Sergent, Bears’ defensive leader a.year ago, expects even better results this season


Chris Jones

Harlan County senior Josh Sergent battled for yardage in action last season against South Laurel. Sergent was the team leader in tackles with 70.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

For a Harlan County defense that gave up just over 43 points a game last year in a 2-8 season, finding a bright spot on the unit would seem to be a difficult task.
But for coach Amos McCreary, it only takes a moment for him to identify the play of senior linebacker Josh Sergent as the best part of the Bears’ defensive efforts in 2021. Sergent was the team leader with 70 tackles, almost 30 ahead of second place. He also quadrupled anyone’s else’s numbers when it comes to tackles for losses with 12.
“He was our best defensive player, no doubt. Josh was always around the ball and got everyone lined up,” McCreary said Monday during a break in the Bears’ first practice session of the summer.
McCreary is happy to point out that Sergent was not satisfied with his play a year ago and went to work in the off-season to get faster and stronger.
“He’s lost some weight and he’s in better shape,” the HCHS coach said. “That handcuffed us a little early last year because he wasn’t in.great shape, but we talked about that and he went to work with running and lifting. He’s also a lot stronger. His conditioning is a lot better and he came in ready to go.”
Sergent is confident the Bears will improve in 2022, especially on the defensive side of the ball. He noted that missed tackles led to numerous big plays that too often were back-breakers for the Bears, who missed the playoffs last fall for the first time in school history.
“I guess I had a pretty good season last year, but we got bullied too often as a unit,” Sergent said. “We have to be more physical this year. We have to be tougher. We missed a lot of open-field tackles that led to touchdowns last year. We have worked on that a lot, and it’s going to be a lot better.”
McCreary, a former standout linebacker himself at Evarts and then Jacksonville State, expects an improved defense this year.
“I think we’ll play better defensively this year,” he said. “We have some experience back over there. Tackling will be a point of emphasis for us. We’re working on that every day, and we have to get tougher in that area.”
While he’s best known for his play on defense, Sergent also fills an important role at fullback. The running game was a strength for Harlan County last year with Demarco Hopkins, who went on to sigh with Jacksonville State, rushed for 1,508 yards. Luke Carr added 1,007 yards.
“Fullback is a hard job and you don’t get a lot of credit, but you help create a path for the running back,” Sergent said.
Thomas Jordan, who moves into the primary role in the HCHS backfield this year, was third on the team in rushing last year with 292 yards. Sergent was next with 209 yards and expects to contribute more this season.
“I hope to carry it a little more this year,” Sergent said. “I’ve worked on my strength and speed. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. I want to be able to go through people and get to the end zone.”
“Josh will be important on both sides of the ball. We’re doing some things where we move him around a little bit,” McCreary said. “Blocking is very important at that position, but he will also carry the ball a little more.”