Petrey-Harp combo accounts for 3 TDs as Colonels overpower HCHS

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Covering Sam Harp proved to be an impossible task for the Harlan County Black Bears on Friday. The junior receiver had seven catches for 185 yards and teamed with quarterback Caden Petrey for three touchdowns as the Colonels reached the win column for the first time with a surprisingly easy 42-16 win.
Harp’s biggest catch of the night wasn’t a touchdown and it didn’t come from Petrey. With the Colonels clinging to a 7-0 lead and facing a fourth-and-six from their own 10, coach Zeke Eier took a gamble that may have turned around Whitley’s season. Christian Grubb rolled out on a punt attempt in his end zone and found Harp for a 19-yard catch that kept the drive alive, setting up a 60-yard TD pass from Petrey with 7:12 left in the first half. Petrey threw a 30-yard TD pass to Harp earlier in the second quarter and Ryan Steely hit the first of four extra points.
Petrey completed nine of 14 passes for 222 yards as he continually escaped the Harlan County pass rush to make plays down the field.
“We’d have him hemmed up and he’d make a play,” Harlan County coach Amos McCreary said. “We’re just not making plays. We’re giving up containment and we did it all night long. That’s something we told them and told them and we let him get outside. When you let him do that, he can make a play. They had some big targets out there who made plays.”
Harlan County struggled to move the ball in the first half with the Colonels stacked to stop the run and was held scoreless and limited to only six yards rushing on 10 carries in the opening quarter before picking up 68 yards in the second period.
“It took us a while to get going,” McCreary said. “They did a good job of defensing us up and putting people in the box. It wasn’t anything we didn’t know would happen. We’re struggling to throw the ball, but all you can do is come back and work like crazy and hope next week you can make some plays.”
Whitley pushed its lead to 20-0 in the third quarter on a 30-yard run by Brian Leach to cap a three-play drive to start the half.
The Harlan County offense finally came to life late in the third quarter when sophomore running back Thomas Jordan provided a spark with four carries for 62 yards, setting up Demarco Hopkins’ 2-yard TD run. Hopkins added the two-point conversion.
The Bears had a chance to get back into the game if they could have recovered the onside kick. It bounced through several hands before 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior tight end Trevor Downs picked up the ball and rumbled 60 yards for a touchdown.
“That was one of the craziest plays I’ve seen in a long time,” McCreary said. “You think you’re ready to make a play and the next thing you know he brings it back for a touchdown. He broke some tackles once he got going. If we get that ball there and go down and score it could have been a different game.”
Ethan Renfro recovered a fumbled snap on the first play of the fourth quarter to set up Harp’s third touchdown, a 39-yard pass from Petrey. Steely’s extra point pushed the lead to 35-8.
A 53-yard run by Jordan put the Bears in position for Hopkins’ second touchdown run from the 3 with 8:58 to play. Hopkins added the two-point conversion.
Jordan finished with 147 yards on nine carries, all in the second half, as he continually danced through the middle of the Whitley defense for big gains.
“Thomas had a good night. He ran the football hard, and the guys up front were blocking. He’s quick and strong,” McCreary said.
Caden Rose closed the scoring with an 11-yard TD run with 3:19 left. Steely hit the extra point.
The Bears lost two key players to injuries during the game as junior linebacker/fullback Josh Sergent and sophomore lineman Will Cassim were taken off the field in an ambulance.
Harlan County (1-2) will play host to Knox Central on Friday. Whitley County (1-2) is open on Friday before playing Bell County at home on Sept. 17.