Swanner’s 6-TD explosion sends Bears past Pike Central


Kim Henson

Harlan County junior receiver/running back/quarterback Jonah Swanner crossed the goal for the fourth of his six touchdowns Friday in the Black Bears’ 58-21 win over visiting Pike Central.

Former Philadelphia coach Buddy Ryan once said of receiver Chris Carter that “all he does is catch touchdowns” just after he cut him from the Eagles
You can be sure that Harlan County coach Amos McCreary has no plans like that for junior receiver/running back/quarterback Jonah Swanner, who touched the ball eight times on offense in the Black Bears’ 58-21 win Friday over visiting Pike Central and reached the end zone on six, four coming on passes from Ethan Rhymer and two on runs. He finished with four catches for 124 yards and four rushes for 116 yards, compiling 240 yards and falling only one score short of the school record of seven touchdowns reportedly set by Nathaniel Gilliam in a win over Middlesboro in 2008, the first year for HCHS.
“Jonah is playing lights out on both sides of the ball,” McCreary said. “When Jonah gets in the open field, he’s hard to hem up. He made a lot of big plays for us tonight.”
Junior tailback Thomas Jordan followed his 210-yard effort against Knox Central with a 168-yard, two touchdown game against Pike Central as the Black Bears collected over 300 yards on the ground as a team and Rhymer completed five of eight passes for 146 yards.
“Coach (Scotty) Bailey has done a great job with the offense,” McCreary said. “We talked before the season that we can’t stay in the wishbone because our backs aren’t the type to just pound like we have in the past. We decided we needed to get playmakers out in space, and they are making the plays.”
After a gutsy performance in upsetting Knox Central and standout quarterback Steven Partin last week, the HCHS defense was not nearly as good on Friday as the Bears missed numerous tackles against senior running back Matt Anderson, who ran for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
“You preach all week that defense is a game of emotion and you have to be ready to come up there and hit somebody,” McCreary said. “That’s not to take anything from (Anderson). He’s a big boy who runs it pretty well. You are up there trying to figure out where you want to hit him, then you don’t hit him. He was bouncing around back there and we didn’t go after him like we should have.”
Anderson dominated the opening drive as the Hawks marched 58 yards in eight plays while the Bears appeared to be lacking the intensity from a week earlier. Anderson went in from the 5 and Rudy Sanchez hit the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Harlan County needed only two plays to answer as Josh Sergent had a catch for 22 yards, then Swanner raced 45 yards for a touchdown on his first touch of the night. Swanner added the first of five two-point conversions on the night as he found success out of the wildcat formation.
After holding the Hawks on their second series, the Bears struck again quickly. Jordan’s 67-yard touchdown run was wiped out by a holding penalty, but Swanner broke free two plays later for a 69-yard TD run. Swanner’s conversion pushed the lead to 16-6 with 2:19 to play in the opening quarter.
Anderson answered on the next play as he broke several tackles on the way to an 80-yard touchdown run, then went in for the conversion to cut the deficit to 16-15 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
Jordan had several runs as the Bears went 72 yards in seven plays in a drive capped by a 20-yard pass from Rhymer to Swanner on the opening play of the second quarter. A two-point conversion run by Swanner pushed the lead to 24-15.
Jordan had another touchdown wiped out by a penalty, this one on a punt return, but reached the end zone a few plays later on a 25-yard run. Swanner’s conversion made the score 32-15 with 4:12 left in the half.
Two stops by Sergent helped put the HCHS offense back on the field. Swanner drew a pass interference penalty on the first play, then caught a screen pass from Rhymer and turned it into a 30-yard touchdown on the next. Rhymer fumbled on the conversion attempt, but the Bears led 38-15 with 1:52 to play in the second quarter.
Jordan ran 45 yards on the first play of the third quarter and scored on a 28-yard run on the second. Swanner was finally stopped on a two-point attempt and the Bears led 44-15 with 11:25 to play in the period.
Anderson ran 68 yards for Pike Central’s final touchdown on the Hawks’ next play. Anderson was stopped on the two-point attempt as the Harlan County lead was 44-21 with 11:12 left in the third quarter.
Swanner caught a 46-yard touchdown pass from Rhymer after a kickoff return from Luke Kelly. Rhymer and Swanner also teamed up for the two-point conversion to make the score 51-24 with 9:34 to play in the period.
Runs by James Ryan Howard and Darren Alred set up the final TD pass of the night, a 28-yard strike from Rhymer to Swanner with 3:10 left in the third quarter.
The 3-2 Black Bears open their district schedule Friday at home against Clay County. The 1-4 Hawks play host to Floyd Central.


Harlan County running back Thomas Jordan followed a block from Connor Blevins on one of his big gains in the Bears’ win Friday over Pike Central. Jordan ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns. (Kim Henson)
Pike Central running back Matt Anderson tried to get around Harlan County defensive end Carter Howard in Friday’s game at Coal Miners Memorial Stadium. Anderson ran for 202 yards in the Hawks’ 58-21 loss. (Kim Henson)