Dragons knock off East Ridge in Pike County Bowl


Jon Dickenson

Harlan senior Jayden Ward ran for 189 yards on Friday in the Green Dragons’ 22-16 win over East Ridge at Belfry in the Pike County Bowl.


The Harlan Green Dragons are proving that offensive balance may be a tad overrated, at least when you can run for over 300 yards on Friday night.
Harlan topped the 300-yard mark for the second time in as many games and used a ball-control attack that included over 19 minutes with the ball in the first half on the way to a 22-16 win over East Ridge in the Pike County Bowl at Belfry High School.
The Dragons tied the game at 8-all just before halftime as Darius Akal raced 56 yards with 43 seconds remaining. Jayden Ward’s two-point conversion was good.
Harlan’s defense sparkled as the Dragons stopped the Warriors on first-and-goal at the 1 on the last play of the first half.
East Ridge fumbled and Dale Gommels, of the Warriors, recovered as the horn sounded.
The Dragons received the ball to start the second half. A six-play, 54-yard drive was capped as Dylan Middleton scored from the 1 with 7:31 left in the third quarter. Ward added the two-point conversion to make it 16-8.
As they did all night, the Dragons kept the ball on its next possession nearly eight minutes.
The Dragons used a 60-yard drive in nine plays to score as quarterback Donovan Montanaro went in from the 4 as Harlan led 22-8.
East Ridge fought back with an impressive drive, scoring just over three minutes later. A drive that covered 64 yards took 10 plays as quarterback Dylan Burdine went in from the 9 at the 5:33 mark. Burdine’s two-point conversion run pulled his team within six.
East Ridge had one more shot at the end zone.
Burdine completed three passes that covered 39 yards and a Harlan penalty of 15 yards moved the ball to the Dragon 37.
The East Ridge signal caller was intercepted with 13.6 seconds to play as Harlan’s Will Austin pulled down the ball, giving the Dragons the victory.
The last time Harlan started the season 2-0 was 2016 under John Luttrell. The Dragons completed a 7-4 record that season.
The Green Dragons gained 344 yards on the ground on 51 rushes. Ward led the team with 189 yards on 22 carries. Akal finished with 99 yards on eight carries but didn’t play in the second half due to an injury. Middleton added 39 yards on seven rushes.
Burdine completed 12 of 24 passes for 180 yards. Senior receiver Brad Howell had six receptions for 104 yards. Steven Layne added 44 yards on four catches.
East Ridge rushed for 116 yards on 33 carries. Layne, a junior, had 39 yards on five carries
Harlan (2-0) will travel to Elizabethton (Tenn.) to battle Unaka on Friday. East Ridge (1-1) will visit Betsy Layne on Friday.