Dragons headed to Pineville for first-round playoff clash

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Chris Jones

Harlan’s Darius Akal raced away from several Leslie County defenders in Friday’s regular-season finale.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Going into a regular-season matchup two weeks ago at Pineville, Harlan coach Eric Perry offered an early warning on what could be his Green Dragons’ downfall when he described Pineville running back Devon Morris as the “X” factor in the game.
Morris rushed for 272 yards and scored five touchdowns as the Mountain Lions rolled to 59-20 win to claim the second seed in District 8 and a home playoff game Thursday in a rematch against Harlan. Perry knows the Dragons must do a better job of containing the senior running back this time.
“He’s really good, and we’ve got to do a better job against him,” Perry said. “We have to be able to force some turnovers and get our defense off the field.”
The Mountain Lions bring a 7-3 record into the playoffs in Jason Chappell’s first year as head coach after serving as the defensive coordinator last season on Randy Frazier’s staff.
Morris has led the Lions with 1,081 yards and 19 touchdowns. Noah Caldwell has added 436 yards on the ground.
Harlan comes into the game at 4-6 after rallying for an overtime victory last week over Leslie County. Junior tailback Jayden Ward, who was slowed by an ankle injury, ran for 98 yards and three touchdowns. Ward has led the Dragons this season with 612 yards rushing. Senior quarterback Cade Middleton has passed for 1,114 yards and rushed for 438.
The Green Dragons will be playing at Pineville in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year. The Lions edged Harlan 21-14 in last year’s playoffs.
“They beat us at home pretty good, then we went over there and I thought we should have won the game,” Perry said. “I think we feel confident, but we have to be able to create a few turnovers and make them punt. We also need to be better at running the football to open up our passing game. If we’re playing defense all night, it’s going to be a long night.”
Williamsburg will play host to the Harlan/Pineville winner next Friday in the District 8 championship game.