Dragons, Bears to face road tests in first-round playoff games


Chris Jones

Ethan Clem took the snap during Harlan’s win over Lynn Camp earlier this season. The Green Dragons return to action Friday at Pineville.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Both Harlan and Harlan County will go on the road for the first round of the playoffs Friday with both teams hoping to reverse the outcomes from regular season meetings.
Harlan (3-2) will travel to Pineville (4-2) for its first game in a month since losing to the Lions 29-8 on Oct. 23 at Harlan. The Dragons had to cancel a couple of games since then due to low numbers following a rash of injuries that had reduced their roster to 13 healthy players.
The Green Dragons have been led on offense this season by senior quarterback Ethan Clem, who has rushed for 277 yards and passed for 217. Junior tailback Jayden Ward has added 277 yards on the ground. Shane Lindsey has led the Harlan defense with 45 tackles. Dylan Middleton has added 29 tackles. Donovan Montanaro had 26 tackles before going out with a season-ending arm injury.
The Lions have played only one game since the victory at Harlan, winning 29-19 at Knott Central two weeks ago. The Lions lost junior tailback Devon Morris to an injury early in the Harlan game and he didn’t play last week but is still second on the team in rushing with 425 yards. Senior quarterback Reese Capps has 614 yards rushing and has completed 24 of 58 passes for 391 yards. Landon King leads the Pineville defense with 47 tackles and is followed by Capps with 46 tackles and Trevor Kidd with 37.
Harlan County (3-5) brings a two-game winning streak into Friday’s game at Johnson Central but faces the toughest test in this part of the state against the defending state champion Eagles, who are 7-0 this year and have won 22 straight, including last year’s 4A state championship.
Dillon Preston leads the Eagles’ ground-oriented attack with 1,118 yards and 21 touchdowns in seven games. Grant Rice has completed 13 of 19 passes for 397 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. Mason Lemaster has led the defense with 56 tackles. Chase Price and Jesse McCoy have 34 tackles each.
Senior running backs Demarco Hopkins and Josh Turner have led the Bears on offense with 852 and 324 yards, respectively. Hunter Blevins leads the state’s 4A teams in tackles with 108. Turner is next with 84, followed by Hunter Ewald with 75 and Brett Roark with 50.