Slowing down Rice will be top priority as Bears seek to avenge last year’s loss at Clay


Harlan County tailback Thomas Jordan broke away from South Laurel’s Garrison Brown in action earlier this season. Jordan and the Black Bears will open their district schedule Friday at home against Clay County.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

In struggling to a 2-8 mark last season, the Harlan County Black Bears had a habit of making just about every quarterback they faced look like a Division I recruit.
Clay County’s Tate Rice was one of the quarterbacks who had a big night against the Bears last year, completing 16 of 24 passes for 195 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in the Tigers’ 40-20 win over HCHS in Manchester. It was the first time in school history the Bears had lost to Clay County.
Rice is off to another good start this year with 860 yards passing while throwing 14 touchdowns and only one interception. Tyson Wagers has 14 catches for 252 yards and Zachary Saylor has 13 catches for 350 yards and six touchdowns. Lucas Allen leads in rushing with 325 yards and four touchdowns.
“We’ve talked that we have to stop him first and then go from there,” Harlan County coach Amos McCreary said. “We can’t let him do what he did to us last year. They are a scrappy team and they have some players, including a couple of good receivers.”
Clay County is off to a 3-1 start, winning three straight after a hard-fought 34-26 loss to Knox Central to open the season. The Tigers followed with wins over Leslie County, Lynn Camp and Pike Central before taking last week off with an open date.
“I think we have to get them where they are running it. They hurt us with the big play last year,” McCreary said. “This is a big one. It’s at home, then we have to go on the road to some tough places to win. This is a real important for us. This one would give us a chance to get back in the playoffs. We still have a chance if we don’t, but this would be huge for us.”
Harlan County has already exceeded last year’s win total with a 3-2 mark after a 58-21 win last week over Pike Central. The Bears have featured a potent 1-2 attack on offense with junior receiver Jonah Swanner scoring six touchdowns last week and junior tailback Thomas Jordan adding two while running for 168 yards.
Senior safety Will Jones had his best game for the Bears against Pike Central with eight tackles to tie Josh Sergent and Dallas Sergent for the team lead. Carter Howard and Austin Roark added seven and five tackles, respectively.