Adams powers Cougars in Coal Bowl rout

Even though he was a star running back in his Whitesburg playing days, don’t ask Letcher Central coach Junior Matthews how quarterback Carson Adams can escape from trouble with such ease on the football field..
“I don’t know how he does it either,” said Matthews after watching Adams dodge tacklers time after time on Friday as the visiting Cougars overcame a slow start to rout Harlan County 51-14. “He has this odd running style and it’s kind of funky, but it works for him. Carson played really well after the start when he had a couple of interceptions. He just had to settle down and do what he does, and he did and played really well. He got really hot.”
After throwing two interceptions early as HCHS built an 8-6 lead after one quarter, Adams was unstoppable as the Cougars reeled off 45 unanswered points in the second and third quarters. The junior signal caller passed for 260 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns as Letcher improved to 5-1. The Bears appeared to have Adams surrounded at times but he would find an opening.
“We’re not very strong right now,” Harlan County coach Amos McCreary said. “I think we’re still hurting from that time when there wasn’t a whole lot of weight lifting going on (between coaches last spring). I’m not saying that’s all of it, but you lose three or four months. We get there, but we can’t get anyone on the ground. We had four sophomores back there in the secondary at one time. We started seven sophomores on defense and that shows up. These guys haven’t played a lot of football, and that’s where we are right now. It’s frustrating.”
Harlan County played extremely well early, even though Letcher took a 6-0 lead on Adams’ 40-yard touchdown pass to Jonah Little with 7:36 left in the first quarter.
The Bears responded with a 10-play, 70-yard march featuring senior tailback Demarco Hopkins, who finished with 102 yards rushing, including a 3-yard touchdown run with 10:11 left in the second quarter, followed by the two-point conversion.
HCHS had a chance to extend the lead after a deflected Adams pass was picked off by Thomas Jordan after a collision with Jonah Swanner, who had a 42-yard run on.a reverse in the Bears’ scoring drive. Swanner injured a shoulder on the play and didn’t return. The Bears’ drive stalled when Hopkins was stopped short on a fourth-and-one play from the Letcher 29. Adams followed with touchdown runs of 54 and 7 yards, then found Nicholas Haning for a 62-yard TD pass with 2:05 left in the half. The Cougars got the ball back and scored two touchdowns wiped out by holding penalties before Adams teamed with Haning for a 46-yard touchdown with 53 seconds remaining before the break as the lead grew to 38-8.
“We played a good first quarter, then (Jonah) Swanner went down and that may have deflated us,” McCreary said. “I told the kids that was the best quarter we’ve played all year and now we have to get to where we can play four quarters like that.”
“We’ve had that issue throughout the year,” Matthews said of the slow start. “Our offense was a little sputtery at the start and defensively we were getting driven down the field. Harlan County will do that. They are.a physical team and it’s hard to prepare for that since so many teams are spread and do different things. You have to hunker down. The only way to beat physicality is to match it, and finally we did. Once the offense got clicking, we finally got going.”
Adams started a running clock with a 26-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the third quarter. Adams found Hayden Brashear with a screen pass that turned into a 49-yard touchdown with 7:50 left in the third quarter.
The Bears scored in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard run by Hopkins to cap a nine-play drive that left time for only three more plays by the Cougars.
Harlan County (2-4) will be open on Friday before traveling to Johnson Central on Oct. 15. Letcher Central will travel to Clay County on Friday.