HCHS, Whitley to renew rivalry after three-year break


Chris Jones

Harlan County running back Josh Sergent broke a tackle in a win over South Laurel earlier this season. Sergent and the Bears return to action Monday at Clay County.

By John Henson, Managing Editor


Playing every season from 2009 to 2018, the Harlan County Black Bears and Whitley County Colonels split 10 games between the two before taking a two-year hiatus. The series will be revived Friday when the Colonels travel to Harlan County, and both teams share a need to put some bad memories behind them following losses last week as Whitley County fell 45-0 to a powerhouse Corbin squad while Harlan County lost 48-24 at Hazard.
“Coach (Chad} Wood was telling our guys that we’d lost to them the last couple three we’ve played them,” Harlan County coach Amos McCreary said of the Colonels. “I think it’s a game we have a shot at winning if we play like we are capable. They have some good players, including a tight end (Travis Downs) who is outstanding. Their quarterback can move around and make things happen.”
Harlan County (1-1) has featured a strong ground game thus far this season with seniors Demarco Hopkins and Luke Carr rushing for 413 and 258 yards, respectively, behind a big and strong offensive front. The Bears were unable to move the ball through the air last week as sophomore quarterback Ethan Rhymer was picked off four times with standout receiver Jonah Swanner unable to play. Swanner had a touchdown catch in Harlan County’s win over South Laurel to open the season. Swanner is out again this week, but sophomore defensive end Carter Howard is expected to return.
“Some of it was Hazard had a couple of great athletes making plays but some of it was us,” McCreary said. “He’s getting better every week, but he has to get his hips turned and get the ball out of there a little quicker. We also can’t afford to give up two touchdowns on specialty teams, like last week, and beat anybody.”
Whitley County (0-2) opened its schedule with a 20-13 loss to Perry Central before falling to Corbin last week. Sophomore running back Caden Rose has led the Whitley ground game so far with 63 yards rushing. Senior quarterback Caden Petrey has completed 12 of 28 passes for 188 yards.
“We’ve got to play better on defense, especially the secondary,” McCreary said. “We’ve talked all season about getting better every week. I think if we can do that and stop the big plays it would give us a good shot to win the game.”