Eagles advance in 4A playoffs with victory over HCHS


Demarco Hopkins, pictured in action earlier this season, scored Harlan County’s lone touchdown in a playoff loss Friday at Johnson Central.

Defending state champ Johnson Central rolled up 414 total yards of offense on Friday to claim a 46-8 win over visiting Harlan County in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Johnson Central opened the game with a 52-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Grant Rice to Mason Lawson on the first play from scrimmage. Following a Black Bear penality, Rice connected with Dillon Preston for the two-point conversion.
Fifth-two seconds later, Rice found Toby Scruggs for a 56-yard touchdown pass. Austin Ratliff’s kick was good as the Eagles led 15-0.
At the 7:40 mark, sophomore running back Mason Lawson raced 53 yards for the TD. Ratliff added the PAT.
Johnson Central scored again as Sawyer Crum kicked a 27-yard field to make it 25-0 with 11:57 remaining in the first half.
Rice connected with Preston for a 45-yard touchdown pass at the 8:28 mark of the second quarter. Ratliff’s kick was good for a 32-0 lead.
With 4:16 left in the half, Preston went in from the 22 for a score. Ratliff made it 39-0 heading into halftime with his kick.
With a running clock in the second half, both teams scored once.
The Golden Eagles’ final touchdown came at the 3:52 mark of the third quarter as Caden Yates scored on a 12-yard run. Ratliff hit his fifth PAT.
The Bears went on an 11-play, 62-yard drive to score. Demarco Hopkins and Josh Turner each had five carries in a drive that was capped by a 7-yard run by Hopkins. Cody Clayborn found Tyler Flanary for the two-point conversion.
Rice, a junior, completed six of seven passes for 188 yards. Preston carried the ball five times for 95 yards.
Hopkins gained 40 yards on 18 rushes. Turner added 26 yards on nine carries. Jordan Steele recovered a fumble for the Bears.
Johnson Central (8-0) will advance to the second-round of the playoffs, hosting Letcher Central on Friday. The Eagles blanked LCC 62-0 on Oct. 23.
Harlan County closes the season with a 3-6 record,. The Bears lose 13 seniors, including Hunter Blevins, Matthew Brown, Luke Caudill, Clayborn, Gavin Ewald, Flanary, Hopkins, Hunter Helton, Jonathan Lankford, Brent Roark, Josh Swanner, Steele and Turner.
“You always hate to see a season end because you know that is the last time you get to play with those seniors,” Harlan County coach Eddie Creech said. “Our program has been blessed with a great group of seniors this season to lead us through a tough time. I am ultra proud of all the players for sticking together and finishing this thing the right way.”

Johnson Central 46, Harlan County 8
Harlan County 0 0 0 8 – 8
Johnson Central 22 17 7 0 – 46
JC—Lawson 52 pass from Rice (Preston pass from Rice)
JC—Spriggs 56 pass from Rice (Ratliff kick)
JC—Lawson 53 run (Ratliff kick)
JC—Crum 27 FG
JC—Preston 45 pass from Rice (Ratliff kick)
JC—Preston 22 run (Ratliff kick)
JC—Yates 12 run (Ratliff kick)
HC—Hopkins 7 run (Flanary pass from Clayborn)

First downs 5 12
Rushing-yds 30-70 17-226
Passing 6 191
Comp-Att-Int 1-8-1 7-9-0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties 3-15 3-25

RUSHING—Harlan County, Hopkins 18-40, Turner 9-26, Ewald 1-8, Flanary 1-6, Clayborn 1-(-10). Johnson Central, Preston 5-95, Lawson 2-66, Sexton 2-19, Conley 1-16, McCoart 1-14, Yates 1-12, Crum 2-7, R. Rice 1-4, G. Rice 1-(-2), Barnes 1-(-5).
PASSING—Harlan County, Clayborn 1-7-1-6, Hopkins 0-1-0-0. Johnson Central, G. Rice 7-8-0-188, Grimm 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Harlan County, Swanner 1-6. Johnson Central, Russell 3-36, Spriggs 2-58, Lawson 1-52, Preston 1-45.