Black Bears open district slate at Clay


Kim Henson

Two Harlan Couty defenders converged for a tackle earlier this season. The Black Bears open their disrict schedule Monday at Clay County.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Harlan County will try to keep a couple of streaks alive on Monday at Clay County in the opening district clash of the season for both teams.
The game, which was moved from Friday due to turf being installed on the Clay County field, will be the 10th meeting between the two teams since HCHS opened in 2008. The Black Bears have won all nine previous meetings but go into this year’s game as a slight underdog going by the state RPI ratings. A win Friday would also go a long way in extending the Bears’ streak of playoff appearances to 14. HCHS needs at least one district win to keep its string of postseason appearances perfect going back to the school’s opening.

Clay brings a 3-1 record into the game with wins over Leslie County (28-14), Lynn Camp (40-0) and Pike Central (36-28) following a season-opening loss to Knox Central (30-22).
Sophomore quarterback Tate Rice has led the Clay offense in his second year as a starter, completing 57 of 89 passes for 581 yards and six touchdowns. Adam Collins has 23 receptions for 163 yards, while Tyson Wagers has 10 catches for 137 yards and Zachary Saylor has eight catches for 107 yards. Trevor Spurlock has rushed for 516 yards and scored three touchdowns.
“He can throw the ball. He’s pretty accurate,” Harlan County coach Amos McCreary said of Rice. “He has receiver he likes to go to (Collins and Saylor). He can also run it. I think Clay is an improved team, from what I’ve seen on film. They play pretty decent.”
The 2-3 Bears, who ended a three-game losing streak with a 60-28 win last week at Pike Central, have struggled to top the pass most of the season.
“Everybody seems to have a quarterback who can throw it, or they are like what we saw last week with a quarterback who can fly,” McCreary said. “We’re getting better. There are still a lot of things we have to improve, but they are figuring out their responsibilities.”
HCHS senior tailback Demarco Hopkins is in a position to top 1,000 yards rushing for the season as he has gained 895 yards and scored 14 touchdowns through five games. Luke Carr has added 594 yards rushing.
Junior linebacker Josh Sergent has led the HCHS defense to this point with 38 tackles, including six for losses. Sophomore defensive backs Thomas Jordan and Jonah Swanner each had 22 tackles.
Hopkins scored six touchdowns in last week’s win, which McCreary said should provide a confidence boost.
“Any time you get a win it shows the kids they can win. When you’re as young as we are, that’s a big thing,” he said. “Our offense has been able to put up some points. We’re just so young on the defensive side, and we don’t have a lot of speed. That isn’t a great combination. If we were an older team that knew exactly what we’re doing and where we’re going, it would help. Coach (Denny) Farmer has said it’s the youngest team he’s put out there, but he’s doing a great job teaching them and showing them where to go. He’s done a lot of work with them to get them ready, but they have to get out there and play.”