Jackets ride ball-control attack to district win over Harlan


Darrin Spencer

Harlan sophomore running back Darius Akal scored on a 12-yard run in the Green Dragons’ 26-16 loss Friday at Williamsburg.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

WILLIAMSBURG — Hoping to end Williamsburg’s six-year run as district champions, the Harlan Green Dragons brought perhaps their best team this century here Friday with the goal of taking over the line of scrimmage and building on a hot start that included winning five of their first six games.
Williamsburg had the same goal and won both the clock and battle up front, leading all the way in claiming a hard-fought 26-16 victory that set them up for a showdown next week against unbeaten Pineville for this year’s District 8 crown. The Jackets picked up 22 first downs and 251 yards on the ground as senior quarterback Sydney Bowen (22 carries for 110 yards) and junior fullback Hunter Thomas (22 carries for 138 yards) teamed for all but one of 45 carries on the night.
“They are big and physical up front, and we knew that coming in, “ Harlan coach Eric Perry said. “We got down 14-0 pretty quick again and couldn’t dig out of this one. The kids fought hard, but they manhandled us up front on the offensive line, and that’s what concerned us coming in. Their passing attack didn’t concern us at all.”
Harlan (5-2 overall, 0-1 district) also had success on the ground with 205 yards on 32 carries, but was limited to 18 yards passing and 11 first downs.
“We moved it well at times, but we fumbled it a couple of times and just didn’t play well enough to win the game,” Perry said. “They outplayed us, and hat’s off to them. Playing them close wasn’t what we were looking for. We were pretty confidence coming in. We had to control the clock, and it’s hard to control the clock when you are giving it back to them.”
Williamsburg (5-1 overall, 1-0 district) grabbed control nearly with an 11-play, 57-yard drive to open the game, capped by Bowen’s 5-yard run over the right side of his line for a 6-0 lead with 6:44 left in the first quarter.
The Dragons gave the ball back on the ensuing kickoff as Matthew Davis recovered a Sedrick Washington fumble on the Harlan 22. Two Thomas runs set up Bowen for a 10-yard run over the right side. Thomas’ two-point conversion made the score 14-0 with 5:43 to play in the opening period,.
Harlan responded with a 68-yard drive with Darius Akal, Jayden Ward and Donovan Montanaro carrying the load. Akal went in from the 12 and Montanaro added the conversion to cut the deficit to 14-8 with 1:58 left in the first quarter.
Harlan was in position for its first stop of the night with the Jackets facing a fourth-and-seven from the Harlan 31, but an off-sides penalty moved Williamsburg five yards closer, then Bowen broke free around left end for a 26-yard touchdown run for a 20-8 lead with 11:13 left in the half.
No one scored again until Ward went in from the 7 on the opening play of the fourth quarter, capping a 10-play, 61-yard march. Montanaro’s second two-point conversion pulled Harlan within six with 11:55 to play.
Thomas and Bowen each picked up first downs before the drive was in danger of stalling with a fourth-and-seven play at the Harlan 26. Senior defensive back Will Austin was whistled for a pass interference penalty that kept the drive alive, setting up Bowen for a 13-yard touchdown run on the next play to push the lead to 10 with 8:03 left in the game.
“That was huge,” Perry said. “I thought we were about to get the ball and the momentum was with us. It was almost like it was going to happen for us, but it didn’t. It was a big-time play.”
Harlan will play host Lynn Camp on Friday. Williamsburg will travel to Pineville on Friday.