Mountain Lions edge Harlan, advance to District 8 finals


Chris Jones

Harlan quarterback Cade Middleton broke free around a Leslie County defender in action last week. The Green Dragons fell 29-26 at Pineville on Thursday in the first round of the Class A playoffs.

By Shane Shackleford, Contributing Writer

On a cold autumn night on the banks of the Cumberland River, the Harlan Green Dragons and the Pineville Mountain Lions renewed their rivalry that has been played since the 1920s with the Battle of 119 in Pineville.

In this episode, a playoff win was on the line, and for 48 minutes the two squads battled tooth and nail with the Lions eking out a 29-26 victory in a game that would go down as one of the most hotly contested games in the long history of the series.

Harlan trailed most of the game until the middle of the fourth quarter when the Dragons took a 26-21 lead on a blocked Evan Biliter punt and scoop and score from Darius Akal.

The Lions answered on their ensuing series with an 18-yard touchdown run by quarterback Atavius Flanary to regain the lead. Running back Landon King’s two-point conversion made the score 29-26 Lions with about two minutes to play.

The Dragons were driving until the offense fumbled the ball around the 45-yard line and gave possession back to the Lions with under a minute to play. Pineville gained a first down and ran the clock out to preserve the victory.

The game opened up scoreless with three turnovers in the first four series for both squads until the second quarter when the Lions’ Trevor Short had a 65-yard interception return, setting the offense up with great field position. From there, Pineville star tailback Devon “Scooby” Morris scored from 21 yards out to stake Pineville to a 6-0 lead.

The Lions went into halftime leading by that same score.

On the opening series of the second half, the Lions would score again on a King fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown. King added the conversion and the Pineville lead grew to 14-0.

The HHS offense would awaken and score on a 25-yard touchdown run by Dylan Middleton. Quarterback Cade Middleton added the conversion to cut the lead to 14-8.

The Harlan special teams recovered the ensuing kickoff to put the Dragons in excellent field position. The Dragons marched down the field and score on a Dylan Middleton 8-yard touchdown run. The conversion failed and the score was knotted at 14.

The PHS offense scored on the next possession as Morris sailed in from 28 yards for the score. Luke Naylor’s kick was true and the Lions took back the lead 21-14 to complete the third quarter.

Harlan answered with its own drive to open the fourth quarter, culminating in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Cade Middleton to Dylan Middleton. The conversion was no good and the Dragons trailed 21-20, setting up the final dramatics.

The Dragons close their year at 4-7. The Lions improved to 8-3.

Pineville will travel to Williamsburg to play in the second round of the playoffs next Friday night. The Yellow Jackets had an opening-round bye.