Bears expect to face a much tougher test at Hazard in season’s second week


Chris Jones

Several Harlan County defenders brought down South Laurel running back Brad Elza in Friday’s game. The Bears held South to five yards on the ground.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Opening the season with a 59-26 victory Friday over South Laurel provided a much needed boost of confidence for a young Harlan County squad.
However, the victory over a team that was winless a season ago didn’t answer all the questions surrounding HCHS, even among fans still curious about “how good” the Bears could be this season.
Those answers could very well come Friday when Harlan County travels to Hazard, one of the top Class A programs in eastern Kentucky over the past couple of decades. Hazard opened the season with a 22-20 loss at Middlesboro. The Bulldogs were driving for the potential go-ahead score when time expired with Hazard inside the Jackets’ 10.
“Friday will be a big test for us,” Harlan County coach Amos McCreary said. “They were down inside the 5 at the end of the game with a chance to beat Middlesboro and Middlesboro beat us, so they are a totally different team than South Laurel.”
Max Johnson led the Hazard offense against the Jackets, running for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman quarterback Max Pelfrey had an impressive debut as he completed 13 of 24 passes for 176 yards. Andrew Ford had six catches for 96 yards and Tyrson Turner added four receptions for 48 yards.
“They are pretty athletic and they have 14 starters returning. I know the quarterback is a freshman, but he has gotten better every game we’ve watched,” McCreary said. “They like to throw the football around, so that’s what we’re facing again. We hope we can get enough pressure to slow him down a little. They can also run the football, and they’re a little tougher up front than South Laurel was.”
The Bears rolled up just under 500 yards on the ground against South Laurel as Demarco Hopkins gained 291 yards on 20 carries and Luke Carr added 132 yards on 11 carries. Jonah Swanner was huge on special teams with a kickoff return for a touchdown, plus another score on a pass from Ethan Rhymer.
“I expect them to stack the box on us, so we may have to throw it more than we have in the past,” McCreary said. “We need to have some success there.”
Harlan is open this week following a 29-8 season-opening loss Friday at Berea.
The Dragons were limited to 58 yards of rushing by the Pirates as Dylan Middleton and Triston Cochran each ran for 29 yards. Cade Middleton completed 12 of 22 passes for 112 yards. Jayden Ward had four catches for 36 yards, while Dylan Middleton added three for 31 yards and Darius Akal added two for 25 yards. Evan Browning and Will Austin had one catch each.
Jared Eldridge and Dylan Middleton led the Harlan defense with nine tackles each. Robert Sanford added eight.
The Green Dragons will travel to Jenkins on Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. in a rare Thursday game.