 28-14 lead.
A third Smith to Wagers TD connection cut the lead to eight points before the Bears started another long drive. Kelly, Fultz and Howard each picked up first downs before Howard bulled his way in from the 2 with 27 seconds left.
South returned the kickoff for a touchdown and trailed by eight again with 18 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Harlan County struggled with kickoffs the entire game, failing twice to get the ball the required 10 yards on onside kicks.
Needing a long drive to put the game away, the Bears responded as Howard picked up three first downs while Kelly and Howard added one each. Aiden Craig went in from the 2 with 1:29 left to close the scoring.
A sack by Hunter Napier helped Harlan County stopped the final South possession.
Harlan County (1-3) returns to action Oct. 10 at Knox Central.
Two Sedrick Washington touchdowns lifted Harlan County to a 16-6 win in the seventh-grade game.
Washington scored on an 8-yard run in the first quarter and Ryan Coots followed with the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Mason Wagers teamed with Zach Carroll for a 23-yard touchdown in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 8-6.
Harlan County’s Jayce Brown ran 35 yards on the final play of the first half before being pushed out of bounds.
Browning picked up a pair of first downs during a third-quarter drive that ended with Washington’s 1-yard TD run. Jake Brewer teamed with Isaiah Cornett for a two-point conversion to push the Bears’ lead to 10 with 2:09 left in the third quarter.
Washington, Brown and Blake Hensley each had tackles for losses as the Harlan County defense held early in the fourth quarter. Brown picked up a pair of first downs as the Bears drove deep into South Laurel territory before time expired.
The win improved the Bears’ record to 3-0 as Harlan County picked up a forfeit win against Knox Central, according to Caldwell.
Harlan fell to 0-3 in seventh- and eighth-grade football action with a 14-8 loss Tuesday at home against Knox Central.
Jackson Luttrell scored on a 20-yard run for the Dragons and added the two-point conversion.
Harlan will close its regular-season schedule Saturday at Pineville.

Sedrick Washington scored two touchdowns Thursday as Harlan County downed South Laurel 16-6 in seventh-grade action.