Harlan playing host to Tennessee opponent; Bears renewing oldest rivalry


Jeff Drummond

The Harlan offense, led by quarterback Cade Middleton, prepared to run a play earlier this season. The Dragons travel to Lynn Camp on Friday.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

The Harlan County Black Bears will be at home against their oldest rival while the Harlan Green Dragons will be at home against an entirely new rival in high school football action Friday.
Harlan County played the first game in school history in 2008 at Letcher Central and have played the Cougars every year since. The two will meet again Friday in a district clash.
The Bears bring a 2-4 record into the game coming off a 40-20 loss at Clay County on Monday. Letcher Central is 4-1 following a district victory Friday over Perry Central.
“They will be the best football team we’ve played so far,” Harlan County coach Amos McCreary said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but it could be like tonight. All we can do is go back and work our butts off. The kids come to work every day, and I can’t fault that. I knew we were hurting a little bit speed-wise when the season started, but after six weeks of the season we ought to be where we’re supposed to be. That isn’t happening either.”
Junior quarterback Carson Adams is a dual-threat for the Cougars as he’s rushed for a team-high 534 yards while completing 48 of 77 passes for 740 yards
“He’s a big boy who can do a lot of things, then they have (Dakota Hall) on the other side who is probably the best tackle we’ve seen so far,” McCreary said.
The Bears have struggled to stop anyone’s passing attack through six games, giving up five touchdown passes to Clay County’s Tate Rice in last week’s loss. The Bears have been primarily a running team with seniors Demarco Hopkins and Luke Carr and sophomore Thomas Jordan leading the way. Junior linebacker Josh Sergent has led the HCHS defense.
Harlan will play Unaka, a school with approximately 330 students in Elizabethton, Tenn., in the first meeting between the two. The Dragons will bring a 2-3 mark into the game coming off consecutive losses to strong Middlesboro and Sayre squads. Unaka is 3-2, opening with a 42-0 win over North Greene, followed by a 54-22 loss to Cloudland and a 28-24 loss to Twin Springs before beating Jellico 62-20 and then defeating Happy Valley 8-6 last week.
“They are a small school like us with a similar roster. They will mix it up out of the shotgun. Their quarterback has a good arm,” Harlan coach Eric Perry said. “Getting healthy is our big thing right now.”
Harlan will likely be without senior tackle Jon Lewis due to a knee injury and receiver Donovan Montanaro due to a bicep strain. Receiver Will Austin is considered “probable” following an ankle injury suffered last week at Sayre.
Senior quarterback Cade Middleton has passed for 354 yards through five games, completing 31 of 64 passes. Junior tailback Jayden Ward has led the Dragons’ ground attack with 296 yards. Middleton is second with 235 yards.
Roberts Sanford and Dylan Middleton have led the Harlan defense with 36 and 31 tackles, respectively. Jared Eldridge has 26 tackles.
The Dragons will play their three Class A district opponents in the following three weeks, which is another reason Perry would like to see his team build some momentum.
“This is important for us to get back into the win column going into the district,” he said. “We’ve played two really good teams in back-to-back weeks, ranked in the top five in their class. I was hoping we’d be more competitive, but we can redeem ourselves this week.”