Bears’ defense will face another test against Pike Central quarterback


Kim Henson

Harlan County running back Demarco Hopkins looked for an opening against Knox Central linebacker Steve Partin in last week’s game.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

A Harlan County defense that has given up big plays at an alarming rate during its recent three-game losing streak will face yet another big challenge on Friday, this time at Pike Central against sophomore quarterback Tayvian Boykins.
“He is their big-play guy and that’s the thing that hurts us when we got one who has a lot of speed. We can’t let him get out in open space,” Harlan County coach Amps McCreary said. “We have to contain him and tackle him. If we do that, we have a good chance to win.”
The Black Bears have had trouble containing their opponents’ top players this season, going back to a season-opening win over South Laurel when freshman Landry Collett passed for 207 yards and three touchdowns. Max Johnson ran for 147 yards the following week and added touchdowns on a kickoff return, a punt return and an interception return. Whitley County’s Caden Petrey passed for 237 yards and three touchdowns two weeks ago, and Knox Central’s Marc Warren passed for 320 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-26 win last week.
Boykins has rushed for 534 yards and seven touchdowns through three games, beginning with a 20-8 win at Pendleton County. The Hawks fell to Shelby Valley 59-32 in the season’s second week, a team that HCHS defeated in a preseason scrimmage. Pike Central suffered a forfeit loss to Letcher Central due to covid, then fell 36-28 to Clay County last week. The Hawks had a second weapon last week as junior Matt Anderson ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns in his first action of the season due to an injury.
“He’s a big kid. He didn’t play until last week and he adds a new dimension,” McCreary said.
If they can’t contain Boykins and Anderson, they will need a big offensive night against a team that has given up quite a bit of yardage early in the season. The Bears have featured a strong running game thus far led by Demarco Hopkins, Luke Carr and Thomas Jordan, with receiver Jonah Swanner providing a big-play threat on both offense and special teams.
“We are going to have to score. We know he will make some big plays, so we have to match that and take advantage of our opportunities,” McCreary said. “You never know when you go on the road what you will get, but we can’t afford to put the ball on the ground and get too many penalties.”